In his song Wicked Ways Eminem says he has Aspergers:
Ever heard of Aspergers? It’s a rare condition
It’s what you’re suffering from when you simply don’t care if it’s an 80 degree day
And there’s no fricken air conditioning.
In another song called Legacy he raps:
“I used to be the type of kid
That would always think the sky is fallin’
Why am I so differently wired? Am I a martian?
What kind of twisted experiment am I involved in?
‘Cause I don’t belong in this world
That’s why I’m scoffin’ at authority, defiant often,
Flyin’ off the handle at my mom
No dad, so I am non-compliant at home
At school I’m just shy and awkward}
And I don’t need no goddamn psychologist
Tryin’ to diagnose why I have all these underlyin’ problems”.
He has always pushed boundaries and a unique and never heard before versatility. He lyrically and literally stuns his fans with his touching, sometimes humorous, and frequently dark lyrics. But it’s also no surprise to me that he could have an Aspergers diagnosis based on his history too.
Eminem, aka Marshall Bruce Mathers III, was born on the 17th of October 1972 to Deborah Mathers. His father left when he was an infant and he grew up near the notorious eight mile road in Detroit.
His mother remembers him speaking in full sentences as early as two years old and walking before his first birthday. She writes in her book that “he would hum and bounce himself in his car seat and high chair soothing himself to sleep as an infant.”
Eminem had a vivid imagination tearing round the house in his batman cape fighting imaginary foes and loved to illustrate his own comic books. He had an infatuation with dinosaurs and owned a good variety of books on the prehistoric age.
He preferred to be at home writing poetry, drawing comic book characters and reading.
He regularly feigned illness to stay home from school where he says he was shy and awkward. At home, his mother alleges he would have violent outbursts.
Like many of us autistics, he was bullied regularly which one day culminated in an injury that caused bleeding from both his ears and nose. He was hit with a block of ice thrown by his tormentor and sustained a cerebral haemorrhage which rendered him unconscious for days. It took five months for him to recover and he reportedly suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the attack.
From a young age Eminem wrote poetry and dabbled with rap lyrics saying LL Cool J and Slick Rick were his inspiration. At first, when he started performing, he was regularly booed off stage and was often overcome with nerves and unable to rap at all. But he persevered and finally exploded onto the mainstream music scene after legendary hip hop producer Dr. Dre heard his demo tape and flew him out to Los Angeles to sign him to his record label, Aftermath.
After My Name Is… was featured on MTV, he became unstoppable. He quickly released one album after another, his first being The Slim Shady LP which sold 300,000 copies in one week. The rest is history. Eminem’s “no boundaries” versatility and thought provoking lyrics can provoke tears. To me, he will reign as one of the top hip hop legends ever.
I was lucky enough to see Eminem on his first UK tour at London Arena. I was one of the first through the doors after camping out overnight to see him and was happily crushed on the barriers watching him work the crowd up to a veritable frenzy wielding a chainsaw and wearing blue dungarees and a hockey mask.
I saw him twice more at Reading Festival where he thrilled us with a guest appearance by Marilyn Manson during the hit The way I Am and lastly at Milton Keynes for his Anger Management tour. His lyrics have always resonated with me…and now I know why!
When Eminem’s lyrics mention Aspergers it meant so much to me. It helped me not feel ashamed about my own diagnosis. It gives hope to those of us who felt like geeks and left out while growing up…for those of us trying to fit in but can’t, finding life at home hard with constant struggles to understand others points of view…we can turn to his example and feel confident that we each have a place in this world.
Eminem stands up for what he believes and as a die hard fan, I have modeled his outlook and adopted his philosophy to never give up. His lyrics have been my shield of strength as I fight for the rights of autistic children and make sure they are protected from fake cures and abusive treatment. In fact, my first tattoo is an old English lettering of one of his lyrics that helps me when I feel intimidated and prevents me from quitting.
As an autistic, I welcome Eminem as a part of our community. To me, his lyrics and the discussions that follow will bring a greater understanding of Aspergers and autism to his fans and the music industry. I hope that he inspires autistics in entertainment to be truly authentic with the public. It can only help all of us gain acceptance.
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*Image of Eminem via Interscope.com