With his new memoir, Eminem is speaking to his fans again -- after more than three years out of the limelight. So where has he been? In The Way I Am, the rapper reveals the depression caused by the 2006 death of his best friend and mentor Proof -- and, briefly, what's next: "I've been recording the new album mainly in the crib. Makes it very easy for me. It's like the old days, only there's a lot more than a rusty four-track in my basement."
Those old days are clearly on the MC's mind: Over 210 pages, he remembers childhood bullies ("My brain really was fucking bleeding out of my ear," he recalls about one beating), his absent father ("Fuck him. I'm beyond wanting to know that dude") and his transient upbringing ("Some of the seventh grade and all of eighth grade...was the longest I ever went to one school"). While much of this is familiar ground to fans who study his lyrics, The Way I Am (writing with Ego Trip's Sacha Jenkins) does a solid job of connecting the dots.
Fans will be interested to learn, for instance, that Eminem's dyed-blond hair is the result of an Ecstasy bender. "Dre was dead silent [and then said], 'That's it! We found your image,'" he recalls. He says he reached out to Elton John after accusations of homophobia in his lyrics reached a fever pitch. He also lends credence to the rumors that 2003's "Superman" was inspired by a romance with Mariah Carey. "If you read between the lines...You'll know what I'm talking about."
But it's not all as fascinating; his custom-sneaker collection and his battles with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog get inordinate space. Though he's willing to write about the three girls he's raising (daughter Hailie, niece Alaina and Hailie's half-sister Whitney), Eminem largely ignores his ex-wife, Kim, and his litigious mother, Debbie. And the sleeping-pill dependency that landed him in rehab is referred to obliquely: "The whole drug thing built into a problem for me at some point," he writes. "I'm glad that I realized it and set myself in the right direction."
The Slim has seemed like hip-hop's own J.D. Salinger recently makes more sense when you read about his reaction to Proof's death: "It was a year before I could really do anything normal again. I had days where I couldn't walk, let alone write a rhyme. This is the biggest tragedy I could imagine, aside from something happening to my kids."