Hard to believe that Marshall Mathers is 40 today. Craziest thing is that means he was 27 when the Slim Shady LP dropped. Since I just turned 28, that holds a lot more weight considering there's still a lot of living left in me.
I've watched Eminem from novelty act to serious MC to drug addict/questionable producer to serious MC once again. He's been one of my favorite rappers since I first heard "My Name Is" and everybody tried to rap it at school. While most of my friends loved the Marshall Mathers LP, my favorite will always be The Eminem Show because it was personal, dark and showed growing as a rapper with his skill and inspiration. Somehow he sounded overwhelmed, confident and hungry all at the same time.
People think Lil Wayne and Drake are superstars. But 10 years ago, Eminem was a real superstar. I remember when TRL was nearly shut down when he arrived. When he had the No. 1 movie and album in the country with 8 Mile. When Eminem Show was cranking out radio singles and album cuts on the radio all the time. When "Lose Yourself" was being compared to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and nearly every great song of the previous 10 years.
Eminem also forced people of my generation to start setting the bar high for White rappers. It's why I was a fan of Bubba Sparxxx, Paul Wall and Asher Roth after him. With these new crop of White rappers, I'm hesitant to accept them because if they aren't dope, they don't get a pass. The novelty wore off after Shady and Bubba (and Beastie Boys/3rd Bass before them) showed skills/production/style comes first.
(Need reasons? Tupac, Biggie, Scarface, Andre 3000, Rakim, Nas, Ice Cube, Common, Black Thought, Redman. There's 10 guys and Em would say so himself.)
I've said this before but Eminem is one of the last MC's that I feel can stand toe to toe with the all-time greats. He's a battle rapper, songwriter, rhyme technician on par with anybody. "Stan" will be a term that lives on for year. He's proving right now that as a rapper, he's focused on his music - not the celebrity. He's earned respect from the legends and he's still dropping quality verses.
Best comparison I can make to Eminem? Kobe Bryant. Both made a splash in 1996 but didn't realize their full potential until 1999. Both embraced their stardom early and after falling off the mountain, they came back meaner and more focused on being the best at their craft, regardless if you liked them or not. They both made you respect their skill, their old school work ethic and both will go down as two of the best to do it.