Eminem turns 39 today, marking another step towards Marshall Mathers becoming the angry old man that he's acted like all along. For proof, we're republishing this piece from June about the iconic rapper's many in-song disses. Here's to many more, Slim.
Rihanna and Eminem at the 2011 Grammy Awards (AP Images)
On Eminem’s latest project—Hell: The Sequel, a joint EP with his old ally Royce Da 5'9, released under the name Bad Meets Evil—Slim Shady takes aim at Mother Monster. “Tell Lady Gaga she can quit her job at the post office,” Eminem, birth name Marshall Mathers, raps. “She’s still a male lady.”
Besides being obviously tasteless, this is not the most clever double entendre out there. And the reference to Gaga's alleged (and denied) hermaphroditism would have been more topical in 2009. But the line is the newest example of Mathers's most consistent lyrical technique: dropping names to throw dirt on them.
In some cases, Eminem has dissed to get even. In 2000, he spelled out his defensive attitude at the start of "Don't Approach Me," a collaboration with Xzibit: "What is it with motherfuckers thinking that because we're in the spotlight or whatever, that they can do or say whatever they want to us and that we won't retaliate?"
But in other cases over his chart-topping career, Mathers has picked fights unprovoked. This tradition of on-record sparring is something he brought to the mainstream from his formative years as a battle rapper in Detroit's underground circuit. He'll lay into anyone whose name makes for a decent rhyme, or who happens to be enjoying their fifteen minutes in the spotlight.
It's a rhetorical mechanism that paradoxically distances him from the very pop world that he continues to dominate (his last record, Recovery, was the best-selling album of 2010).
He rationalized his star-tormenting antics in a 2009 interview, telling Vibe, "Usually my first singles off of each record are little time capsules of what's going on in pop culture right at that moment."
Which is true. And the reason why listening to his early hits has the same effect as watching a ten-year-old Saturday Night Live sketch. But in the moment, it's still kind of exciting to hear Shady lash out at the luminaries of the day.
Here, we’ve lovingly cataloged and contextualized every celebrity Eminem has ever lyrically disrespected (obviously, some vulgar language ahead). Below the photo gallery is an alphabetized list. Think of it as Slim Shady’s glossary of feuds. Let us know if we missed anyone.
Bush, (President) George W.
Cheney, (Vice President) Dick
Clinton, (President) Bill
Combs, Sean "Diddy"
de Rossi, Portia
Fox, Michael J.
Insane Clown Posse
Kirkpatrick, Chris (*NSYNC)
Lady Gaga (see introduction)
Pet Shop Boys
Scott, Raymond (a.k.a. Benzino)
Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog
Williams, Germaine (a.k.a. Canibus)
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.