Just Call Him Slim Shady

"Man, I wanna go down to WJLB and tell them to take my record off the air," he says sharply. "It makes me mad as fuck. Everybody was so hungry in Detroit. I feel like I earned my stripes there, I won every battle I was in, and they still wouldn't play me."

Eminem isn't so much putting a new face on hip-hop as asserting that the music is no longer an exclusively "black thing," but rather a "working-class thing." While the legions of suburban mallrats who drape themselves in inner-city ghetto styles add a socioeconomic twist to the equation, for a growing number of working-class whites, rap is a universal culture transcending race. In this context, where hip-hop has replaced heavy metal as the parking lot soundtrack of choice, Eminem is more "real" than the stomach-tattooed post-gangsta rappers from the coasts.

Mathers seems almost unaware of how his white-kid-with-street-credibility success is changing the rap game. "I think I'm bringing something new to hip-hop," he offers. "My shit is somewhere out in left field. It's a breath of fresh air." Still, the fact that Mathers has rhyme skills few rappers, black or white, can match may, for now, be overshadowed by his newfound pop stardom. Underground hip-hop fans often have trouble separating Eminem the rapper from Eminem the MTV poster child, but the same mix of irreverence and talent that made him stand out in the underground rap scene is what makes him shine in the pop arena. His sudden rise to fame also serves as an update to Sun Records' Sam Phillips's famed 1954 quote in which he says that in signing Elvis Presley he'd finally found "a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel." You certainly can't blame a street-savvy veteran producer like Dr. Dre for wanting to replace Snoop Doggy Dogg as his featured sidekick with a kid who looks like a Backstreet Boy and can rap like the late Biggie Smalls. Critics and parents alike may balk at The Slim Shady LP's marketable mix of freestyle skills and daytime talk show shock tactics, but Eminem could care less. "Put my tape back on the rack, tell your friends it's wack, I just don't give a fuck!" is what he raps. "Anybody who takes what I'm saying seriously is a fucking idiot," is what he says.

Adds his manager Paul Rosenberg: "There's nothing you can say about Em that he hasn't already said about himself."

"I'm hearing all this stuff off the Internet now, that all the underground kids are talking shit about me. I knew it would happen," Eminem says confidently. "And I'm not gonna pay attention. No, I don't wanna work some shit-paying job for the rest of my life. Fuck these kids, because any one of them would be doing the same thing if they were in my shoes.

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