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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Eminem's criminal record
Eminem
Eminem: Travel restrictions may hamper his career
By the BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles

It was a bad rap - but not bad enough to send Eminem to jail.

Marshall Bruce Mathers III has been sentenced to two years of probation for carrying a concealed weapon. He avoided the maximum sentence of five years behind bars.

In taking the rap for his violent behaviour, Eminem joins the growing ranks of hip-hop stars with a criminal record.

Eminem in court
Eminem says he wants to put the case behind him
Music critic Brian McCollum of the Detroit Free Press believes it will not hurt Mathers to be seen as tough and menacing.

"The strange irony here is that one of the reasons he got off with probation was that his weapon was not loaded. Oddly enough that could hurt Eminem's street credibility more than help it. It gives the appearance that he's all talk," he said.

Los Angeles-based journalist Michael Datcher is a cultural critic and long-time observer of the hip-hop world. He believes the white rapper got off lightly.

He said: "If you are a celebrity and if you have money - especially if you are European American and Caucasian, there's a different kind of justice."

Datcher, who is the co-author of Tough Love - The Life and Death of Tupac Shakur, said Eminem's punishment did not fit his crime.

"Something seems wrong when African Americans have been sent to jail for years for less severe crimes," he said. "It seems unfair to me that this person could physically accost a man on the street and get no jail time.

"It's as if you're saying it's okay to abuse people if you're a hip hop star with a major contract and you're white."

Credentials

Datcher believes Eminem's troubles will not be viewed in a negative light by his fans.

Eminem with chainsaw
Eminem has cultivated a tough image
"Many of these rappers aren't really gangsters but they have what we call studio 'gangsta' credentials," he explains.

"When a 'gangsta' rapper is able to commit a crime and get away with it - it does make him more legitimate in the eyes of the 'gangsta' rap consumer, which interestingly enough, happens to be young white males."

There seems to be little doubt that Mathers' career will not be harmed through his brush with the US judicial system.

But Eminem's legal problems are not over. He faces another court appearance on charges that he illegally possessed and brandished a concealed weapon during a confrontation with a member of the hip-hop group, Insane Clown Posse.

Future lyrics

In the meantime, he says he wants to concentrate on his music career. The Marshall Mathers LP was the fastest selling solo album ever in America. It won three Grammys in February.

Critic Brian McCollum says he expects the rapper's troubled year to be reflected soon in his lyrics.

"We can bank on for sure that all this police business and court activity will be commented on in some way on the next record. But, of course, he's on probation for two years so he might not want to bad-mouth the judge too much."

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Music
Eminem walks free from court
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem fans quizzed over drug claims
15 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Eminem admits carrying weapon
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