Eminem (by Scott Kinmartin)

“The writing process, the way I go about it is I do whatever the beat feels like, whatever the beat is telling me to do. Usually when the beat comes on, I think of a hook or the subject I want to rap about almost instantly. Within four, eight bars of it playing I’m just like, ‘Oh, OK. This is what I wanna do.'”

Known best for his work with the Looney Tunes series of cartoons, American animator Chuck Jones once said that “creative work is never competitive.” Tell that to just about any hip hop artists who has ever participated in a rap battle and he’ll probably laugh in your face. Or he might spit some mad rhymes and hot fire to really put you in your place. I’ve always admired freestyle lyricists who can think on their feet like that and one of the greatest MCs the industry has ever known is Eminem.

Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in Missouri, Eminem and his mother rarely stayed in any one house for more than a year at a time. They eventually settled down in the Detroit suburb of Warren. A young Marshall was drawn to the “urban” culture and fell in love with the power that hip hop could bring. He may not have done very well in school, but it’s obvious enough that he is a lyrical genius.

Has he been involved in a world of controversy? Sure. Does he rap about subjects that some people may find offensive? Absolutely. But his talent and influence on the industry are undeniable. Eminem is very much the kind of rapper who needs to get into a rhythm before he can write his sick rhymes. As a freelance writer myself, I can relate… even if I’m not at all a hip hop artist in any sense of the term.

I can appreciate how it feels to “catch the beat.” I can relate to how it feels to simply let the words flow out of you. I can also relate to how it feels to be completely uninspired, desperately seeking something to get me past my writer’s block.

“A lot of the problems I had with fame I was bringing on myself. A lot of self-loathing, a lot of woe-is-me. Now I’m learning to see the positive side of things.”

Eminem’s professional journey has been riddled with conflict, both from the outside world and from inside his own head. With The Slim Shady LP, the vibe was very much about “look at me.” When he followed that up with The Marshall Mathers LP the next year, the tone changed dramatically. It turned very dark, very violent and very disturbing. He was not in a happy place.

Looking back, as we can discern from the quote above, Eminem recognizes that he had too much of a “woe is me” mindset and that he really needed to quit complaining. Today, 42-year-old Eminem is much more mature and more appreciative of his current lot in life. As he should be, since he has enjoyed much critical and commercial success while retaining the privilege of staying true to himself.

And, if nothing else, he is proof positive that even some “trailer trash gutter rat” from the mean streets of suburban Detroit can make it big and strike it rich. You can do the same. You just have to follow the beat.