In the world of hip-hop music, white rappers don't really seem to cut it.
3rd Bass, the Beastie Boys and Everlast of House Of Pain fame have done it, even though the latter two have gone on to pursue other formats of music. But remember Vanilla Ice, Marky Mark, Lord Scotch, Jesse James, Chilly Tee, Blood Of Abraham? Where are they now?
However, with the new millennium quickly approaching, things are beginning to change.
There is a whole new crop of MCs, all white, all looking to change the face of rap music. Check the lineup. The biracial underground favorite Company Flow is led by rapper El Producto. Wu-Tang Clan protégé Remedy is of Jewish lineage. RA The Rugged Man was recently signed to Priority Records, and a long-overdue 3rd Bass reunion record is in the works.
With Detroit's Eminem, the controversial protégé of Dr. Dre, leading this pack of new musical hopefuls, rap music had just better start bracing itself. It's about to be on.
"My sh-t goes against the grain of the typical sh-t you hear nowadays," explains the rapper, whose real name is Marshall Mathers. "Something that someone else won't say, I'll say. So, if people buy this album, don't think that there's something that I won't say. I'm gonna say whatever it is I'm feeling."
Eminem isn't concerned about people becoming offended by some of the wild things he says in his songs. He's just being honest.
"A lot of the sh-t I say is from the heart," Eminem explains, "but some of it is just like vulgar humor. It's just sick comedy. Anybody with half a brain is gonna be able to figure out when I'm serious and when I'm joking."
Some may have taken the scenes in Eminem's "My Name Is" video as a joke. But there's some truth to the clip's portrayal of a channel-surfing trailer-park couple that excitedly watches Eminem on TV, as that couple represents a portion of the audience the rapper hopes to attract.
"I think that lower-class America is really gonna feel it, 'cause it's some sh-t that I went through," says Eminem, explaining how those who've experienced hardship will relate to his music. "A lot of it is really sh-t that I went through, and a lot is sh-t that other people went through...I'm not the only one who's been through a lot."
As for the cynics and critics who constantly question his rhyming ability solely because of his race, Eminem bluntly suggests, "Eat a d--k."
He does admit that the taunting used to bother him. "But something just clicked in my head," he begins. "I think it was built up from everybody always testing me, or just hearing sh-t [people said] behind my back. I got tired of people telling me that because I was white I should go into rock 'n' roll or something. I just got fed-up, like, 'F--k you! How can someone tell me that I can't do a music that I have f--king supported since I was eight or nine years old? I f--king helped make everyone else rich by buying their sh-t, and now you're telling me I can't do what I love? I grew up on this sh-t. That's f--king bananas.'"
As one of the most animated rappers next to Busta Rhymes, Eminem's squeaky voice, elaborate concepts and outrageous caricatures in the "My Name Is" video suggest that he's interested in taking on the silver screen.
"I want to be up in that spotlight and be at that forefront," Eminem says, "so I can get a chance to speak my mind. I want my chance to tell my sh-t. I feel like the bigger I am, whether it be through movie, TV, or whatever, the more of a chance I get to speak."
He may talk a big game, but with all of the hype surrounding the release of his first project, is Eminem somewhat taken aback by the immense response?
"I don't know if it's fair to say I'm surprised," he says unashamedly. But still, he isn't quick to take things for granted, realizing a big ego doesn't automatically mean big record sales.
Landing an opportunity of a lifetime to work with producer Dr. Dre was more of a surprise to Eminem. Eminem is currently aiding the good Dr. in finishing up his long-awaited sophomore solo album, Chronic 2000 (Still Smokin'), spending anywhere from two to five days a week in the studio preparing for a summer 1999 release. Recent releases from Dr. Dre may not have made much of an impact on the music scene, but Eminem feels the founding member of N.W.A. is still at the top of his game.
"Personally, I don't really feel like nobody could f--k with Dre beatwise," Eminem offers. "I had other offers on the table--I won't say which ones--but the Dre one seemed the most realest. He was the most serious about it. It was like he wanted to get in [the studio] and knock sh-t out." The self-proclaimed "studioholic" says he recorded four songs with Dr. Dre during their first recording session.
The excitement of having "I Just Don't Give A F--k" and "My Name Is," the first two songs released from The Slim Shady LP, achieve top 10 rap positions has kept Eminem focused on his gift of gab.
"I don't know what's gonna happen," Eminem says of what's in store for him. "I really can't say. It really depends on where this rap sh-t takes me. I'm gonna go wherever this rap takes me, even if it takes me to the grave."