Eminem's Incredible Rise to Stardom
His real name is Marshall Mathers, but you probably know him as Eminem. He is the biggest selling artist of the past decade, earning 11 Grammies, one Oscar, and mountains of criticism for lyrics that are as profane as they are poetic.
Whether you are a fan of rap or not, Eminem's life story is an extraordinary tale of success, against all odds - a story he hasn't talked much about until now.
"60 Minutes" and CNN's Anderson Cooper met up with him in his home town Detroit, in order to find out how a white kid who never made it past the ninth grade was able to propel himself to the top of a predominantly African American art form.
60 Minutes Overtime: Eminem & Anderson Cooper
CNN's Anderson Cooper tells Overtime Editor Ann Silvio about all the unpredictable moments that happened on his "60 Minutes" shoot with Eminem. Here's what you didn't see on TV.
Extra: Eminem's Attitude Towards Money
Extra: Detroit Rap Battles
Extra: Eminem's Age and Career
When Eminem stepped out of the shadows last month in Detroit, in front of 40,000 people, it was a triumphant come back for a super star who had all but disappeared.
At 37, sober, after struggling with addiction for the past five years, he has the energy and intensity of a boxer, a fighter trying to win from the crowd one simple thing: "Respect," he told Cooper.
"You know, not to sound corny or nuthin', but I felt like a fighter comin' up, man. I felt like, you know, I'm being attacked for this reason or that reason, and I gotta fight my way through this," he explained.
He's been fighting since he was a kid, living on the rough side of Detroit's 8 Mile, the road dividing the white suburbs from the mostly black city. "8 Mile" is also the title of the critically acclaimed movie Eminem starred in, his character based largely on himself: an aspiring white rapper with a dead-end job, a troubled mother and a dream of escaping his bleak life.
To understand how Eminem got to where he is today, you need to know where he came from: not just a broken home, but a series of them. Raised by a single mom, they lived hand to mouth, on and off welfare, constantly moving from one place to another.
Eminem told Cooper he'd have to change schools every couple of months. "I would change schools two, three times a year. That was probably the roughest part about it all."
The roughest and most formative -- he was a shy kid in tough public schools and was frequently bullied.
"You got beat up a lot as a kid," Cooper asked.
"Yeah, there was a few instances," Eminem said. "Beat up in bathroom, beat up in the hallways, shoved into lockers. You know, just for, you know, for the most part, man, you know, just bein' the new kid."
He discovered rap as a teenager, and in its tough talk and street smart sound, found his voice.
After dropping out of high school, he began competing in local rap battles - one-on-one verbal fights where the goal was to come up with the cleverest rhymes and the best insults.
"Hip hop has always been braggin' and boasting and 'I'm better at you than this' and 'I'm better at you than that.' And I finally found something that yeah, this kid over here, you know, he may have more chicks, and he may, you know, have better clothes, or whatever, but he can't do this like me. You know what I mean? He can't write what I'm writing right now. And it started to feel like, you know, maybe Marshall's gettin' a little respect," he explained.
That respect was hard won. He was often the only white guy competing in underground clubs.
"Did you feed off the fact that people maybe underestimated you? Or didn't respect you early on?" Cooper asked.
"Oh, definitely, definitely," Eminem acknowledged. "There was certainly like a rebellious, like, youthful rage in me. And there was also the fact of no getting away from fact that I am white and you know this is predominantly black music you know. And people telling me 'You don't belong, like you're not going to succeed because you are this color.' Then you wanna show those people that you can and you will."
Ever since Eminem broke out from the underground and into the mainstream in 1999, he's amazed audiences and critics alike with his ability to tell stories through music and rapid fire word play.
He writes all of his own songs and delights in rhyming words others can't.
We talked to him about how he does it in his private recording studio.
Eminem has said he bends the words.
"It's just in the enunciation of it," he explained. "Like, people say that the word 'orange' doesn't rhyme with anything and that kind 'a pisses me off because I can think of a lot of things that rhyme with orange."
"What rhymes with orange? I can't think of anything," Cooper remarked.
"If you're taking the word at face value and you just say orange, nothing is going to rhyme with it exactly. If you enunciate it and you make it like more than one syllable? Orange, you could say like, 'I put my orange four-inch door hinge in storage and ate porridge with George.' So, you just have to figure out the science to breakin' down words," he replied.
"Do you think about this throughout the day? I mean, you're driving along. Do you think about rhyming words?" Cooper asked.
"Yeah. All day. Yeah, I actually drive myself insane with it," Eminem said.
"But it's interesting. I mean, for a guy who hated school, who, you know, was in the ninth grade three times you spend all your times thinking about words," Cooper remarked.
"I found that no matter how bad I was at school, like, and no matter how low my grades might have been at sometimes, I always was good at English," Eminem said.
"I heard that you used to read the dictionary," Cooper remarked.
"I just felt like I wanna be able to have all of these words at my disposal, in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull 'em out. You know, somewhere, they'll be stored, like, locked away," Eminem replied.
His words are stored but they're not exactly locked away: he actually keeps them in boxes.
Inside are hundreds of scraps of paper on which he's obsessively scrawled down words and phrases.
"So wait, this is a pad from a hotel in Paris it looks like?" Cooper said, looking at some of the papers in one of the boxes. "You just scribbled, you have four little words just scribbled down. How do you even read this? This is tiny."
"I know what it says, I guess. I might use it actually. It's not bad," Eminem replied.
They're not lyrics really - they're just ideas that he collects. He calls it "stacking ammo."
"I've gotten letters from crazy people and they kind of look like this," Cooper said. "Sometimes all in capital letters or scrawled on the page like this."
"Yeah? Well that's probably because I'm crazy," Eminem replied with a smirk.
Listen to the lyrics of many of his early songs and you do get the feeling his music has been a painfully public way of settling scores, including with his mother.
And his father, who left him when he was six months old.
Eminem told Cooper he never knew his father and never met him.
Asked if he wants to meet him, the rapper said, "I don't know. I don't know. Some people ask me that. I don't think I do. I just, I can't understand how, if my kids were moved to the edge of the Earth, I'd find them. No doubt in my mind. No money, no nothin', if I had nothing, I'd find my kids. So, there's no excuse. There's no excuse. "
Eminem may be fiercely protective of his kids, but he's been accused of being harmful to just about everybody else's. The language he's used in songs sparked protests and accusations that he promoted violence against women and gays. He's been branded a misogynist and a homophobe.
"I felt like I was being attacked," he told Cooper. "I was being singled out. And I felt like, is it because of the color of my skin? Is it because that, you're paying more attention? Is it because there's certain rappers that do and say the same things that I'm saying. And I don't hear no one saying anything about that. I didn't just invent saying offensive things."
"I mean some of the lyrics, Kill You, 'Bitch, I'm gonna kill you, you don't wanna eff with me.' 'My word's like a dagger with a jagged edge that'll stab you in the head, Whether you're a fag or a lez, pants or dress, hate fags, the answer's yes,'" Cooper said, quoting lyrics.
"Yeah, the scene that I came up in, that word was thrown around so much, you know? Faggot was, like, it was thrown around constantly, to each other, like in battling, you know what I mean?" Eminem said.
"But, I mean, do you not like gay people?" Cooper asked.
"No I don't have any problem with nobody, you know what I mean. Like, I'm just whatever," he replied.
"And for some parent who's listening to this, and says, 'Well, you know, my kid hears this, hears you calling somebody a bitch, or using the f-word, and starts to use it themselves.' Do you feel a sense of responsibility?" Cooper asked.
"I feel like it's your job to parent them. If you're the parent, be a parent. You know what I mean? I'm a parent. I have daughters. I mean, how would I really sound, as a person, like, walkin' around my house, you know, 'Bitch pick this up.' You know what I mean? Like, I don't cuss," Eminem said.
"That's not how you are in your real life?" Cooper asked.
"Profanity around my house, no. But this is music, this is my art, this is what I do," Eminem said.
Despite the controversy, or maybe because of it, he has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide, but he admits he's had a hard time adjusting to all the attention. For much of his career, he was high during his performances, and eventually became addicted to Vicodin, Valium, and Ambien. In December 2007, he overdosed, collapsing in the bathroom of his home.
Eminem said he almost died. "If I would have got to the hospital two hours later, that would have been it. 'Cause my organs, everything, my kidneys, everything were failing. Everything was shutting down," he recalled.
He's been sober two and a half years now. But has had to teach himself how to write again, rap again and even how to perform, as he told us hours before a Detroit concert promoting his new album called "Recovery."
"So this is your first U.S. stadium concert that you're sober?" Cooper asked.
"Yeah. Yup," Eminem replied.
"Do you ever, I mean, when you look out, you know, and you see 40,000 people and they're all singing your songs," Cooper remarked.
"It's crazy. I mean, you can an artist can say that they get used to it or whatever. But I think that they're probably lying if they do. 'Cause you gotta be wowed, man. You gotta be, like, you gotta be taken back by seeing this many people and their faces. And you know what I mean?" Eminem said.
"And do you actually see their faces when you're performing?" Cooper asked.
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, I do now. Before, it was a big blur," Eminem replied.
"Everybody in here who is an Eminem fan, man, I just want to take a minute out to say thank you. For the support that you all have shown me and for not giving up on me on some real s***, thank you, man. Especially you Detroit, I love you. This song is for you," Eminem told his Detroit audience, before performing the song "Not Afraid."
His songs are still deeply personal, but some of the hard-edged anger has softened. In his new song "Not Afraid," he offers a hand to those in need.
"You say, 'Everybody, come take my hand. We'll walk this road together.' Ten years ago, could you have imagined yourself rapping something like that?" Cooper asked.
"No, I couldn't. Probably not," Eminem said. "I don't want to go overboard with it but I do feel like that if I can help people that have been through a similar situation, then, you know, why not?"
Produced by Tanya Simon
for more features.