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How Eminem changed hip-hop with his MTV awards performance

Eminem, the rapper born as Marshal Mathers, is known worldwide as one of the first white emcees to be loved, accepted and embraced by the hip-hop community and is now considered among the best in the industry with regard to lyricism. With so many iconic songs, it is hard to deny the Detroit rapper’s talent and the impact he has made on the genre as a whole.

However, a select few moments undeniably elevated the artist. One of those junctures was his MTV Music Awards performance in the year 2000, an event which can only be described as utterly monumental.

Before his Slim Shady LP release in late 1999, Mathers was a musical genius on the verge of suicide due to his extreme poverty. Mathers had been on the underground in Detroit for years with his first album, Infinite, performing poorly, receiving little to no airplay by DJs in his city, and as a white rapper, everybody had written him off.

Saved unknowingly by a label intern in the crowd at one of his many rap battles, Mathers’ demo ended up in the hands of rapper and producer Dr. Dre and was, shortly after, signed by him.

Taken off the streets, Mathers was encouraged by Dre to create a proper body of work to be commercially released. This was the moment that Slim Shady was born, alongside the Slim Shady LP, an album which exploded into the mainstgream, became certified triple platinum by the end of the year.

On top of the world, in 2000, Slim Shady hit our television screens for an epic. What the world was watching was a young man from a broken home who, after years of mistreatment, bullying, and being disrespected, prevailed and turned the tables on everyone. Slim Shady was born out of rage, disappointment and, more specifically, raw emotion. As natural human sentiments, Mathers’ music as Slim Shady resonated with everybody, white, black or other. It no longer mattered as long as you had emotions.

Mathers’ song, ‘The Real Slim Shady’, is an ode of sorts to his multiple personalities. In the lyrics, he infers he is a little crazy as he raps, “Yeah, I probably got a couple of screws up in my head loose”. However, this performance was monumental because it shifted hip hop’s status as an art form in the US and globally. It debased the narrative that hip hop was merely a vehicle for black people to disrespect white America. It showed it in an inclusive light and led to a decrease in fear of the genre.

You can watch Eminem’s full gamechanging performance in the video below.