Did you expect 20 years ago a white rapper would appear and sell about 30 million hip-hop records in the United States alone? I had never been a fan of this kind of music but even I knew that it was made by black artists and they were the real gurus in regard to hip-hop. Then Eminem came out and played. And the rap world was not the same anymore.
Now don't think I've become a big fan of hip-hop music, not at all. But I must admit there is something about Eminem that has caught everyone's attention and even people like me have noticed his musical and verbal skills. It's not a surprise he sells millions of records and even that he's got serious critical respect. He's also got more than 10 GRAMMY Awards. But apart from this, he has also been one of the biggest stars around the turn of the millenium and a big pop cultural phenomenon. I even know people deeply in love with some extreme styles of music like for example, black metal, which do like Eminem.
It's pretty obvious that Marshall Mathers (what is Eminem's birth name) has some masterful verbal skills. He's capable of long narratives as well as rapid strikes. His lyrics are dextrous, fluid, unpredictable, often mixing reality with violent imagination, parody and absurdity. You don't know when he's serious or when he's joking. You may find horror, satire, black humor, violence and whatnot in his songs. Eminem's rich vocabulary enabled him to create a lyrical body of work expanding hip-hop genre boundaries with various themes not common for his contemporary rapping peers. So, I have to admit it's really good luck Eminem is a rap player because who would hear his imaginative rhymes if he was screaming them among some death metal "noise" (nothing against the death metal style though).
As good as Eminem's lyrics are, it is their intertwining with his music that really works for me. When I listen to The Real Slim Shady, Without Me or Lose Yourself I've got the feeling that Eminem's voice is a part of the musical instruments used in the particular song, and it's a really well-mixed part. Not to mentioned that his music alone is quite memorizable and even more easily recognizable. It's obviously not amongst the greatest melodic achievements out there but it adds a lot to the whole experience of listening to an Eminem album. It helps for creation of a surrealistic world that can be both funny and terrifying but either way it's quite memorable and with a long-lasting appeal.
So, Eminem showed everybody a white guy could make hip-hop and that he could make it magnificently. Thus, his influence over myriads of young people is immense and unquestionable. Will another Eminem be born among those young people is yet to be seen. But certainly, it will be hard for anyone to match his merits and impact. Sure, the critical acclaim gained by Eminem and his sales numbers are not comparable with the achievements of greater icons in music like the Beatles, for example, but they are still amazing and definitely demonstrating that even white men can jump.