Behind The Mic: What is Eminem song ‘My Name Is’ about?
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Behind The Mic: What is Eminem song 'My Name Is' about?

Detroit rapper Eminem is one of the most successful hip-hop artists ever and is a multi-Grammy- award-winning emcee. The lyricist burst onto the scene in 1999 with his legendary Slim Shady LP, and things have never been the same since for the rapper. However, one song in particular really put the lyricist (real name Marshall Mathers) on the map, and that is ‘My Name Is.’

Produced by Dr Dre, ‘My Name Is’ was the lead single of The Slim Shady LP and was Eminem’s major-label debut single. Not one for the fakery of Los Angeles, the track was recorded in Ferndale, Michigan and was overseen by Dr Dre, Jimmy Iovine and the Bass Brothers, a Detroit-based production duo Mathers had worked with for years. For the beat, the cohort who helped Eminem with his first album agreed upon the 1975 funk track I Got The…’ by Labi Siffre.

In a 1999 interview with The Hollywood Fix, prior to the release of his debut body of work, Eminem explained how the session for ‘My Name Is’ came about, explaining, “I figured ‘My Name Was’ and then I came up with it. It was really ill because the first day me and Dre got down together, we did three songs. ‘My Name Is’ was the second song that we did, and we was in there, and he played me the beat, and instantly I started saying it.”

The ‘Stan’ musician continued, “It’s like the beat started talking to me, and he started looking at me kinda funny like ‘Are you gonna use that as the hook?’ The more I started saying it, the engineers in the studio started saying it, so I just went in and freestyle some verses. I hadn’t had them wrote yet, then I wrote them and came back the next day!”

Mathers and Dr Dre (real name Andre Young) were happy with the track’s final version. However, the emcee received severe backlash following the song’s release due to what many saw as the trivialisation of violence, domestic abuse and suicide. Furthermore, elements of the track are sexually explicit. Although violence and sexual content have been the norm in hip-hop, Mathers pushed the envelope unbelievably far and suffered the consequences.

Mathers’ family issues have played out in front of the world, and it’s safe to say that the dysfunctionality has been highly toxic at times. However, most of the issues began with ‘My Name Is,’ when his mother filed a $10million defamation lawsuit against him following his lyric, “Ninety-nine per cent of my life I was lied to / I just found out my mom does more dope than I do / I told her I’d grow up to be a famous rapper / Make a record about doin’ drugs and name it after her.”

The lyrics of the song were censored twice over. The music video doesn’t showcase the real lyrics, and even the dirty video omits some lines. One of the most controversial rhymes in the track was, “Well, since age twelve, I’ve felt like I’m someone else / ‘Cause I hung my original self from the top bunk with a belt.” The music video for ‘My Name Is’ was unlike any video that had come before it. It was a parody and a quasi-comedy sketch. Its unique nature made the performer stand out. The video was an extended visual skit and made fun of various figures and cultural entities such as the Spice Girls, Pamela Anderson and the TV programme ‘The Brady Bunch.’

Dr Dre has previously revealed he was astounded at how fast Mathers managed to create the concept of the track. In the Aftermath Entertainment docuseries, The Defiant Ones, Young detailed, “I went and I put some samples together, did a couple of things in the drum machine, and I invited him over. I was like, ‘Man, listen. I put this sample together. Tell me if you like it’. And I hit the drum machine. Maybe two or three seconds went by, and he just went, ‘Hi! My name is…my name is…’ That’s what happened our first day in the first few minutes of us being in the studio.”

‘My Name Is’ one Eminem a Grammy award for ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’ and a VMA for ‘Best New Artist In A Video.’ The track peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked at 2 on the UK Singles Chart. You can hear the track in the video below.