Eminem may still be on probation for brandishing a gun two years ago in a jealous rage, but the bad-boy rap artist makes clear on his latest album how close he might have come to doing time for murder.
In one of the most chilling passages from “The Eminem Show,” his anxiously awaited third release, the Detroit-based rapper recounts pulling an unloaded pistol on his then-wife, Kim Mathers, and a friend he claimed she was kissing outside a suburban Detroit bar.
“The smartest (thing) I did was take the bullets out of the gun, ’cause I’d’ve killed ’em/I would’ve shot ’em both,” he raps on a track titled “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.”
It is one of the more compelling insights Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, offers about himself on the 20-track collection being rush-released next week by Interscope Records, a unit of Vivendi Universal.
Eminem also lets his softer side show through on the album. He seems to acknowledge a rumored affair with pop diva Mariah Carey – “I came way too far… not to say what I got to say/What… you take me for, a joke?/You smokin’ crack?/Before I do that, I’d beg Mariah to take me back.”
And he portrays himself as a tender, loving parent trying to make up for the shortcomings of his own father, who abandoned the family when Mathers was young.
The set is expected to be one of the biggest sellers of the year, building on the tremendous commercial success of one of the few white artists to make it big in the world of hip-hop.
Eminem’s first two albums, 1999’s “The Slim Shady LP” and 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” sold nearly 30 million copies combined and have won Grammy awards. They were also condemned by various groups for misogynist and homophobic lyrics.
Pirated copies of “The Eminem Show” prompted Interscope to move the release date of the album from June 4 to May 28. The album’s first single, “Without Me,” is getting strong airplay on the radio and stands in the Billboard Top 5.
PIT BULL OFF HIS LEASH
As Eminem notes on that track, he’s “not the first king of controversy.” But the album nonetheless lives up to his self-professed image as a “pit bull off his leash.”
The rapper made headlines last week when word surfaced that he hurls a four-letter insult at Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, one of his biggest critics, on the song “White America.” He also lashes out at President Bush, the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.
But Eminem saves his harshest attacks for his estranged mother, Debbie Mathers (who he wants to “burn in hell”), and his ex-wife, while in other tracks he declares his love for his 6-year-old daughter, Hailie, and laments the toll his fame and its attendant controversies take on his private life.
Declaring that “I just settled my lawsuits” – referring to a batch of civil actions brought, respectively, by his mother, a former schoolmate and an assault victim – Eminem posits himself as an advocate of free speech on “The Eminem Show.”
In the track “Square Dance,” he announces that “the boogie monster of rap, yeah the man’s back/With a plan to ambush the Bush administration/Mush the Senate’s face and push this generation/Of kids to stand and fight for the right to say something you might not like.”
In “Without Me” he raps that “the FCC won’t let me be,” referring to the regulatory agency’s threat to fine a Colorado radio station for playing his 2000 hit “The Real Slim Shady” and makes a reference to the vice president’s heart problems.
He makes liberal references to his weapons and assault convictions from separate incidents in June of 2000, when he brandished a gun at an employee of a rival rap group and hours later pulled the same gun on his ex-spouse and her companion outside a suburban Detroit bar. In one track, a spoken-word skit titled “The Kiss,” Eminem graphically re-enacts the moments leading up to the latter confrontation.
Eminem ultimately pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and was sentenced in April of 2001 to two years on probation. He also is serving a concurrent one-year probation for the earlier incident.
For his critics, however, it’s his daughter, Hailie, who may actually have the final word. She appears on the concluding track to “The Eminem Show” to sing the refrain to the song titled “My Dad’s Gone Crazy.”