So I’m gonna do something different for a change in this post and most likely in more posts in the near future. As many portions of my blog have suggested and flat out told the reader since the very beginning, I am one of the biggest fans of rap music. Bar none. I have been since I was in my pre-teens and my entire life has been collecting and memorizing damn near every classic track and album from legends such as Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, 2Pac and older rap legends before them too. Now as you can possibly tell by the subtle title here, this may also not come as a surprise (unless you’re new to the blog) that I connect with a lot of Eminem’s music…but more-so today than when I was a teenager and was the age (and race, yes I had to just get that part out of the way, moving on…) of MOST of his audience buying his albums during his hey-day. While I did love pissing off my parents by playing songs like “Criminal” loud from my bedroom, or singing the hilarious (and admittedly very juvenile) choruses to “Kill You” and “Under The Influence” over and over again, that really wasn’t any different than your average white teenager who tried to prove how cool they were because they owned a CD with a Parental Advisory sticker on it that everyone else in school had. I had every right to be a rebellious teen (those who follow my blog already know what I’m talking about) but the music I connected with more was from other rappers. Specifically the likes of DMX, Biggie, Nas, pretty much anyone who was on the radio at the time and was unapologetically authentic, hardcore, grimey etc but also had a deep message behind their songs shifting the focus away from how “controversial” the lyrics are and more-so around the stories they tell and the picture it paints for so many people who shared the same struggles that they still fight to this day. I wanted to have a voice and a platform for it to tell my own story, as different and left-field as it was. So the way those other legendary rappers expressed themselves, especially the way it was executed by them, resonated with me more.
This all changed after graduating from college. years later. This is when I was caught in the middle of a demanding relationship I tried to convince myself was true love (whatever that is) and now had a lot of emotional baggage piled up and cluttered in my brain with no knowledge of it being there, let alone any way to get it all out. Around the time of my best years before college (my Junior and Senior high school years finally being back in the mainstream school district which were from late 2005 to summer 2007) were truth be told the absolute WORST years for Eminem…or should I just say, Marshall. While I was living a life full of confidence and embracing an environment and social circle most people there took for granted, Marshall was battling a drug addiction that was catching up to him rapidly and causing him to step out of the spotlight for a little while. In the spring of 2006, around the time I won an award for a Poetry-Out-Loud contest the school was participating in, Marshall’s life-long best friend Proof…or DeShaun Holton was murdered in the middle of a fight outside of a nightclub. This guy was everything to Marshall as he was his anchor and the guy who believed in him, encouraged him to never give up with rapping to even being his hype-man in every single live performance after blowing up. Once this gigantic loss hit Eminem, his addiction became a necessity (as he thought at the time anyway) just to simply function throughout the day. His tolerance for pills skyrocketed (to quote one of his later radio interviews) and it caused him to push off any kind of productive writing or recording session for any album he would want to make otherwise. By the time I was halfway done with my first, and easily best/only good year in college, it was December 2007. Meanwhile, Marshall was hospitalized and nearly died from an overdose of methadone (which he didn’t realize was what he took the night before).
Needless to say, I was so far removed from anything having to do with Eminem at that time. Not because of me no longer listening to him. But I just couldn’t keep up nor want to listen to anything new at that time. Snap music and Soulja Boy was what everyone was blasting out of their dorm rooms and unless it was a major release from my THEN perceived hip hop messiah Kanye West and his “Graduation” album, hip hop in 2007 meant nothing to me. Plus I did admittedly lose any anticipation and eagerness for a new Eminem album, as his Encore album from three years earlier just had me depressed thinking “Is this it? Is this his swan song? This shitty excuse for an album? What happened to this guy?” I wouldn’t know until 6 years later his addiction catching up to him was the reason for the huge drop in quality on that 2004 album.
As many rap fans, let alone Eminem “Stans”, are aware, during Marshall’s hiatus in between the Encore album, through Proof’s death, to the overdose, to finally getting sober, to returning with a new album in 2009 and revealing everything that happened to him while away, there were a LOT of songs Marshall wrote and recorded in those 4 years that never got an official release to the public. His version of the story is he had writer’s block because of how suppressed his mind was from the drugs, and whatever he did come up with and record wasn’t good enough for him. Therefore not good enough for his fans. He would say these were dark “woe is me” style records he put aside once he got sober and locked them in a vault. Well…around the time I graduated from college in 2011, I discovered a few new “leaked” songs that were no doubt in anyone’s mind recorded during his hiatus. And as the years went on, I began hearing more and more of them in the context of fan-made “King Mathers” albums uploaded on youtube using all of the tracks leaked so far. At this point, I began “going through changes” in the same vein as he was exactly 10 years earlier and the connection I felt with these depressing songs that WERE good enough was very very scary…(to be continued)