Eminem’s rap songs include stories of struggle. That has many people wondering if he grew up poor.
Eminem does come from a life of struggle and poverty. Not only was Eminem the recipient of bullying, but he also grew up with several financial difficulties.
To say that Eminem struggled during his early years is an understatement. He experienced a variety of difficulties, some of which definitely included finances.
The world-famous rap god may be a billionaire now, but he definitely started off as a bullied poor boy.
Eight Mile Road
Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, Eminem was born in St. Joseph, Missouri but spent a lot of his childhood in a small neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. Eight Mile Road is the city limits, and is filled with aged brick houses. It is an area of Detroit most people can’t wait to escape.
Considered to be one of the tougher neighborhoods, Eight Mile was home to “poor whites and even poorer blacks.” It was a mix of two different worlds, one that Eminem would eventually bring together in some of his music.
When Eminem was a teenager, he lived on Dresden Street (aka the “wrong” side of Eight Mile Road). He was oppressed. He was exposed to bullying, drugs, and a life without the financial means to thrive.
While Eight Mile was considered “home” Eminem moved around a lot as a kid. He often traveled back and forth between Missouri and Michigan. In fact, his mother, Debbie Mathers, estimated that Eminem spent time in more than 30 different schools.
In one of these houses, in an area referred to as “Warren-tucky” because of all of the southern whites that had relocated to Michigan, six-year-old Eminem was exposed to drunks walking around all day and extreme racism.
After one of his moves, Eminem was beaten by a student. This would end up being just the first of many encounters with violence, but it still led to him suffering from a severe concussion.
Interestingly, even though this and many of the beatings Eminem would receive came from black children and teens, Eminem didn’t turn against blacks or use racism to fight back. Ironically, he actually ended up latching on to black culture—more specifically, rap music.
He turned to the likes of LL Cool J and Run DMC for musical inspiration. He started incorporating black culture into the way he spoke and dressed (much to the disdain of his family). He wasn’t trying to co opt the culture, just assimilate and fit in with his surroundings.
Hip Hop was the Way Out
For Eminem (and many others who grew up in the same area), hip hop was like medicine. He had a rootless existence but now found inspiration and solace.
At the age of 14, Eminem really began rapping under the very fitting alias M&M. This took the form of lunchtime freestyles before it evolved to the underground circuit. Being “white trailer trash” it was difficult for Eminem to break into what was generally considered “a black man’s game.” But he eventually did it.
While hip hop was his way out of poverty, his experience with being financially poor has definitely made it into many of his songs.
Eminem references a life of poverty in many of his songs. He even has a song called Tired of Being Broke. He references being “white trash, broke and always poor” in the song If I Had… also.
The Grass isn’t Always Greener
A life of struggles and poverty would eventually take its toll on Eminem. During his early years in the limelight, he experimented with drugs and eventually had addictions to a variety of prescription medications.
Fame and fortune in the late 2000’s meant that Eminem was heavily consuming drugs and also spending a lot of time eating fast food and participating in other unhealthy activities. At one point, he even overdosed on methadone and wound up in rehab.
Eminem might now be one of the richest rappers in the world, but the struggles he faced during his childhood and teen years have made him who he is. Not only do his stories of poverty and struggle make it into his songs, but they also still leave a shadow on his life—one that will likely never go away.