Eminem Evolution: Relapse, Recovery and Renewal

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Recently, news rocketed through Cyber Space of Eminem’s 8 MTV Video Music Award nominations. The 37 year-old rapper—who sports t-shirts, hoodies and an armful of bluish-green tattoos—looks odd alongside the wild-eyed, silver-lipped Lady Gaga, the only other artist with more nominations.

Nevertheless, if one industry includes and embraces many vibrant personalities, it is the music industry. Even after a five-year hibernation, Eminem returns trailed by an even bulkier band of fans. “The fact that he can still relate to younger kids is an amazing thing,” says mixing engineer Scott Kieklak, “The eighteen year old crowd still love him and his delivery.” Kieklak is the Director of SAE Atlanta; his contributions to the music realm are both pedagogical and recreational. He believes that by marrying lyrics with proper delivery, Eminem continues wooing people: “I think that fans can still relate to him, and that’s the mark of a true artist.”

Some may silently disagree, while others outwardly have.  In 2005, Eminem ranked No. 58 in Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who are Screwing Up America. Sandwiched between a billionaire media mogul and a Democratic mayor, Eminem lingered tip-toes away from the halfway mark.  The rapper’s oftentimes violent lyrics—responsible for the delicate swirl of controversy encircling Eminem’s name—won him a spot in Goldberg’s book. And while many parents express fear of the consequences his lyrics might carry, Kieklak’s approach is more cool-headed: “As fans, we have to be mature enough and smart enough to know when something’s reality and when something is fiction. Honesty is more important than anything else.”

For Eminem, it seems generous heaps of honesty, audacity and sprinklings of a few secret ingredients fuel his burgeoning popularity. But unlike baking bread or switching a car tire, there is no formula to fame.  Kieklak, whose mix clients include Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot, acknowledges that there are too many variables: “I don’t think Timberland and Missy [Elliot] set out to say ‘We’re going to do a certain thing.’” After all, an artist’s prominence relies heavily on the society into which he emerges. “When all of a sudden that music, that artist, that style of music all lines up you think ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.’”

It appears that Eminen now strides on a different— and more remarkable— plain. His recent single, Love the Way You Lie, sung alongside Rihanna, has helds the No. 1 position on over five worldwide charts. More importantly, Eminem is now sober. This is not only hopeful news for him, but also for his younger fans, who oftentimes emulate an idol’s behaviors. Rather than fizzle into oblivion, Eminem has evolved.  Over two decades ago, his rap pseudonym—M&M—birthed images of the candy-coated chocolate treat. Now, another idea rolls into mind: eminence.

As for Scott Kieklak, from Beyonce to Busta Rhymes, his mix clients have cultivated music stardom, but a reason for Kieklak’s own success is that he treats every song the same. “I treat everything like a hit,” he says. Though this fearless approach intimidates some, it helps drive individuals like Eminem and Kieklak forward. After all, Eminem’s recent single, Not Afraid, glimmers with an element of unification that his earlier, and perhaps more self-centric songs, lack: I’m not afraid to take a stand/Everybody come take my hand/We’ll walk this road together, through the storm/Whatever weather, cold or warm. Kieklak, who once worked as a janitor so that he could continue his full-time education, holds a similarly bold viewpoint: “I don’t think that fear is a bad thing in life—if you’re scared of something you should do it. If I can handle the worst case scenario then I go ahead and do it. Don’t be afraid.”

Photos from Hadi via Google Images and courtneyBolton and Ben Sutherland via flickr

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