There are plenty of rappers and musicians—and artists of all kinds—that have made a career on the premise of crafting a persona. From Lana Del Rey to Mac Miller, some artists prefer to have their entire image be about their persona, while others think of it more like an alter ego.
Eminem is one of those artists that thinks of his persona as more of an alter ego, even though people do have a tendency to conflate the two. Slim Shady has sort of been baked into his public image both through his expression and through the music itself.
As for his process in creating the character of Slim Shady, Eminem has actually spoken about why he invented the character, and it apparently had a lot to do with Proof.
Eminem said, “Coming out with an alias was part of Proof’s whole idea. He said, ‘Let’s be in a group called D12, and there will be six of us, and we’ll each have an alias. We’ll each be two different people.’ When I started rapping as Shady, as that character, it was a way for me to vent all my frustrations and just blame it on him. If anybody got mad about it, it was him that said it. It was a way for me to be myself and say what I felt. I never wanted to go back to just rapping regular again.”
Proof was a rapper who was close with Eminem—and, like he mentioned, they even rapped together—but he unfortunately passed away in 2006. Knowing that he was a part of inspiring Eminem to come up with the whole Slim Shady persona actually adds a lot of layers both to the persona itself and to their friendship and the depth that people know it for.
Every artist who comes up with their own persona has their own personal reasons behind it, and beyond involving Proof, it seems that Eminem also used Slim Shady as an outlet, like he’d said, to vent his frustrations and work out some of his internal emotions. However, that’s easy enough to guess just by listening to the lyrics and the tone.
It’s nonetheless interesting to listen to him talk about the conscious creation of the alter ego, too. If you want to take a look back at some of Eminem’s work that encompases Slim Shady, there’s plenty to poke around with.