Eminem is a legend in the business and has been rapping since 1995. Beginning his career as a battle rapper, Eminem spent his early years sparring with artists on the Detroit underground hip-hop scene. Born in Missouri but raised in Detroit, Eminem put out a lot of music to very little critical acclaim before he struck it lucky at the 1997 Battle Rap Olympics.
Eminem released his independent project in 1996. Entitled, Infinite, the album received no airplay from DJs in his city. As a white artist, everybody wrote him off. The rapper (real name Marshall Mathers) is widely considered the first solo white emcee accepted and embraced by the African-American hip-hop gatekeepers. His lyrical ability was unparalleled, his backstory was powerful, and unlike acts such as Vanilla Ice, Mathers could not be categorised as a meme rapper. However, upon signing with Aftermath records in 1997, he began recording his first major label release.
The rapper released his The Slim Shady EP through the Detroit-based label Web in 1997. However, it did not move the needle in any way, but his 1999 The Slim Shady LP put Mathers on the map. Its lead single, ‘My Name Is’ (produced by Dr Dre), peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the rapper’s first-ever top 40 single. However, the track had an even more significant impact outside the US and landed in the top ten in several European countries. The track got Eminem his first ever Grammy Award in the category of ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’ and accelerated his career.
Produced by Compton legend Dr Dre, ‘My Name Is’ samples the 1975 song ‘I Got The…’ by Labbi Siffre. However, Siffre working in collaboration with Mathers and Dre (real name Andre Young), took issue with one of Eminem’s raps. As a gay activist, Siffre told Mathers that his line about homosexuality would have to be changed if the sample was to be used. The Detroit rapper’s original rhyme heard the musician declare, “My English teacher wanted to have sex in junior high. The only problem was, my English teacher was a guy.” However, Mathers was forced to rewrite it, which instead heard him proclaim, “My English teacher wanted to flunk me in junior high. Thanks a lot. Next semester I’ll be 35.”
Recorded in Dre’s home studio, ‘My Name Is’ was recorded fairly quickly, according to Dr Dre. Speaking with the magazine Esquire about how Mathers laid down the song in 2013, Young detailed, “I put the track on, we had a little bit of idle chitchat, I put on the beat, and maybe five seconds in – I swear to God – he goes, ‘Hi, my name is.’ That was it. And it’s still clicking.”
On Eminem’s HBO special, The Defiant Ones, Young explained the exact day the two first got into the studio, revealing, “I had a studio in my house at the time, and I went and put some samples together, did a couple of things on the drum machine, and I invited him over. I was like ‘Man listen I put this sample together tell me if you like it!’ so I hit the drum machine, and maybe two or three seconds went by and he just went ‘Hi my name is!’…I was like ‘sh*t’s HOT!!!’ That’s what happened, our first day in the first few minutes of us being in the studio.”
The song stirred up some controversy as an uncensored demo version was leaked on the internet prior to the track’s official release in which Eminem references rape. The unnerving lyric did not make the album. The track debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart and has been certified as three times platinum by the RIAA. The entire LP is legendary and has been officially certified as five times platinum. You can hear more about the process of making the track in the video below as well as the story about the first day Dr Dre met Eminem.