On one of his numerous hit singles, controversial rapper Eminem, aka Slim Shady, asks: "Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?". And although he has sold over ten million albums worldwide and hit the headlines with a couple of very public arrests, even Eminem fans seem baffled as to who the man behind the music is.
Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born October 17, 1973, to 15-year-old Debbie Mathers, and an absent father in St Joseph, Missouri. Debbie, Marshall and his younger half-brother Nathan, moved several times by the time Eminem dropped out of high school he had attended nearly 30 different schools before settling in a poor, predominantly black neighbourhood in Detroit. It was a world in which rap music became the one constant.
As a youngster, Marshall was mockingly dubbed a "wigger" for adopting the black culture uniform of the day baggy clothing and a baseball cap worn backwards. At the time his family thought he was undergoing an identity crisis, but his manager Phil Rosenberg sees his client's behaviour in a different light. "He wanted to be part of the landscape, part of the environment. I think it was just him assimilating," he says. The story of Eminem's arrival onto the music scene is now rap legend. An intern at Interscope Records saw Eminem perform at the Rap Olympics in Los Angeles and passed a tape to his boss, record company executive Jimmy Iovine. Iovine loved the tape, sent it to rap icon Dr Dre, and Slim Shady was born.
Yet despite being the critics' darling, Eminem has made his share of enemies along the way, including gay watchdog group GLAAD to his now ex-wife, Kim.
Kim, Marshall's high-school sweetheart, gave birth to the couple's daughter Hailie Jade in 1995. The two were married four years later, but the relationship was far from stable and following Marshall's performance in a July 2000 gig in Detroit, Kim attempted suicide. The two were reconciled briefly but eventually parted, coming to a temporary settlement which included joint custody of Hailie Jade in March 2001. The couple managed to patch things up a couple of years later and got remarried in January 2006 in a small ceremony in Rochester, Michigan. However the singer filed for divorce just 82 days later.
Eminem has often been attacked for his misogynistic lyrics, including the song '97 Bonnie and Clyde in which he describes teaming up with his daughter to murder Kim. The rapper's adversaries claim the hate-filled lyrics send the wrong message to today's youth. But his fans who include Elton John and Madonna are quick to defend the Grammy award winner, and many believe his Slim Shady stage persona is nothing more than an act.
In court following an incident in which he was accused of pistol-whipping a member of rival rap act Insane Clown Posse, Eminem revealed a very different side. Describing the rapper as "a real enigma", prosecuting attorney Carl Marlinga said: "This person pretends to be an out-of-control, hate-filled maniac when he's on the stage, but in real life, he's polite and well spoken and respectful, totally candid and honest in his statements."
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up.