Eminem leaves SA crowd in rapture

Eminem is no spring chicken, but you wouldn't have said that judging from his performance at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

The 41-year-old hip-hop legend delivered an energetic, crowd-pleasing and nostalgic performance to a packed stadium on the last leg of his Rapture 2014 tour.

I couldn't help but think that seeing thousands of fans from a faraway nation belting out every word of his songs must have been somewhat of a pivotal experience.

He has come a long way.

Born in Missouri, Eminem's father walked out on him and his mother Debbie when he was a child.

It is said that he wrote numerous letters to his dad, only to have them sent back marked "return to sender".

Marshall Mathers
As a kid little Marshall Mathers was often bullied. Many described him as a loner.

What he did find in the poor Detroit neighbourhood he grew up in, though, would also be his salvation.

The young Eminem became a regular on the Detroit freestyle battle circuit, and gained respect among rap legends in the area.

Eminem. (All phots by Jeremy Deputat?)

His success landed him a record deal with independent label FBT Productions.

His first album Infinite had critics asking "why don't you go into rock 'n roll?", but Slim Shady pushed on.

The Slim Shady LP dropped in 1999 went triple platinum by the end of the year. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Impact of his music
Em's concert made me reflect on the astounding impact of his music.

I remember going on a family camping trip to Richard's Bay in 2002, when Eminem was at the peak of his powers.

There, I saw this surly teenage boy among the family that was camping next to us and how this 14-year-old kid spent that entire vacation in his tent, listening to The Marshall Mathers LP and rapping quietly to every word.

Slim Shady was dirty, vulgar and pissed off your parents, but his music spoke to teenagers in a way nothing else did.

He opened up hip-hop up to everyone. And though many connoisseurs of the genre now look down their noses at him, it was his influence that lead so many hip-hop fans to a lifelong love of the genre and onto other artists like Dre, Nas and lately, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler the Creator.

Sure, his latest album is nothing to write home about, but Eminem is a legend in his own right, and hip-hop owes him enormous gratitude.

Passing the torch
No wonder the crowd at Ellis Park on Saturday were in absolute rapture, and I was not surprised to see an elderly gentleman next to us shed tears after it ended. Additions like hype man Mr Porter lent much needed hip-hop chops to the show.

Eminem was more charming than I expected him to be, and seemed honestly humbled by the experience.

Although he didn't talk a great deal, he ended his performance by commending his opening act Action Bronson, in effect passing the torch to those who have come after him.

I doubt that we will see the real Slim Shady on these shores again, but what we have is his music, and a whole world of hip-hop left to explore.  

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Grethe Koen
Grethe Koen has an Honours degree in political science and worked at an organisation for prisoners’ human rights before joining the Mail & Guardian online team as a sub-editor. When she’s not replacing commas with full-stops and taking out pesky html coding she likes writing about music, gender issues and whatever is trending on Twitter.

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