11 Of The Biggest Controversies From Eminem's Career
Vote up the controversies that got your attention, too.
Eminem and his music have practically been synonymous with the word “controversy” since the beginning. He's no stranger to provocative lyrics and speaking his mind, and his many feuds, brushes with the law, and personal life have all received attention from the media, fans, and critics for years.
The biggest controversies of Eminem's career are the ones that never fade or keep showing up over and over again - basically, the ones that get the most attention. Vote up the ones you've taken notice of, too.
In 2019, Eminem was heard weighing in on the domestic violence issue between Brown and Rihanna from 2009, rapping, “I'd side with Chris Brown, I'd beat down a b*tch too.” Brown was later convicted of assault.
Recorded in 2009, the audio was of an unreleased version of “Things Get Worse,” recorded for Eminem's Marshall Mathers album. While the track appeared differently on the album, the lost version included the lines:
He just picked up another prostitute in the parking lot of the hospital
And beat her over the head mercilessly and left her for dead
Eminem and Rhianna had worked together since the recording was made and, according to his publicist, “This is a leak of something that’s over 10 years old. After Eminem recorded it, he scrapped it, and rewrote it. Obviously, he and Rihanna have a great relationship.”
Eminem also apologized to Rhianna via his lyrics. His song “Zeus” (from his Music to be Murdered By: Side B album) included the lines:
And wholeheartedly apologies Rihanna for that song that leaked.
I'm sorry, Rih, it wasn't meant to cause you grief.
- 2156 VOTES
He Was Investigated By The Secret Service - Twice
The video “The Storm” was released by Eminem in 2017 in conjunction with the BET Hip Hop Awards. In it, Eminem criticized then-president Donald Trump and, when his album Kamikaze came out in 2018, it contained a song indicating he'd been visited by the Secret Service that same year.
In “The Ringer,” Eminem rapped:
These verses are makin' him a wee bit nervous
And he's too scurred to answer me with words
'Cause he knows that he will lyrically get murdered
But I know at least he's heard it
'Cause Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service
To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin' him
Or ask if I'm linked to terrorists
I said, "Only when it comes to ink and lyricists"
Initially, it wasn't clear if Eminem was being hyperbolic, but documents later revealed that the Secret Service had met with Eminem. It wasn't the video for BET that got their attention, however. Rather, they inquired about Eminem's song “Framed” and lyrics about Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivanka Trump:
Donald Duck's on, there's a Tonka Truck in the yard
But dog, how the f*ck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?
Gotta get to the bottom of it to try to solve it
Must go above and beyond, 'cause it's incumbent upon me
Plus I feel somewhat responsible for the dumb little blonde…
Nothing seems to have come out of the visit, but it wasn't the first time Eminem had crossed paths with the Secret Service. In 2003, the rapper was investigated for statements feared to be against former President George W. Bush. In the song “We As Americans," Eminem rapped:
F*ck money! I don't rap for dead presidents.
I'd rather see the President dead.
- Photo: 8 Mile / Universal Pictures3120 VOTES
Eminem's first run-in with the law occurred before he rose to stardom, involved a paint gun, and didn't lead to any charges.
In 2001, Eminem faced charges for two incidents involving real guns - both of which took place in Michigan in 2000. The first centered on a gun that fell to the ground from Eminem's waistband during an altercation with Insane Clown Posse employee Dennis Dail. The second involved accusations that Eminem pistol-whipped John Guerra after he saw Guerra kissing his wife, Kim.
Eminem pleaded guilty to weapons charges for the incident involving Guerra and a charge of assault was dropped. He received two years of probation. He was also ordered to pay a fine, participate in counseling and drug testing, and ask for permission to travel overseas.
Eminem pleaded “no contest” to charges related to the incident with Dail and was sentenced o another year of probation, a $2,500 fine, and community service.
- Photo: EJ Hersom / DoD News / Flickr / Public domain
In anticipation of a 2000 concert in Toronto, Ontario, Canadian politicians tried to prevent Eminem from entering the province. Michael Bryant, a political official in Canada, remarked at the time:
Nobody wants to curb free speech in the province of Ontario but some of this rapper's songs go over the line.
The concerns were specifically related to lyrics deemed anti-woman and a complaint filed by activist Valerie Smith. Smith asserted lyrics in songs like “Kill You” and “Kim” violated Canadian laws related to hate propaganda.
While politicians like Ontario Attorney General Jim Flatery agreed with Smith, nothing was done to prevent Eminem from entering Canada. Immigration officials refused to stop Eminem, commenting, “If all people who made bad music were kept out of Canada we could have stopped disco.”
Eminem took the stage at the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in Toronto on October 26, 2000, as one of several acts on the Anger Management Tour. He performed “Kill You,” crying out, “Bet you didn't think I was gonna do that one, did you” afterward, and dedicated “The Way I Am” to, as he put it, “that b*tch Valerie Smith.”
“Stan” tells the story of a zealous fan (the name, Stan, might be a mash-up of “stalker” and “fan”) repeatedly writing to Eminem. When Stan doesn't hear back from the musician, he idolizes he takes his own life and that of his pregnant girlfriend. The song is a sample of Dido's “Thank You,” and she appears in the video for the Grammy-winning hit.
From the outset, the lyrics to “Stan” were provocative, and only censored versions received radio time. The video was especially controversial, with Devon Sawa acting out the song alongside Dido. MTV didn't shy away, however, from showing the video for “Stan.” Billboard's Carla Hay predicted at the time:
MTV has been Eminem’s biggest supporter… None of his videos have been banned from MTV, and I don’t think this one will be.
Eminem maintained “Stan” was not based on a true story. That said, the message and graphic nature of the lyrics and the video prompted groups like GLAAD to protest the rapper.
Alongside Eminem, Elton John was widely criticized for performing a duet of “Stan” at the Grammys in 2001. In a statement from GLAAD, they said the following:
[We are] appalled that John would share the stage with Eminem, whose words and actions promote hate and violence… We were all flabbergasted that [John] would do this…"
For his part, John responded by asserting that he would,
Rather tear down walls between people than build them up. If I thought for one minute that he was hateful, I wouldn’t do it.
About performing the song with John (which was initially supposed to be a surprise), Eminem pointed out what kind of statement it ultimately made:
I came to make an impact, I came to make a statement, and I guess to piss some people off… I didn't know he was gay. I didn't know anything about his personal life. I didn't really care, but being that he was gay and he had my back, I think it made a statement in itself saying that he understood where I was coming from….
Numerous critics did praise “Stan,” with descriptions of it as a “haunting track” full of “superb storytelling with a point.” Entertainment Weekly said “Stan” “may be the most moving song about star worship ever recorded.”
"Stanning," as a phenomenon, caught on, so to speak. The word “stan,” a noun describing “an overzealous or obsessive fan, esp. of a particular celebrity,” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018.
- 6174 VOTES
He Took A Knee At Super Bowl LVI
The halftime show during Super Bowl LVI in 2022 was a star-studded event. Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg all took the stage - as did Eminem. The ensemble performed a medley of some of their biggest hits including “California Love” and “Lose Yourself.” During his performance of the latter, Eminem took a knee - an action believed to be in support of football quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
After first taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016, Kaepernick brought issues of racial injustice to the forefront of the NFL and sparked widespread conversation among the media, politicians, and the public. Weeks earlier, Kaepernick explained his choice to sit during the national anthem during a preseason game:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
The same motivation informed his kneeling and ultimately led to a backlash against Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season.
Eminem had previously expressed support with lyrics in “The Storm,” a video released for the 2017 Hip Hop Awards on BET. When Eminem took a knee during the 2022 Super Bowl, it was met with both outrage and excitement. Fans took great pleasure from the idea that Eminem defied the NFL by doing so, while other observers called his actions a “mockery.”
Neither his fellow performers nor the NFL expressed dissatisfaction, however.
Dr. Dre commented, “Em taking a knee, that was Em doing that on his own… and there was no problem with that.”
The NFL issued a statement indicating it was :aware that Eminem was going to do that… a player or coach could have taken a knee and there would have been no repercussions so there was no reason to tell an artist she or he could not do so.”