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12 Messed Up Facts About Eminem's Troubled Upbringing

Updated September 23, 2021 2.0m views12 items

Marshall Mathers, known by stage names such as Eminem and Slim Shady, has an admittedly troubled past. His father abandoned his family, his mother was reportedly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and he endured considerable abuse in his early life. All these hardships fired the furnace that resulted in the best Eminem songs and albums. 

Most of Eminem's early life was spent in a trailer park, where he rapped by himself or with his uncle Ronnie. Etched in loving memory as one of Eminem's tattoos, Uncle Ronnie was an influential figure in Mathers's life, providing one of the only stable relationships in the rapper's childhood. Ronnie committed suicide in 1991, delivering a devastating blow to the young Eminem. 

Marshall Mathers's life only became more complicated as he grew older. He started dating his on-again-off-again wife Kim in high school. They've been married and divorced twice, with multiple children (one biological and two adopted).

Glimpses of Eminem's childhood can be seen through his lyrics, interviews, and 8 Mile, the full-length feature film based on his early life. Read on to discover the darkest parts of Eminem's origins. 

  • A Close Relative Committed Suicide When Eminem Was Young

    Growing up, Eminem was best friends with his uncle Ronnie Polkingham. The two were reportedly born only months apart and became very close. Ronnie is credited with introducing Mathers to the world of hip-hop and break dancing, and the two spent many teenage nights writing and recording raps. However, in 1991, Ronnie took his own life.

    Em mentions Ronnie in multiple tracks, including "My Dad's Gone Crazy," "Cleanin' Out My Closet," and "Stan."

  • Despite His Tortured Youth, Em's First Arrest Came At Age 20

    Photo: Universal

    Despite his troubled childhood, Mathers managed to stay out of legal trouble for the entirety of his childhood. His first arrest came at the age of 20 when the rapper was picked up by police after shooting a squad car with a paintball gun. 

    Luckily for Mathers, the accuser didn't show up to the trial, so the case was ultimately dropped. This event is recreated in the 2002 film 8 Mile, though the fictional Mathers's actions do not lead to an arrest in the movie. 

  • Eminem Married And Divorced Kimberly Ann Scott Twice

    Photo: Mikael 'Mika' Väisänen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Marshall met Kimberly Ann Scott when he was just 15 years old. The couple had Hailie in December 1995, but the pressures of launching a music career while raising a family put a strain on the relationship, causing a string of breakups that didn't stick. Out of their tumultuous relationship came something that would forever change the rap game.

    An angry and heartbroken Eminem became inspired to create his alter ego, Slim Shady, and released The Slim Shady LP, which launched him into the public eye. On the album, Shady includes a fictional skit in which he is speaking to his daughter while he throws Kim's recently murdered corpse into a lake. Pretty grim, but the two married (and divorced) twice since then, and are reported to be on good terms now.

  • Eminem Was Shaped By The Dangerous Neighborhoods He Grew Up In

    Photo: Sabine Fricke / Wikimeda Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    On the track Never Enough, Mathers talks about how he's grateful for the life he's had — including the neighborhoods he grew up in — because it helped shape who he is today. Moving constantly between housing projects in Detroit and Missouri, he never had a chance to find his place and make friends.

    With stories like these, it's not hard to figure out what led a struggling child to develop the angry and aggressive persona known as Slim Shady.