Marshall Bruce Mathers III is no longer simply a birth name. It is a household name. Marshall Mathers is Eminem's true, intimate, ultimate and permanent self. In Eminem's music, we come to know Mathers as Eminem's spiritual self, the one who explains good and bad behavior and communicates attitudes and morals. Mathers also handles the stresses created by Eminem's fame and Shady's controversies as well as his own personal demons.
Conspiratorial theories asserting that Mathers is either a Satanist or an Illuminati pawn have reached a broad, mass audience through the Internet. Now, a new meme has been added to the rapper's spiritual story. Rumor has it that Mathers is now a Born Again Christian. According to rap's and religion's insiders, Eminem has "turned his life over to Christ," and is "building a relationship with God and using that to help him spiritually, and with his addiction problems."
It is impossible to know, with any accuracy, the truth about Mathers's spiritual journey. However, the fact that God and Devil worship rumors abound makes it important to examine his public endorsements in lyrics as a meaningful way to draw audiences in through passionate condemnation. That's exactly what I argue in my new book, Eminem: The Real Slim Shady, where I look at 200 of the rappers most popular songs and find an abundance of spiritual references to guilt-redemption, love-hate and God-the Devil.
Paying attention to the guilt-redemption, love-hate and God-Devil themes found in Mathers's music is an important part of understanding how the perception of spirituality is active in today's popular culture. Many of his lyrics suggest that he contemplates and explores spirituality as a natural aspect of everyday life; a personal struggle that is best observed when rules are broken and guilt is induced. To prove the point Mathers's brand of spirituality is brutally honest, expressing motives that justify guilt-inducing behavior and can apply to society at large. To begin with, Mathers explains why Slim Shady can kill you, provide you with drugs, steal from you, physically abuse you and emotionally torment you. Then he explains why he, Marshall Mathers, actually adores you and can even save you from the menace to society Slim Shady and all those like him have become. And he convinces you that you cannot do anything about any of it. You certainly cannot place any blame on Slim Shady, Eminem, or Marshall Mathers.
So, what can you do? As I see it there are three commandments.
(1) Consider that Mathers's music may be a radical call to look directly at narrow and rigid standards of justice, ideals of perfection, and hierarchies that do not allow for understanding the objectionable content in his lyrics as anything but deviant and wrongful.
(2) Understand that spiritual development is critical to Eminem's continued relevance in today's popular culture. Remember, audiences don't want him to keep singing the same old sinful tune. They are waiting for the next installment and they want to see a happy ending.
(3) Realize that Mathers is slowly giving audiences what they want. Audiences will have to stay tuned in order to find out whether the rapper will truly emerge as a spiritual messenger in contemporary culture.
Based on the critical acclaim and popular success of his last solo album Recovery (2010), the album in which he made the most spiritual references to date, and the great anticipation for his upcoming solo project I prophesy that new spiritual dramas are on the way and that audiences will continue coming back for more.