What makes an artist? In the case of Eminem, the once introverted outcast who became one of the most influential performers in the world of hip hop, artistry first blossomed in the intersection of crippling adversity and raw talent. Eminem: Behind the Lyrics provides an affectionate and probing analysis of the artist's journey from impoverishment to global superstardom.
Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, Eminem grew up without a father for most of his childhood, and a mother who struggled with addiction issues. He frequently moved from town to town as he and his mother toiled through poverty. Winding up in Detroit during his formative teenage years, he found himself one of the only white kids in a predominantly African American community. His search for personal identity came in the form of rising hip hop stars like The Beastie Boys and 2 Live Crew.
He began writing his own lyrics at the age of 14. An elegant wordsmith, his writings were informed by the tragedies that befell him throughout the course of his young life, including the suicide of his beloved uncle, the depth of dysfunction that dominated his family life, and the abandonment of a father he grew to resent.
The film is most successful at piecing together the traumas that would define Eminem as an outspoken, fearless and highly confessional artist. Beyond this origin story, the filmmakers detail the triumphs and controversies that have characterized his 20-year career as a professional musician. We learn of his mentorship under Dr. Dre, and the collaborations they shared that have expanded the boundaries of popular art and stood the test of time.
Equally praised and scorned, Eminem has long challenged the status quo with the naked honesty of his lyrics and his oftentimes reckless devil-may-care approach to social graces. Regardless of these controversies - which include accusations of homophobia and misogyny - his approach has ensured over 100 million dollars in record sales and the widespread popularization of an entire musical genre.
Eminem: Behind the Lyrics is an exceptional profile of a complicated artist who has done much to change the course of popular music in the 21st century.