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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 18:10 GMT
Eminem: The new Slim Shady
Eminem in a scene from 8 Mile
Eminem's acting debut has been critically acclaimed
Eminem's transformation from public enemy number one to darling of the establishment is among the US entertainment world's more unlikely rehabilitations. BBC News Online looks at what turned things around.

A few months ago he was the nation's anti-hero, reviled and feared by parents throughout the land for the foul language and brutal imagery of his lyrics.

Now Eminem is being feted as something approaching a modern-day Shakespeare, his every word pored over for the supposed clues they give to middle America's true state of mind.

Not since Bob Dylan's heyday in the mid-1960s has an artist's output been subjected to such intense academic scrutiny as an exercise in contemporary soul-searching.

US critics point to his vivid portraits of disenfranchised lives - using the stark, direct language of the street - as an accurate reflection of social injustice.

Where parents once recoiled in horror, there now seems a greater willingness to acknowledge a music that is striking such a chord among the country's young, angry white underclass.

Criminal record: The rapper in the dock in 2001
The most obvious reason for this turnaround is the phenomenal success of Eminem's debut acting role in the film 8 Mile, which appears to mirror elements of his own life story.

It chronicles the experience of Jimmy Smith Jr, a young, down-at-heel factory worker known as Rabbit, who tries to lever himself out of poverty using his lyrical skills at Friday night rap battles.


In further echoes of Eminem's life, Jimmy lives with his trailer-trash mother, younger sister and mother's slacker boyfriend in a ravaged Detroit neighbourhood.

Despite the parallels, however, Jimmy displays none of the alleged misogyny and homophobia that Eminem's detractors say are a staple of his work.

Chainsaw gang: Eminem's startling stage show
The film has stormed the US box office, earning an estimated $54.5m in its opening weekend and leading to talk of Oscar nominations for its star.

"Compact, volatile and burningly intense, he's got charisma to spare," said Newsweek.

The album from the movie has also topped the US charts with sales of more than 702,000 copies.

Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in Kansas City on 17 October 1972, Eminem spent his childhood flitting between there and Detroit, settling in Detroit when he was 12.

Switching schools every few months, the young Marshall Mathers found it hard to make friends and nurtured his talent for rapping to make himself heard in the classroom.

He eventually dropped out of full-time education and drifted in and out of menial jobs, but a desire to make music was the only thing that really stimulated him.

He persevered with his goal, and also married his wife, Kimberly.

On Christmas Day 1995, she gave birth to their daughter, Haile Jade, and a few months later Eminem released his debut album, Infinite.

Eminem with Elton John in 2001
Grammy mates: Eminem with Elton John in 2001
Shortly after the release of the Slim Shady EP in 1998, hip hop legend and Eminem idol Dr Dre signed the 25-year-old up to his Aftermath label.

His Slim Shady LP went triple platinum after hitting number two in the US Billboard charts and went on to win a Grammy.

The controversial subject matter of his songs led to accusations of him being a misogynist.

His own mother launched a $10m lawsuit against him for using the lyrics "my mom smokes more dope than I do" on the hit My Name Is - a track which sees him wonder which Spice Girl he wants to "impregnate".

But he rejected his mother's offer to settle the lawsuit against him for $2m.

His marriage proved short-lived. He split up with Kimberly in 2000, and the couple divorced a year later, leaving him with joint custody of Haile.

Eminem took a step towards respectability at last year's Grammys when - despite protests at his supposed homophobia - he duetted with Elton John.

All eyes will be on him on Thursday at this year's MTV Europe awards in Barcelona for further signs that he is heading inexorably towards respectability.

See also:

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