A cursory skim over Eminem’s sterling discography illustrates a triad of celebrated and ill-famed trends that resonate throughout his career: impeccable rhyming ability, polemic subject matter and a gaggle of feuds with a variety of luminaries from across the domain spring to mind. Although the aforementioned can all stand on their own merits, it’s the latter that’s perhaps Eminem’s most glorious distinction. Those who have followed Hip Hop in some way, shape or form over the past decade will be able to recollect a headline that pitted Eminem’s name against another icon. Mr. Mathers has never been one to keep his ideas about others private, and if your name fits inside the parameter of a well-structured 16-bar verse, well… that’s that, count yourself included. In an interview released in 2010, Compton emcee Game spoke on Eminem’s devastating ability to destroy people on the mic. Here’s what he had to say:
“If you notice in Hip Hop, Eminem is the only rapper that nobody ever wants a problem with, including myself. Eminem is the most lyrically insane. Even when I was going at 50 [Cent] and me and [Dr.] Dre weren’t seeing eye to eye, I stayed away from the white dude ‘cause he a problem. I don’t think there’s a rapper he won’t slay… You don’t want a beef with Eminem, he shreds emcees for real. He can’t be seen by nobody, [not] Jay [Z], nobody. You don’t mess with the white boy.”
Despite taking a backseat from the headlining beefs in the past few years to instead channel his love for name-dropping into more humorous pursuits, Eminem/Slim Shady/Marshall Mathers’ sweet past of confrontation is omnipresent and to commemorate Shady Records 15th release, Shady XV, here are 10 of Eminem’s celebrity feuds.
Eminem vs. Debbie Mathers
Year Started: October 17, 1972 (Marshall Mathers’ Birthday)
Outcome: Formally apologized via “Headlights” & accompanying music video on MMLP2
Em’s estranged relationship with his Mother, Debbie Mathers, has not only been the stimulus behind various lawsuits, but also the catalyst behind some of the Detroit loyalist’s most gritty and cogent material to date. Em’ has taken her to wax numerous times and there are a slew of records heavily referencing his mother in the breathlessly angry, completely ridiculous way on Em’ could muster. Yet, no where is this felt more prominently than on his 2002 single, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” During the cut, Eminem drops a lyrical assault in one of the most illustrious verses of his career, “But put yourself in my position; just try to envision / Witnessin’ your momma poppin’ prescription pills in the kitchen… Victim of Münchausen’s Syndrome / My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t / ‘Til I grew up, now I blew up / It makes you sick to ya stomach.” It seems the premise behind their polarizing relationship is Eminem’s disapproval with how he was treated throughout his upbringing and his single Mother’s attempts to dissipate her son, despite Mrs. Mathers pointing to the contrary. As the years went by, more diatribes followed including the 2009 Relapse cut “My Mom.” “Valium was in everything, food that I ate / The water that I drank, fucking peas on my plate / She sprinkled just enough of it to season my steak / So everyday I’d have at least three stomach aches / Now tell me what kinda Mother would wanna see her / Son grow up to be an under-a-fucking-chiever,” Em’ raps.
The latter stages of 2013 saw Mr. Mathers reveal a new-fangled outlook on the subject, though. “Headlights,” off The Marshall Mathers LP 2, witnessed Em’ apologizing to his Mother for the repugnant image he had persistently portrayed of her in his rhymes. “‘Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though / ‘Cause you ain’t even get to witness your grandbabies grow / But I’m sorry Momma for ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet,’ at the time I was angry / Rightfully, maybe so, never meant that far to take it though.” Perhaps the most compelling part to the narrative of Debbie and Marshall Mathers is the latter’s maturity to offer such a gesture after over a decade of vilification towards his Mother in arguably the most one-sided feud in Hip Hop history.
Eminem vs. Ja Rule
Year Started: 2000
Outcome: Ja Rule’s career essentially ended, while Eminem & Co. continued to put out platinum-selling albums and records. Irv Gotti actually admitted that he (and therefore, Ja Rule) lost the beef to 50 Cent (and therefore, Eminem) on Hot 97.
Condensing the archives for 50 Cent & Eminem’s back-and-forth feud with Ja Rule & Murder Inc. isn’t an easy task. Eminem’s involvement in the feud rested largely on the shoulders of his musical brethren, 50 Cent. The South Jamaica, Queens resident has had a storied history with Ja Rule and his label Murder Inc. After Fif’ signed on the dotted line to Eminem’s Shady Records imprint, Ja Rule was quick to act-the-fool. He stated that if 50 Cent was permitted to release any material that housed critical lyrical content towards either him or Murder Inc., he wouldn’t hesitate to respond. Of course, it was only a matter of time. However, Eminem’s personal feud with Ja Rule was ignited after the Murder Inc. artist dropped “Loose Change.” The Shady one inherited the beef from 50 Cent, which dates back to 2000. 50 was hospitalized after being stabbed by some people related to Murder, Inc., he was then shot five times a mere two months later, a shooting that was was potentially connected to Ken “Supreme” McGriff (an IRS agent-filed affidavit filed named him as a suspect).
On the track, Ja throws stray shots at 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Aftermath Records and just about everything pertaining to the Shady/Aftermath movement. Yet it’s not until the beat cuts out that Ja’s most stinging round is fired: “Em, you claim your mother’s a crackhead and Kim is a known slut / So what’s Hailie gonna be when she grows up?” After this, an irate Eminem — along with his D12 subordinates — went on an all out rampage with “Doe Rae Me.” Eminem would later reference this whole ordeal numerous times on “Like Toy Soldiers,” off his 2004 album, Encore. On the cut, Em’ weaves through the narrative, painting the intricacies of the saga with some of the most stellar storytelling of his career.
On the decline of Ja Rule and Murder Inc., Mr. “Where would I be without you,” had this to say: “It was a roller coaster because everything — we was going up so fast and everything was happening so fast and then it went ‘shooom.’ It was no slope. It was no dip. It was just a straight [drop]” — Ja Rule on Murder, Inc.’s decline post-beef
Eminem vs. Benzino/The Source
Year Started: 2002
The storied beef between Eminem and Benzino dates back to circa 2000. After selling over 1.76 million copies of his sophomore album, The Marshall Mathers LP, within its first week on the shelves, The Source, one of Rap’s most iconic magazines, in which Benzino was the co-founder of, greeted the project with a comical ⅖ mics rating. However, publically, Eminem kept rather quiet on the demeaning review. Nevertheless, the power of such record sales didn’t wrench at the mind strings of the magazine’s (much delayed) co-founder who later dropped “I Don’t Wanna,” the diss track aimed at Eminem that was the catalyst behind their feud. Despite there being no retort from the Motor City luminary on attempt one, Benzino soon followed with another track drenched in diss references. It was after his second effort that Em’ replied in November of 2002 with “The Sauce” and from there, things spiraled. Withering records were sent from both camps including Benzino’s “Pull Your Skirt Up” and Eminem’s “Nail In The Coffin,” largely touted as one of the best diss records of all time. On the former, “Pull Your Skirt Up,” Benzino raps: “I birthed your little career now you owe your life to Ray,” referencing Eminem’s appearance in the magazine’s prestigious Unsigned Hype column in March of 1998. In response, on the latter’s “Nail In The Coffin,” Em’ spits: “Talking ‘bout I owe him / Bitch, you owe me… I’m promoting you right now / Yo, let’s put the nail in his coffin.” Things only escalated, too.
In an interview released in 2012, Benzino admitted it was a mistake to get embroiled in the whole situation.
“It was a mistake for me getting involved in the situation with Eminem,” Benzino said. “The Eminem thing started getting uglier and uglier, and of course I can take responsibility for some of the stuff I said as far as directly towards his family, you know, really personal shots. It was out of order. I believe some of the stuff that he said was out of order also, but at the end of the day, it’s all fair in war… If I could do it over again, I definitely would. Eminem was and still is a major force. Hip Hop has brought cultures together – Asian, Latino, Black, White – and I should have been more responsible… [If I met him today] first I’d want to apologize for the Hailie references.”
Eminem (D12) vs. Royce Da 5’9
Year Started: 2008
Song: “Smack Down”
Outcome: In 2008, Royce would be featured on D12’s mixtape Return of the Dirty Dozen. They would also tour together in Canada and Europe. Royce is now on the Eminem-sponsored “quartet” Slaughterhouse, effectively indicating the beef’s end. Em & Royce also dropped Hell: The Sequel, an album under their Bad Meets Evil moniker.
Many feuds in Hip Hop’s encyclopedic past have followed a similar trajectory; two friends who started beefing once money and stardom crawled in with the frame. Suffice to say Eminem and Royce Da 5’9’s erstwhile problems followed a kindred model, so the books suggest. After issues broke out between Dr. Dre and Royce Da 5’9’s manager, Kino Childers, Royce decided to pen down a deal with Tommy Boy Records. After signing with another label, Royce distanced his relationship with Eminem to work on his debut album, Rock City. Subsequently, Royce was not able to finish the Anger Management tour as Eminem’s hypeman, leaving Em’ left scrambling for a replacement. As a substitute, Eminem pointed to long-time friend and fellow D12 brethren Proof to become his on-stage disciple. During a freestyle submitted for The Anger Management mixtape, Royce Da 5’9 rapped, “Fuck anger management / I need somebody to manage my anger.” This was taken by D12 and Eminem as a raging shot at The Anger Management tour and Royce’s decision to drop off as Eminem’s hypeman. Whether intentional or not, things soon escalated into a bedlam of controversy between the two camps.
Back in March of ‘03, Royce Da 5’9 offered his side of the-then burning feud in an exclusive story with HipHopDX. When the beef was in full swing, Royce added fuel to the fire by citing D12 as the group who were ruining Rap. He added that they were the worst group ever and were just wack to him. Things again intensified and several diss records by both parties were unleashed, including “Smack Down” from D12, and “Malcom X” and “Shit on You” from Royce. In the summer of 2003, Proof and Royce got into it outside of a club, leading to group fighting and both of them getting arrested. It’s reported that they were placed in adjacent cells and talked out their differences.
Several years later and following the untimely death of Proof and Eminem’s subsequent stint in rehab, Royce and and Em’ reunited, with the latter signing Royce’s group Slaughterhouse to his Shady Records imprint. On “Move On (Remix)” off Slaughterhouse’s self-titled 2011 EP, Royce raps, “You dealt with Shady shit? I dealt with shady shit / But I’m the only one can truly say I dealt with Shady’s shit… Marshall I’m sorry, I knew I went left / I ain’t into fucking my family like incest,” formerly laying down his apology on wax. Today, Royce Da 5’9 and Eminem’s friendship is arguably stronger than ever as the duo continue to work together on music and are frequently pictured together in the studio.
Eminem vs. Mariah Carey/Nick Cannon
Year Started: 2001
Outcome: Em’ still throws shots at these two whenever he feels like it, but the sting isn’t quite there anymore, with Mariah Carey’s legendary career stalled for television and film and Nick Cannon splitting with the star earlier this year.
We’ve got to turn the page all the way back to the turn of the century to unearth the source of the storied feud between Eminem and New York songstress, Mariah Carey (and later Nick Cannon). After the pair met to discuss a possible collaboration on Mariah’s Charmbracelet album back in 2001, it’s alleged that the couple embarked on what would turn out to be a short-lived and later, fiery relationship. Doings seemed to flutter on until Eminem dropped his fourth studio album The Eminem Show in 2002 where there were multiple references to the pair’s relationship. Later that year, Eminem confirmed the relationship in an interview with Rolling Stone, however, Mariah Carey subsequently denied it in conversation with Larry King: “I was probably with him a total of four times. And I don’t consider that dating somebody,” she said. Em’ was riled up due to Mariah’s continual denial about their relationship.
Things appeared to have died down but after Mariah Carey wedded Nick Cannon in 2008, the tirades began again. “Bagpipes From Baghdad,” off Em’s 2009 release Relapse, was strewn with a gaggle of caustic shots, (“Nick Cannon, you prick, I wish you luck with the fuckin’ whore / Every minute there’s a sucker born”). After the ball was thrown back into Mariah Carey’s court following the said Relapse cut, the songstress released “Obsessed,” a ballad clear in its message. One watch of the visuals for the cut on the New Yorker’s VEVO account tells the story. The song sees an individual that very obviously impersonates and connotes Eminem acting as a stalker and probing the question, “Why you so obsessed with me?” Eminem, never been one to let another have the last say, released the Dr. Dre-produced number “The Warning,” an all out harangue at both Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. Em’ wasn’t holding back.
The beef has taken a backseat over the past lustrum, but after it was reported earlier this year that Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon were planning a divorce, there’s surely to be some rhymes pertaining to the elongated tale in the future, no?
Eminem vs. Michael Jackson
Year Started: 2004
Song: “Just Lose It” (Video)
Outcome: BET pulled the video; MTV (and it’s affiliates) continued to air the video; Nothing was ever truly “resolved”
To call it a “feud” is perhaps the wrong terminology for Eminem and Michael Jackson’s problems; bicker or squabble would suffice. Nevertheless Em’s problems with Michael Jackson were definitely a product of his Slim Shady alter ego. Issues emerged when Eminem released the first single, “Just Lose It,” off his fifth studio album Encore, taking ostensible shots at MJ. With one spin of the record it’s instantly apparent why the former Motown artist took offense: “Come here, little kiddies, on my lap / Guess who’s back with a brand new rap / And I don’t mean a rap as in a new case of child-molestation accusation / … I’ve done touched on everything but little boys / That’s not a stab at Michael / That’s just a metaphor / I’m just psycho,” Em’ raps. The record is laced with homoerotic humor, but the premise to what Eminem is alluding too wasn’t helping MJ’s then-child abuse allegations. The video only added fuel to the fire, too, by fusing Eminem’s galvanizing lyrics with an array of insulting aesthetics with MJ as the target man. Following the release of the video, a spokesperson for Michael Jackson said the following about the video: “The entire video is inappropriate; it’s not just one thing,” Raymone Bain said. “He is very disappointed, he is very angry. It’s one thing for there to be a spoof, it’s another to be insensitive and disrespectful. It crossed the line.”
Eminem vs. George W. Bush
Year Started: 2003
Outcome: A line about Em’s purported desire to see the president dead was looked into by the United States Secret Service as a potential threat on the President’s life after the uncensored version of “We As Americans” leaked. Ultimately, he was exonerated.
Suffice to say George W. Bush wasn’t Eminem’s preferential candidate on the ballot paper during the presidential elections of the early aughts. For those in-touch with Em’s soi-disant “golden years,” the narrative behind their issues will be something you’ll be instantly familiar with. The origins of the turbulent tale between the 43rd President of the United States and Marshall Mathers can be traced back to the latter stages of 2003, when a bootleg version of Eminem’s “We As Americans” surfaced online. On the cut, Shady raps, “I don’t rap for dead presidents / I’d rather see the president *dead* / It’s never been said / But I set precedents.” Shortly after the record found its way onto the Internet, an individual representing the Secret Service Office of Public Affairs subsequently confirmed that the threatening lyrics were being investigated, most likely because of what Eminem was alluding to in his rhymes. Thankfully, nothing came from the commotion and Em’ was quickly exonerated.
Eminem vs. Christina Aguilera
Year Started: 2000
Outcome: She vehemently denied his claims about blowing Carson Daily and/or Fred Durst and recorded a parody rap of “The Real Slim Shady.”
Christina Aguilera teed herself up for this one. Back in 2000, the Staten Island, New York resident made an appearance on her “What A Girl Wants” MTV Special and chose Eminem’s “My Name Is” as one of her favorite music videos at that time. Instead of doing the smart move and leaving it there, Aguilera went on to discuss Eminem’s purported relationship with his on-and-off girlfriend, Kim: “I heard he’s married now. [To] the girl that he talks about killing on his record actually [laughs],” she says. Eminem, not wanting his personal life being discussed on national television, quickly weighed in on the tale.
During an interview soon after, Eminem says Aguilera used a rumor to put him on blast in front of the nation. “She heard a rumor. She didn’t know if I was married or not. She just heard a rumor and then put me on blast… But I figured, ‘Well, fuck it. All right. Okay. I’m married. Okay. Whatever. That’s cool. But you said something about me, so I’m going to voice some rumors that I heard about you.’” It was from here that Eminem used the labrish gabber of Aguilera’s sexual relationships with MTV Veejay Carson Daly and Limb Bizkit frontman Fred Durst to flip the script. On his “The Real Slim Shady” cut off his 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem raps: “Shit, Christina Aguilera better switch me chairs / So I can sit next to Carson Daly and Fred Durst / And hear ‘em argue over who she gave head to first / Little bitch put me on blast on MTV / ‘Yeah he’s cute, but I think he’s married to Kim, hee hee.’” Afterwards, an Aguilera rep discussed Eminem’s lyrics with the New York Daily News: “It’s disgusting, it’s offensive and, above all, it’s not true.” It wasn’t over there, either. Offering her take over the same “The Real Slim Shady” beat, Aguilera laced down her own musings that probably did nothing more than make Eminem laugh. “Little twit blasts me on his new CD / Why? ‘Cause I turned him down for a date / As for the question of who came first, was it Carson daly or was it Fred Durst? / I’m sorry Slim, but this is gonna hurt / They both came closer than you ever will, jerk.”
Eminem vs. Will Smith
Year Started: 2002
Song: “The Real Slim Shady”
Outcome: The “beef” was flash-in-the-pan. It didn’t last.
After reading through the archives, the “feud” (if you can call it that) between Eminem and Will Smith seems to be more built on respect than any personal issues between the two luminaries. And, it’s likely they would agree. Despite not being the only person to feel Slim Shady’s wrath on “The Real Slim Shady,” Will Smith did catch a verbal bite from the Detroit lyricist. On the cut, Em’ raps: “Will Smith doesn’t have to cuss to sell records / Well, I do / So fuck him. And fuck you too,” likely referring to Smith’s 1998 Grammy Speech, where the Fresh Prince actor spoke out on the profanity so frequently used in Rap music. Here, for MTV, Em’ addresses the matter candidly: “I felt like he was taking a stab at me and [Dr.] Dre and anybody who uses profanity on the records to express themselves. If you feel strong enough about something, then you might put a little “f***” before you say exactly what you’re saying.”
Although that shot marked both the start and the end of the feud, Will Smith’s Grammy speech may not have been the only thing that had Slim Shady rustled up the wrong way. According to long-time friend and collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith gave Eminem some candid feedback when the pair bumped into each other at a studio in Philadelphia in the late ‘90s. Jazzy Jeff recalls the emcee-turned-actor telling Eminem: “You’re either gonna be the biggest flop in Hip Hop, or you’re gonna be the biggest thing that we’ve ever seen in Hip Hop.” That’s kind of one of those “cat got your tongue” moments.
Eminem vs. Drugs
Year Started: Uncertain – Teenage years? Rx abuse began in 2002 during production of 8 Mile due to problems sleeping.
Outcome: After several years of prescription drug abuse, in 2007 Eminem overdosed on methadone when being used as a sleep aid which was said to be easier on his liver than Vicodin. He fell in his bathroom and was taken to the hospital.
Slim became clean after his overdose scare but a month later went back into his addiction full swing.
April 20, 2008, Eminem finally embraced a sober lifestyle. Close friend Elton John became a mentor during Em’s delicate time by communicating with him once a week.
While not a feud with another dignitary, Eminem’s storied and rather public war against drugs was his toughest and most onerous challenge thitherto. In December of 2007, after years of drug abuse, Eminem overdosed on an amount of methadone equivalent to four bags of heroin and according to reports, such abuse landed Eminem just “two hours away” from his death. After being released from hospital, Em’ quickly fell back into his ways and within a month, had relapsed. Em’s discussed this challenging chapter of his life in the April 2009 issue of XXL Magazine. “I wasn’t ready mentally,” Em’ says. “I wasn’t ready to give up the drugs. I didn’t really think I had a problem. Basically, I went in, and I came out. I relapsed, and I spent the next three years struggling with it. Also, at that time, I felt like I wanted to pull back, because my drug problem had got so bad. I felt like, Maybe if I take a break, maybe this will help. I started to get into the producer role more… I can still be out there with my music, like with the Re-Up album, but I don’t have to be in the spotlight the whole time.”
In April of 2008, Eminem embraced a sober lifestyle and synonymous with his 2010 album, embarked on his own recovery. His growth as a person is mirrored in his rhymes. Looking back, one can’t help but doff a cap to Mr. Mathers for overcoming the darker side to fame and fortune that unfortunately, claims the lives of so many.
Eminem vs. Iggy Azalea
Year Started: 2014
Outcome: Not yet decided, this beef see’s Em’ clash with a new generation of pop star. And, let’s face it, Iggy is in the same beautiful, popular, blond haired lane as his other frequent target over the years Britney Spears. Iggy has spoken out on Twitter, but she has never penned anything, and, hopefully, it remains that way.
Iggy Azalea has been catching a lot of flak as of late. After Rah Digga fired off asserting her view that the Australian-born rapper isn’t Hip Hop, Snoop Dogg jumped into the fold. The Long Beach, California native went on an Instagram lampooning spree, posting a multitude of mocking pictures subsequently goading Azalea into firing back over Twitter. Sprinkled among the aforementioned are ceaseless claims of a latent feud with fellow rapstress Nicki Minaj, and as if this wasn’t painful enough to watch, and to add insult to injury (quite literally), Eminem has become the most recent artist to annex his name to the list of those throwing jabs at the “Fancy” rapper. On “Vegas,” off his Shady XV album, Eminem raps: “So swallow my pride, you’re lucky just to follow my ride / If I let you run alongside the Humvee / Unless you’re Nicki, grab you by the wrist, let’s ski / So what’s it gon’ be / Put that shit away, Iggy / You don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me.” Of course, Azalea responded, saying she’s “bored of the old men threatening young women.” It’s difficult to picture this feud continuing, as a matter of fact, it’s probably already ended.
Eminem Vs. Kimberly Scott Mathers
Year started: 1989
Song: “’97 Bonnie & Clyde,” “Kim,” “Sing for the Moment,” “‘Till I Collapse,” “Soldier,” “Hailie’s Song,” “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” “Mockingbird,” “Puke,” “When I’m Gone,” “I’m Going Through Changes”
Outcome: Em and Kim originally married in 1999 and divorced in 2001. In 2000, Kim slashed her wrists and later sued Eminem for ten million and claimed defamation of her name in the song titled, Kim. It is unknown if she was awarded the money Marshall and Kim remarried in January of 2006, Eminem divorced Kim for the last time months later in April of 2006. Em denied rumors of the two reuniting in 2010. “Kim and I have had our differences, sure, but things are good between us now,” says the rapper (real name Marshall B. Mathers III), adding that the two have forged a “seamless” back and forth between their homes. “She’s there holding the fort down – and she does an amazing job.”
Who knows how long Marshall Mathers has been drawing at the altar of “Kim” to use as fire for his most creative and disturbing works. His early work, certainly, saw her as a poltergeist in the room over the course of those albums. And their rampant problems served as muse for him, along with their daughter (Hailie) to draw out the intensely descriptive bars that would go on to define his massive critical and commercial acclaim.
Although not technically a beef per se, his back and forth with her helped propel him into the arms of mainstream stardom (whether he liked it or not).