“My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That'll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez / Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest / Pants or dress, hate fags / The answer’s yes…” – Eminem, “Criminal”
Who could have predicted these few bars of lyrics would have me sitting next to the Grammy president, Michael Greene, at just 16 years old?
I sat there apprehensively, trying to anticipate what the audience was going to ask me next. I was somewhat prepared considering the fact that “The Today Show” grilled me about Eminem’s misogynistic and homophobic lyrics the previous weekend.
That interview was filmed in my bedroom—plastered with Eminem posters and magazine cutouts on every wall. I remember the journalist asking me if I thought Em’s song “Kim,” in which he murders his unfaithful girlfriend and repeats the line “Bleed, bitch. Bleed,” promoted domestic violence.
“I actually see it as a love song in some sort of weird, twisted way,” I explained. “His lyrics go on to say, ‘I don’t wanna go on living in this world without you,’ because he feels so betrayed.” He seemed perturbed by my answer. When asked about his frequent use of the word “faggot,” I cited his “Criminal” lyrics in which he stated, “Come on, relax, guy, I like gay men.”
Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP was my life at the time. Scratch that. Eminem was my life at the time. I was compared to the female equivalent of his infamously dark song “Stan” about a deranged fan who scribbles Em letters until it literally drives him off of a bridge. I was “Standrea,” if you will (“Stan” + My name, Andrea = “Standrea”). I was instantly drawn in by his sing-songy voice, insane delivery and funny videos for “My Name Is” and “Guilty Conscience,” but had no idea how demented his material actually was until I copped The Slim Shady LP in the eighth grade. Thankfully, my parents never made me listen to edited music, because they didn’t want to shelter me from the real world and knew I was mature enough not to slit my wrists or go on a drug binge because Em joked about it in a song.
Soaking in its unedited, ominous and wickedly witty content, I admit that I was taken aback by its rawness upon my first listen. I remember thinking, “This guy is sick,” during “’97 Bonnie & Clyde.” I felt somewhat guilty for enjoying such a morbid track about dumping his baby mama’s lifeless body in a lake with the help of their two-year-old daughter, Hailie Jade. But Eminem’s exquisite storytelling on songs like “Brain Damage” and his cartoonishly violent lyrics on “Still Don’t Give a Fuck” were captivating. I couldn’t stop listening.
To me, he was Mr. Don’t Give a Fuck, and I was a teenage Latina at an all-girls Catholic high school who found his material undeniably clever, creative and hilarious. His association with Dr. Dre drew me in, and the fact he was White and grew up hiding the welfare cheese from friends out of embarrassment intrigued me. He was my savior from all of the disposable “same song and dance,” cookie-cutter Pop music my peers consumed. I cringed every time I saw Britney Spears and ‘Nsync pin-ups in lockers, and Em understood that. Boy/girl teen Pop groups made him sick.
Marshall Mathers became the extracurricular activity I never had. I spent hours downloading freestyles and rarities on Napster, and I read every bio and magazine article I could find about him. I taped every TV appearance, founded a Yahoo! fan club and kept current on his every move. I dragged my mom and cousin to my first Hip Hop show—Power 106’s “Powerhouse”—because he was on the bill (Sidebar: The closing surprise act was the historical reunion of Dr. Dre and Snoop, and I nearly lost my mind).
My passion flourished, and I was determined to build a fan site, so I spent the majority of my summer teaching myself basic HTML code through trial and error. You have to remember this was the year 2000. Wordpress did not yet exist, and easy site builders still required some coding. Before long, my Angelfire site, “All About the Shadiest: Eminem” was born, complete with a compilation of rare facts, a breakdown of all of his tattoos and speeches he’d made at award shows I transcribed. While visiting my Yahoo! club one day, I saw a post looking for fans to contribute their thoughts on Em to a magazine called Eminem: Unauthorized and Uncensored. I wrote a blurb about why I respected him as an artist, and it was published along with my site.
Curtains Up: From “Stan” To Local Celebrity
About a month later, I received an e-mail from Lynn Smith of the LA Times requesting an interview to discuss Eminem’s music. I was elated. She made the trek to my family’s Chino Hills home, and I did the Q&A in my black hoodie with the backwards E on it that I wore religiously until it turned gray. I showed her my room, my vast collection of memorabilia and website. She jotted down notes while we discussed my background, how I became a fan and what I specifically liked about Eminem’s music. There was no reason to be nervous, but, like most teenagers, I was self-conscious at 15 and was concerned my answers might not sound intelligent enough. Lynn set me at ease with her kind, professional approach, and I observed how enjoyable the field of journalism might be.
The article came out, and though I was a little disappointed that I used the filler word “like” way too often, I was excited to be in the prestigious paper my parents read every morning during breakfast. Friends and classmates found out, I was hyped my Stan-liness received recognition, and hoped it might lead to a meeting with Eminem one day. I remember hearing that my friend’s sister bought the entire stack of LA Times from a vendor, and I laughed in disbelief as I signed a copy for a schoolmate. Little did I know that my story also made its way into the hands of an executive at the Interscope Records offices in Santa Monica.
Who Knew: National Interest & Contact With Eminem’s Camp
At home, I was frantically blowing up the Power 106 line trying to win tickets to Em’s secret Pay-Per-View concert that could only be obtained by bidding on them for charity. I was on a serious mission. I made calls hourly and asked my family to try and keep the lines clear, but my endeavors were in vain. I felt defeated when the contest ended, and I routinely checked my e-mail the night before the show. There it was. A prayer answered. A brief message from Dennis Dennehy, Eminem’s publicist, saying he read the LA Times article and thought it was really cool to see someone saying something positive about Em for once. He had two tickets to the show saved for me. I fuckin’ lost it. My mom had just stepped in from work, and she heard me upstairs screaming. “Are you okay?!” she demanded. Apparently, she thought I was dying.
Hearing from Em’s camp and going to that concert was everything to me. D12, Dr. Dre and Xzibit were surprise guests, and I was in Hip Hop heaven screaming along to every song as Em’s eyes peered at me in the audience. He even did “Shit On You,” debuted “Purple Pills” and mocked ‘Nsync by performing a choreographed dance with the Dirty Dozen. These were the moments I lived for, and the show continued in my dreams that night. No lie.
Word about me evidently spread, and my neighbors advised my family that Fox 11 News was looking for me. Soon, a segment of my parents and I being interviewed by Lisa Breckenridge aired on the nightly news. I did similar interviews with “Inside Edition” for an obsessed fan episode, YM magazine and The Daily Bulletin. When The Daily Bulletin issue dropped the day of the Grammys, I was shocked to see my story and photo on the cover. For a sophomore in high school who usually only got academic praise, it felt rewarding to see all of the work I put into my site get so much attention.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all the press coverage, some heartless soul of a hacker decided to delete my entire site, and for a few days, I hit rock bottom. Words cannot describe how upset I was knowing that people clicking on my URL would be directed to a dead link. Luckily, it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to salvage my old content thanks to Google’s cache, and I rebuilt it as the domain name allabouteminem.com.
Won’t Back Down: Defending Eminem Against GLAAD
As the Grammys approached, there was a media frenzy about Eminem’s controversial lyrics getting nominated for the coveted Grammy for Album of the Year, and I was contacted by GLAAD (at the time, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to discuss his homophobic lyrics. This was the group of people who Eminem said held up “picket signs for (his) wicked rhymes.” Truth be told, I was never a fan of public speaking, but I decided to participate in their “Intolerance in Music: A Town Hall Meeting” at the Los Angeles Library downtown. Anything to defend my idol.
As my dad drove up to the library that day, the streets were heavily stacked with news vans. I took some deep breaths hoping to dissipate my anxiety and walked in wearing my “Property of Slim Shady” shirt. The inside of the auditorium was less intimidating. Various media outlets were definitely present, but the LA high schools that were supposed to fill most of the seats backed out at the last minute.
The moderator led the discussion by asking the panel how we felt about his music. I explained that fans understood Em’s personality, and that a lot of his lyrics were said in jest. The most intense moments were when the audience asked questions. Parents interrogated me about why I felt his lyrics were funny, and an elderly man shouted that Em’s gay slurs were comparable to several racial epitaphs. Many felt Elton John’s announcement to perform with Eminem was the epitome of betrayal and disgrace. Grammy president, Michael Greene, addressed most of those questions, but regardless, things got heated. After doing a few radio interviews, a bodyguard was nice enough to walk my dad and I back to our car. The highlight of the afternoon for me was being introduced to Violet Brown, who Em mentioned on his “Steve Berman” skit.
There He Is: Finally Meeting Eminem
High school progressed, and though people labeled me obsessive, it never interfered with my academics or social life. I maintained my 4.0 GPA and spent time with friends while frequently updating my site. I attended every Eminem show in town and kept in touch with Dennis, having strong faith that it was only a matter of time before I’d get the chance to meet him. The time had finally come.
The date was August 15, 2002 on Em’s “Anger Management 2” tour in Chula Vista, California. Dennis got me in touch with Marc Labelle, Em’s road manager, and I called him the day of the show. No promises were made, and he explained it would depend on how Eminem was feeling. I hoped for the best, and at the beginning of Ludacris’ set, a guy named Liam came up to the area where my friend, Gloria, and I were sitting. He asked if my name was Andrea. When I confirmed, he handed us backstage passes for later, and I did my absolute best to refrain from having an anxiety attack.
When Papa Roach’s set was over, Liam tapped me on the shoulder and swept Gloria and I backstage where we met Marc Labelle. He explained Em’s time was limited because he had to prep for his show, but I didn’t mind. Walking past the gates to the backstage area near the tour buses was surreal, and when we ran into Em’s body double, Partial, in the halls, my heart dropped. I was excited, nervous, curious and naturally high all at the same damn time. Finally, we arrived at his dressing room where his manager, Paul “Bunyan” Rosenberg, towered over the entrance. I thanked him as I tried to distract myself from the rush I felt knowing I would soon be in the presence of Slim Shady himself. After a few minutes, I was led into a furnished room complete with an array of catered food, a big screen TV with massive speakers, and a lush couch that D12 members Kuniva and Bizarre were seated on. My eyes glanced a little bit further, and there he stood—Marshall Mathers himself in all his glory. I was stunned as his blue eyes met mine.
Gloria and I walked over to him in disbelief, and he asked us what our names were. I blurted out, “This is crazy.” He repeated, “This is crazy?” and laughed. He introduced me to Bizarre, who I referred to as his other little-known nickname, “The Red Headed Rapist” and Kuniva. I said, “Yeah, I know Rondell Beene,” and Bizarre exclaimed, “This girl knows her shit!” I rejoiced inside getting validation from a D12 member as we shook hands. Success.
Paul told Em that Dennis had been trying to arrange a meeting between us for a while, and brought over some Sharpies and press photos. I stood there in awe as he scribbled his signature with his left hand and stared at his tattooed arm adorned with the silver bracelet he often wore in pictures. I snapped out of it and commented on the room.
“So what? You guys just chill back here? That’s the fuckin life right there!” They laughed, and Bizarre replied, “Americaaaa,” referring to the song, “White America.” Eminem mentioned hearing about me defending him, and I was taken aback. I paused and managed to respond, “Yeah, the GLAAD thing. That was scary.”
Paul asked if we had cameras, and proceeded to take our photo. Gloria then requested a photo of us flipping the camera off.
“I don’t do that,” Em joked. He also agreed to a solo shot. “Where is this gonna end up?” he asked as I snapped it. “The Internet,” I replied laughing. We spoke a bit about a notebook I sent him, but he hadn’t received it. His team reminded him that he had to perform. “Oh, yeah. I got a show to do,” Em replied smiling. I bid him farewell and did my best to convey my gratitude and how much it meant to me. “Thank you. I love yoooooooooooou,” he replied as we walked out the door. It was so gratifying to see that he was so down to earth, funny and kind.
Our meet and greet was no more than 10 minutes, but in those few moments, I felt infinite. My hard work was sincerely recognized by the man himself, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. After the long summer nights staying up until 2 a.m. working on my site, copping the albums and merchandise, researching for hours at a time, having Eminem acknowledge me everything made it all worthwhile.
As The World Turns: 10 Years After Meeting Eminem
A year later, my parents were generous enough to fly me out to Detroit, Michigan to Eminem’s show at Ford Field as my graduation present. I was featured in The Detroit News, but the best part was seeing all of the sights: 8 Mile Road, St. Andrew’s Hall—where he used to perform, his old home on the cover of The Marshall Mathers LP and Gilbert’s Lodge where he used to work as a short-order cook. It was like my own little Graceland. The show itself was unforgettable with 50 Cent, D12, Obie Trice, Missy Elliott and Monica popping up as surprise guests, and I was just old enough to attend the afterparty at the State Theatre where I saw Proof. Some of the best gifts are experiences, and this was definitely a memorable one.
To this day, I keep his framed photo on my desk signed, “Andrea, Thank you 4 everything! Love, Marshall.” I remember being overjoyed when I realized that he signed his government name, because I read close friends and family were the only ones allowed to address him as such.
I highly doubt Eminem remembers that quick meeting over 10 years ago, and it honestly doesn’t concern me. He took the time to reach out to a young fan when he could have easily brushed me off. Instead, he transformed my entire life. Dennis later helped me attain my college internship at Interscope, and today, I am interviewing rappers and writing articles as a Hip Hop journalist.
About two years ago, I ran into Marc and Paul on Sunset Boulevard during VMA weekend and gave them a quick hello. I could tell they weren’t sure who I was, but didn’t want to take up their time by going into detail. I just smiled and kept it moving as the priceless and warm memories of my adolescence as Standrea flashed through my mind.
Los Angeles native Andrea Aguilar has always had a strong passion for Hip Hop and journalism. In 2007, she received a BA in Communications - Entertainment Studies with a Minor in Radio/TV/Film from Cal State Fullerton and worked for Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records. She is the writer and creator of beautifulstruggles.com and has contributed to Urban print publications TRUE and DOPE Magazine. Her articles include feature and cover stories on Hip Hop artists, actors and professional athletes. She has interviewed renowned artists like Pusha T, Game, Big Sean and Tyga. You can follow her on Twitter @andrea3stacks.
RELATED: Em And Them: Hip Hop's New Generation Of Teen Angst [2011 Editorial]