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Eminem (Marshall Mathers)
Tyler Prochnik


Marshall Mathers (Eminem) was born on October 17, 1973 in Kansas City, Missouri. His mother Debbie was only 15 at the time of his conception and his father left the family soon after he was born and never returned. For this reason, throughout his childhood he and his mother lived in extreme poverty. They moved frequently between the cities of Kansas City and Detroit in which they lived in mobile homes, public houses and relatives. At the age of 12, they had finally settled on the East Side of Detroit (Eminem's Biography).
The frequent moves made it hard for Marshall to make friends, he was often bullied and made fun of by his peers. In one of these bullying instances, a student by the name of Deangello Baily injured Marshall so badly he needed to be hospitalized. To make matters worse, his mother Debbie had become an alcoholic and frequent substance abuser of valium and vicodin (Eminem's Biography). Marshall also claims he was a victim of munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder where a caregiver makes the one being cared for think or become sick (Gavin-Devitt, 2008).
At the age of 17, after failing the 9th grade 3 consecutive times, Marshall decided to drop out of high school to focus on his music (Eminem's Biography). Due to the many hardships he was forced to endure throughout his upbringing, Marshall’s music reflects his inner feelings of violence, vulgarity and sadism. He expresses his anger through music, poking fun at anyone and everyone that had ever hurt him in the past. In 1996, he released his first album, “Infinite”. However, it was not immediately successful. During this time, Marshall’s girlfriend Kim, had his first and only daughter named Hailey. Kim was not happy with Marshall because he was not making enough money and she was critical of his music. The pressure of career and marriage failure led Marshall to attempt suicide by overdosing on Tylenol.
The attempt was not successful and luckily things soon got better for Marshall after the famous producer Dr.Dre heard “Infinite” and liked what he heard. He soon signed Marshall to “Aftermath” records and his first album the “Slim Shady LP” went triple platinum at the end of 1999 (Eminem's Biography). Eminems most popular CD was the Marshall Mathers LP. The Marshall Mathers LP was released in 2000, it sold over 8 million copies in the United States, won three Grammys, and was the first rap album to be nominated album of the year (Reece).

Trait Skill Approach

When listening to Eminem’s music, one can hear his expressions of inner emotional turmoil and feelings of anger and hate. These raw emotions, expressed, so vividly, in his lyrics are what make him such a great performer and give him the ability to connect with at such a high level with the audience.
The big five is an approach in psychology that believes personality can be described in five dimensions; Extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness (Friedman, 2009, 267). By applying the big five to Eminem, we can see exactly how his personality matches his skills in music.
The first of the big five is extroversion. Extroversion is a personality type where the individual is enthusiastic, talkative, and social able (Friedman, 2009, 267). Eminem would rank low in extroversion and, may actually be an introvert. Introverted people are shy, retiring, submissive and quiet (Friedman, 2009, 267). His music would not be considered socially acceptable due to it’s violent content. However, he is shy, he does not attend award shows. In response to why he did not attend the Oscars for his performance in 8 mile he said, “I'm thankful for it, I'm not ungrateful, I'm very grateful. I just don't choose to rub elbows with the whole Hollywood scene. It's not me” (Reece). Eminem also shys away from the media, in an interview with Kronick on Eminem says, “Everything that happens now in my personal life seems to fuckin' hit the news, the media will just come on if there was nothin' about me, and muh'fuckas would just be sittin' there tappin' a pencil on a desk goin (in his best white newscaster voice), "OK, we're waitin' for some breakin' news on Eminem, and uh, let's go to commercial" (Kronick). Eminem also does not allow the media see his daughter Hailey and uses the same actress to play her in his music videos, perhaps to have them believe the actress is Hailey.
The second of the big five is agreeableness. Some traits associated with agreeableness are being friendly, cooperative, trusting and warm (Friedman, 2009, 267). Eminem states: “Sometimes I am real cool, but sometimes I can be a real asshole. I think everyone is like that” (Reece). Eminem varies within this trait depending on the situation and people involved. He shows complete hate for his mother, ripping her apart in his music any chance he gets in an interview. On the other hand, he is a very loving and adoring father to his daughter Hailey whom he has written numerous songs about. He recently has taken time off from his music to be with her. His strangest relationship is with his, on-again, off-again, girlfriend/wife Kimberly, mother of Hailey. In the song “Kim”, Marshall screams with hated for Kim and the song ends with him actually choking and killing her.
The third category of the big five is conscientiousness or lack of impulsivity. People with high conscientiousness are cautious, dependable, preserving, organized and responsible (Friedman, 2009, 267). Eminem has none of these traits, ranking him higher in impulsivity. Impulsive people are careless, disorderly, and undependable (Friedman, 2009, 267). In one instance, he was accused of hitting a man with a pistol after watching him kiss his ex-wife Kim. The day prior to this exchange, Eminem was involved in a heated dispute, including having his gun out, involving an altercation with a member of the Insane Clown Posey. Due to his addition to Ambien in 2005, Marshall canceled much of his European tour, he soon checked himself into rehab (Eminem’s Biography). These events indicate a lack of responsibility and maturity as a father.
The fourth category of the big five is neuroticism. Neurotic people are nervous, high-strung, tense, moody, and worrying (Friedman, 2009, 267). Eminem scores are high in this category. In an attempt to stabilize his mood (2009), he admits to self-medicating with Valium and Vicodin. Eminem rarely smiles and appears to be very intense. Due to his anxious nature, Eminem has a great deal of trouble sleeping, this lead to his addiction to Ambien. In the 2005, at the MTV movie awards, host Sacha Baren Cohen decided to pull a prank on Eminem and came down from the rafters putting his naked butt on Eminems face. This was supposed to be a joke, but Eminem did not take it this way and he hit and screamed at Cohen, it took his bodyguards to get him off Cohen, and he left and did not return (Suzie, 2009).
The fifth category of the big five is openness. Open people are imaginative, witty, original, and artistic (Friedman, 2009, 267). Eminem varies in regards to openness. He shys away from interviews and meeting new people, however through his music, he is honestly expressive of his feelings, beliefs and ideas. Much, if not all, of Eminems music is based off his life experiences. Eminem is extremely witty, his lyrics are highly imaginative and very clever this combination is what separates him from the average rapper.
In conclusion Eminem ranks the highest in neuroticism and openness. The combination of these two traits makes it easy for Eminem to express his crazy mindset through his music, “My thing is this; if I'm sick enough to think it, then I'm sick enough to say it,” says Marshall (Eminem Quotes). Marshall is always pushing the limits in music, "I think my first album opened a lot of doors for me to push the freedom of speech to the limit,” said Eminem on the Slim Shady LP (Brainy Quote).
Eminems scores extremely low in conscientiousness that significantly adds to his music style. Eminem is famous for making fun of other rappers, actors, and people in the media. For instance the Eminem song “We Made You” pokes fun at Sara Palin, Ellen Degeneres, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears and more. Also Eminem has made disparaging songs about his ex-girlfriend Mariah Carey and Ja Rule after disputes with the two artists. These songs have given Eminem a lot of media attention and boosted his status as an artist.

Neo-Analytic Approach

Eminem has a variety of characters and personalities; he is in a sense a loose screw. One of his characters is named “Slim Shady”, who is his villainous alter ego. “I don't feel it's any different than a character in a movie or 'South Park' or 'Family Guy.' Like, I don't feel like it's much different than that. It allows me to have an excuse to be an ahole. At the end of the day, I'm an artist and this is my art,” says Eminem explaining his alter ego Slim Shady (Langhorne, 2009). This alter ego correlates to his Demon archetype. A demon archetype embodies cruelty and evil (Friedman, 2009, 115) When Eminem raps as Slim Shady he is excessively cruel, “Well Eminem would f* you, Slim Shady would f*** you and your mother,” said Eminem (Take Me Home). We have seen examples of Slim Shady in Eminems real life as well. On June 4, 2000 he assaulted a man kissing his ex-wife with a gun. The day prior to this event, he was in another gun altercation with a member of the Insane Clown Posey (Eminem’s Biography).
The opposite of the demon archetype is the hero archetype. According to Carl Jung, a hero archetype is one that does battle with the enemy in order to rescue another from harm (Friedman, 2009, 115). Eminem does not show his hero archetype often but has exhibited it in certain situations. In 2001 Eminem performed a duet with Elton John at the Grammys. He specifically performed with Elton John because of the criticism Eminem had received from the gay community on his lyrics. They found it highly offensive and protested outside of the Staples Arena where the event was happening. Eminem did the duet to show he was not a homophobe and to help support the gay community. In another occasion, Eminem adopted Alaina, his ex-wife’s niece who had troubled parents. Eminem loves Alaina and he mentions her in his song Mockingbird (Eminem’s Biography).


After viewing Eminem through the Neo-Analytic and Trait Skill perspectives, we can see that his scores are constantly varying. The constant variations between archetypes and categories of the big five show why he is such a complex and hard to read individual. They also display why he raps in the style and manner that he does.
For example his high scores in neuroticism and low score in conscientiousness relate to his crazy and often times cruel lyrics towards other individuals. Eminems high levels of introversion and neuroticism also suggest why he likes to keep his life so private and not allow interviews. It almost seems that he does not like the limelight fame produces. He wrote a song titled “be careful what you wish for,” displaying all the problems his fame has caused him including the death of his best friend proof. He has conflicting desires which leads to his inner turmoil.
Through Eminems hero and demon archetype we can see the personal side to Eminem. In my opinion, these archetypes have much to do with his early childhood upbringing, which was rough, chaotic and unsupportive of his needs. In a large part his mother’s youth and additions caused it. This could be why he used the hero archetype in adopting his niece Alaina. He wants to give Alaina a better childhood than he had because he sees she comes from a similar situation. He also exhibits the demon archetype when rapping as Slim Shady. Through Shady, he vocalizes his anger and hurt towards his mother and childhood which he expresses vocally with his lyrics of violence and hatred towards the world.


(2009). 2009 Eminem Interview - Proof, drugs, music, and controversy [Theater]. Available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF4Xm5TTHPk

Eminem's biography . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eminemlab.com/eminembiography.html

Eminem Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/eminem_2.html

Friedman, H.S., & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research. Boston: Pearson Higher Education.

Gavin-Devitt, L. A. (2008, December). Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sick/munchausen.html

Langhorne, C. (2009, July 19). Eminem explains slim shady, "it allows me to have an excuse to be an a**hole". Retrieved from http://www.sohh.com/2009/07/eminem_explains_slim_shad.html

Reece, Rod. (n.d.). Personal quotes. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004896/bio#quotes

Suzie, A. (2009, June 1). Eminem flips out at the mtv movie awards. Retrieved from http://www.limelife.com/blog-entry/Eminem-Flips-Out-at-the-MTV-Movie-Awards/6174.html

Take me home. [Web]. Retrieved from http://eminemexclusive.tumblr.com/post/4700725163