Eminem: the road to Wembley

As Mr Mathers plays two mega-dates at Wembley Stadium, 
we revisit the toughest battles he fought to get where he is today

Round One: Eminem v Insane Clown Posse

It’s hard to believe, but when Eminem beefed with Detroit’s face-painted shock-hoppers Insane Clown Posse way back in 1995, there were those who considered him the underdog. Em’s formative feud began when he distributed flyers promoting ICP’s (possible) appearance at a party he was performing at without the pair’s consent, then badmouthed them on local radio after they refused to show. Naturally, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope responded by coining the nickname Slim Anus and all homophobic hell broke loose.

Winner: Eminem – so decisively that few MCs have dared clown around since.

Round Two: Eminem v mothers

Whether doing their flawed best to raise him under trying circumstances or simply giving birth to his only child, the various mums in Eminem’s life can apparently piss him off like nobody’s business. No doubt the resentment that fuelled some of his saltier rhymes about mum Debbie and twice ex-wife Kim has been stewing for years, but it wasn’t until the multi-platinum success of 1999’s ‘The Slim Shady LP’ that the rapper’s battle with the guardians of all human life acquired a very public dimension.

Winner: Eminem. If you can call rowing with your mum in public winning (you can’t).

Round Three: Eminem v every pop star

The turn of the millennium was a harrowing time for America’s pop stars, and not just because Napster threatened to shake the very foundations upon which they wore crop tops and did bad synchronised dancing. In the five years between ‘The Slim Shady LP’ and ‘Encore’, no one was safe from Eminem’s lyrical murder spree – not Britney, not Christina, not Michael Jackson and definitely not ’N Sync’s Chris Kirkpatrick. Em admitted last year that he was ‘all out of Backstreet Boys’ to attack, but not before rap misfits Odd Future (who will be opening both shows at Wembley) took up the mantle.

Winner: Eminem, baby, one more time.

Quarter-Final: Eminem v the cast of ‘8 Mile’

They only had one shot, and every single one of them missed their chance to blow. When Eminem wasn’t fake-battling baddies in 2002’s ‘8 Mile’, he was real-battling extras from the film in a series of freestyles that eventually surfaced as DVD bonus footage. Not since placing second at US-wide battle Scribble Jam in 1997, piquing Dr Dre’s interest in the process, had Eminem properly battled on camera. The results, available on YouTube with a bit of digging, were every bit as devastating.

Winner: Eminem, by eight country miles.

Semi-final: Eminem v pills

When Eminem checked into rehab after overdosing on methadone in 2007, history appeared to be repeating itself, again. The man who’d followed in Elvis’s footsteps by bringing black music to the white masses entered his bloated, prescription-pills phase. But not-so-Slim bounced back with two Number One LPs and enough good sense to stay clean since.

Winner: Eminem. Pill side-effects may include selling more than 10 million albums in two years.

Final: Eminem v Royal Parks

After two undefeated decades, the Royal Parks – and by extension Her Maj – have finally managed to throw shade on Shady. Blaming his ‘offensive’ and ‘unsuitable’ lyrics, park officials blocked him from performing in Hyde Park. An attempt to make BoJo veto the decision fell flat when it emerged that the Mayor’s Office hadn’t heard of him (dudes, he sold more albums in the noughties than any other artist). Eminem promptly booked two shows at Wembley Stadium, the first to be headlined by a rapper. ‘The easiest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it,’ Eminem said in a statement. ‘Thanks to the Royal Parks for making it all possible… for Wembley.’

Winner: Wembley Stadium, which stands to sell some 155,000 tickets. And Eminem, of course.

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