Editorial – With success comes criticism — that’s just a fact. And with the astronomical amount Eminem has witnessed throughout the course of his illustrious career, he has an entire army of people who love to see him fail.
Take Brand Nubian’s Lord Jamar, for example. For the past few years, whenever he sat on VladTV’s couch, there was bound to be some insults hurled in Shady’s direction — whether it was calling him a “bitch ass” or claiming his music was “trailer park shit.” His favorite argument revolved around his theory nobody listened to Eminem anymore, especially “in the hood.” But Marshall Mathers’ album sales, YouTube views, Spotify monthly listeners and whatever other analytics you want to toss in there prove they’re at least listening to him outside of the hood.
Simply put, Eminem destroyed the “no one listens to Eminem” debate during all of 2020. Beginning with the January release of Music To Be Murdered By, Eminem once again proved his staunch supporters will always show up to back his music.
Dedicated to Eminem’s late bodyguard CeeAaqil Barnes and Juice WRLD, who appears on the track “Godzilla,” the 20-track project debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with roughly 279,000 total album-equivalent units sold in its first week. As a result, Shady became the first artist ever to have 10 consecutive albums debut in Billboard’s coveted spot.
In February, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would bring the music industry to its knees, Shady was asked to perform “Lose Yourself” at the 92nd Academy Awards — albeit 17 years late. The 8 Mile track initially won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2003, but Shady skipped the ceremony. During an exclusive interview with Variety, he explained why he finally decided to show up.
“I kinda figured maybe since I didn’t get a chance to do it at the time, maybe it would be cool,” he said. “Back then, I never even thought that I had a chance to win, and we had just performed ‘Lose Yourself’ on the Grammys with the Roots a couple of weeks before the Oscars, so we didn’t think it was a good idea.
“And also, back at that time, the younger me didn’t really feel like a show like that would understand me. But then when I found out I won, ‘That’s crazy!’ That to me shows how authentic and real that award is — when you don’t show up and you still win. That makes it very real to me.”
Exactly one month after the performance, Shady unleashed a Cole Bennett-directed video for “Godzilla” featuring Dr. Dre and famed boxer Mike Tyson in supporting roles. Employing the 24-year-old’s videographer’s talents also illustrated that despite being 47 years old, he’s still keeping his finger on the pulse of what the younger generation is up to. The visual has since racked up nearly 300 million YouTube views since its release, showing (once again) there was no shortage of Eminem thirst and fans were definitely drinking the Lyrical Lemonade.
Two days later, Music To Be Murdered By was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), meaning he sold over 500,000 total album-equivalent units in less than two months. As Shady stayed busy in the studio, Kid Cudi announced they were teaming up for a new collaboration called “The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim Shady.” While it only peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, the YouTube video has been viewed over 22 million times.
Shady scored another high profile look when President Elect Joe Biden opted to pluck “Lose Yourself” for a campaign video, which arrived the day before the November 3, 2020 election. The black-and-white clip showed shots of every day Americans with masks lined up to vote as Eminem raps, “Look, if you had one shot/Or one opportunity/To seize everything you ever wanted/In one moment/Would you capture it/Or just let it slip?” The video, which currently has over one million YouTube, was even credited for helping Biden win Shady’s home state of Michigan on Twitter.
— Marshall Mathers (@Eminem) November 2, 2020
Eminem wrapped up his productive year on December 17 with the release of Music To Be Murdered By: Side B (Deluxe Edition) much to the delight of Stans worldwide. Rumors of the project started to heat up days before its release after Em was spotted shooting a music video in front of a green screen. The whispers only intensified after producer and Dr. Dre affiliate Dem Jointz posted an Instagram photo of all the albums he worked on in 2020, inadvertently revealing the Side B cover art.
Shady madness ensued the following day when the 36-track project (20 original songs plus 16 new ones) surfaced. And while the project technically ended his Billboard record, debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, it still sold over 94,000 total album-equivalent units in its opening week.
As the album made the rounds, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) evidently gravitated toward the song “Higher” and snatched it up to promote the upcoming rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Shady tweeted ESPN’s trailer for the event on December 29 featuring clips of McGregor and Poirier’s first fight flashing across the screen as Em raps, “Where am I supposed to go from here?/Really I have no idea/All I know is every time I think I hit my ceiling/I go higher than I’ve ever fuckin’ been.”
Let’s not forget about his Spotify Wrapped numbers either. Eminem has been in the Top Streamed Artist list ever year since 2017, the only one from his age bracket. In 2020, he landed at No. 11 on a list that included Bad Bunny, Drake, Travis Scott and Juice WRLD with 4.1 billion (yes, BILLION) streams, 321.9 million hours and 139.8 million listeners in 92 countries.
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Shady might not be 25 anymore, but he routinely illustrates he’s just as passionate about Hip Hop as he was when he battled Juice at Scribble Jam in 1997. It’s evident when ’90s-era Hip Hop becomes a topic of discussion during nearly every interview he does. Most recently, he spoke to Apple Music host Zane Lowe and rattled off several MCs who’ve influenced him throughout his career, including Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap.
Lord Jamar may believe otherwise, but Eminem fans both young and not so young still rally around one of music’s biggest artists of all time whenever he puts something out — no matter if people are listening to him “in the hood” or not.