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Eminem Blows Up

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HEY, TURN HERE," EMINEM SAYS TO THE driver of the big white van currently crunching through the snow-covered streets of east Detroit. "Stop. That was our house. My room was upstairs, in the back." The small two-story homes on the gridlike streets are identical — square patch of grass in the front, a short driveway on the side — differentiable only by their brick face or shingles. The van turns off 8 Mile, passing Em's high school, then the field next to the Bel-Air Shopping Center, where Em lost his boombox and nearly his life. Em is looking out of the window like a kid at Disneyland, pointing, recalling happy and heartbreaking memories with equal excitement. "I like living in Detroit, making it my home," he says as the van heads toward the highway. "I like working out in L.A., but I wouldn't want to live there. My little girl is here."

The van pulls up to Gilbert's Lodge, the every food family restaurant in suburban St. Clair Shores where Em worked on and off for three years. Inside there are antler chandeliers, a couple of appetite-suppressing mounted moose heads and a "trophy room," containing the jerseys of various local teams. The restaurant's staff scurries about, unaware of Em, who has virtually walked into the kitchen without being greeted. "Yo, Pete, whassup?" Em calls to a mustached man checking on orders. "Hi, Marshall," answers his former manager, Pete Karagiaouris. "Coming in to buy the place?" A few heads turn, and apron-clad folks say quick hellos.

"Hi, Marshall," says a forties-ish waitress with a sticky-sweet voice and a Midwestern accent. "You know, I watch MTV and I never see you."

"Oh, yeah?" he replies coolly.

Em takes a table toward the back. After a very silent twenty minutes, he stops a passing waitress: "Can we get some beers here?"

"Yeah, but I need to see your ID," she says.

"I don't have my wallet, but I used to work here — ask Pete. I'm over twenty-one."

Less than twenty-four hours ago, in Staten Island, security guards had kept a frothing crowd from tearing Em to shreds while he earned five grand for rapping four songs. In his own hometown, in the place he spent forty to sixty hours a week for three years, he's a stranger, and one without silverware, water or a menu. Either Gilbert's issued a memo about keeping Em real or the staff is having trouble coming to terms with Marshall's success. "Why did that bitch have to say that?" he says about the MTV jab. "Fucking bitch. I never liked her." It's a theme he returns to for the rest of the night. Em's shot of Bacardi arrives; he slams it, gets another and goes off to talk to the Gilbert's former co-workers. "Man, everything can be going so right," Rosenberg says, sipping his beer. "But a comment like that will stick with him for days. This is his reality — he came from this, and after everything is over, this is the reality he has to go back to."

The manager heads over, offering to make Eminem a special garlic-chicken pizza. "He was a good worker," Karagiaouris recalls. "But he'd be in the back rapping all the orders, and sometimes I had to tell him to tone it down." Em demonstrates, freestyling the ingredients of most of the appetizers in his herky-jerky whine. "Music was always the most important thing to him," Karagiaouris says. "But I never knew if he was any good at it — I listen to Greek music."

"You know what, Paulie?" Em says, smiling mischievously. "I want to do a clothing line. Fat Fuck Clothing, for the Big Pun in you. What do you think?"

It's getting late, and Em's daughter is waiting for him. He has four days here at home to spend with her and her mother.

The van winds back through Detroit, stopping at a modest home. Kim, a pretty blonde, hops in holding Hailie, a groggy but smiley blue-eyed beauty who immediately dives onto Em's lap and wraps her arms around his neck. The van whisks off, Hailie falls back to sleep, and Em tells Kim about the New York shows. Forty minutes later, the van turns into the trailer park — more of a village, really — that Em calls home. "After I got my record deal, my mother moved back to Kansas City," he says. "I took over the payments on her trailer, but I'm never here." Indeed, the eviction notice on the door is proof enough. "Don't worry, we took care of that one," Rosenberg says as Em rips it off and goes inside.

The double-wide mobile home houses Em's possessions, which, after all the robberies and the moving around, have been acquired in the last six months. An autographed glossy of Dre that reads, "Thanks for the support, asshole" (mirroring Shady's autograph in "My Name Is") is on a wall, as is the album art from the Shady EP. Above the TV are two shots of Em and Dre from the video shoot, along with pictures of Hailie. A small rack holds CDs by 2Pac, Mase, Babyface, Luther Vandross, Esthero and Snoop Dogg. A baby couch for Hailie sits in front of the TV. On a wall near the kitchen is a flyer titled "Commitments for Parents," which lists directives like "I will give my child space to grow, dream, succeed and sometimes fail."

Hailie settles down on the floor with a stuffed polar bear as Kim prepares her bed. The couple are happy to see each other tonight, but songs like "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" make it clear that times are not always this tranquil. Their relationship has been volatile — all the more so since their daughter's birth. At one point two years ago, when they were on the outs and dating other people, Kim, according to Eminem, made it difficult for him to see his daughter and even threatened to file a restraining order. Em wrote "Just the 2 of Us," on the Shady EP, to tell the tale of a father killing his baby's mother and cleaning up the mess with the help of his daughter: "Here, you wanna help Dada tie a rope around this rock?/Then we'll tie it to her footsie, then we'll roll her off the dock/Here we go, count of three. One, two, three, wee!/There goes Mama, splashing in the water/No more fighting with Dad, no more restraining order."

The original had a slightly different beat and a less monied production than "'97 Bonnie and Clyde," the version on the Interscope album, but on the Shady LP, Hailie chillingly plays herself (she is also on the album cover and liner notes). "I lied to Kim and told her I was taking Hailie to Chuck E. Cheese that day," Em recalls. "But I took her to the studio. When she found out I used our daughter to write a song about killing her, she fucking blew. We had just got back together for a couple of weeks. Then I played her the song, and she bugged the fuck out."

Kim declines to comment on that song or any of the others about her, including a track slated for Em's next album called "Kim." The song is the prelude to "'97 Bonnie and Clyde," with Em acting out the screaming fight that ends in murder. Em has played it for her already and claims that now she is truly convinced that he is insane. "If I was her, I would have ran when I heard that shit," Dre says. "It's over the top — the whole song is him screaming. It's good, though. Kim gives him a concept."

Em's friend Proof has been around the couple from the beginning. "This is what I love about Em," he says. "One time we came home and Kim had thrown all his clothes on the lawn — which was, like, two pairs of pants and some gym shoes. So we stayed at my grandmother's, and Em's like, 'I'm leaving her; I'm never going back.' Next day, he's back with her. The love they got is so genuine, it's ridiculous. He gonna end up marrying her. But there's always gonna be conflict there."

Em says Hailie has heard his record and loves it, but he knows she's too young still to get much more than the beats. "When she gets old enough, I'm going to explain it to her," Em says. "I'll let her know that Mommy and Daddy weren't getting along at the time. None of it was to be taken literally." He shakes his head ruefully. "Although at the time, I wanted to fucking do it." Em is the first to admit he's got a bad temper, which he has harnessed into a career. "My thoughts are so fucking evil when I'm writing shit," he says. "If I'm mad at my girl, I'm gonna sit down and write the most misogynistic fucking rhyme in the world. It's not how I feel in general, it's how I feel at that moment. Like, say today, earlier, I might think something like, 'Coming through the airport sluggish, walking on crutches, hit a pregnant bitch in the stomach with luggage.'"

Slim Shady is Marshall Mathers' way of taking revenge on the world, and he's also a defense mechanism. On the one hand, a lot of Slim Shady's cartoonish fantasies are offensive; on the other, they're better than Mathers re-creating the kind of abuse the world heaped upon him while growing up. "I dealt with a lot of shit coming up, a lot of shit," he says. "When it's like that, you learn to live day to day. When all this happened, I took a deep breath, just like, 'I did it.' " The magnitude of what he's done in such a short time doesn't seem to have sunk in. Em hasn't sipped the bubbly or smelled the roses — and if he allots time for that in the next few months, it will have to be at the drive-through. As for the future, he won't even wager a guess.

"If he remains the same person that walked into the studio with me that first day, he will be fucking larger than Michael Jackson," says a confident Dre. "There are a lot of ifs and buts, but my man, he's dope and very humble." As Em closes the door, with Hailie's blanket in his hands, he looks humble, a little tired and pretty happy. For now.

The above is an article from the April 29, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone. This issue is available online in Rolling Stone’s digital archive. Click here to subscribe.

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