Rock Hall Special: Eminem Is A Live G.O.A.T.

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NEW YORK – MARCH 1999: Rapper Eminem, with unidentified rappers and DJs in the background, performs at Tramps in March 1999 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Long before Eminem became a rap supernova, taking the genre from the late-90s onward to dizzying commercial and critical heights, there was a free-styling, battle-rapping, fire-spitting kid straight out of The D who left a trail of KO’d MCs in his wake. 

Getting fired from a menial job and evicted from his home might have felled lesser talent; but Marshall Mathers did what only someone as gifted as he could do: rap battle at the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles. 

There, an Interscope Records intern asked Eminem for a copy of the Slim Shady EP which he dutifully gave the label’s CEO and music Svengali Jimmy Iovine (one of this year’s Ahmet Ertegun Award honorees, see page 48), who along with his lauded manager Paul Rosenberg, brilliant mentor Dr. Dre and others helped take Eminem to the stratosphere. 

It’s hard to overstate Eminem’s gargantuan cultural, commercial and critical impact,  but for those amidst the maelstrom it was revelatory. 

“From the beginning, Eminem made music that always spoke to his fans and now generations,” says Cara Lewis, his longtime super-agent, of the Cara Lewis Group. “His skills as a lyricist and performer, the energy, production and truly the greatest catalog of all time.” 

Eminem’s preternatural skills Lewis helped bring to stages across the globe. “Being there from day one, I remember booking his first show at the House of Blues in LA in 1999,” she says before reeling off his massive runs: “Then, the Slim Shady Headline Tour (1999), Warped tour (1999), Up In Smoke Tour (2000), Anger Management Tour (2002-2005), Home & Home Stadium Tour with Jay Z (2010), Rapture Stadium Tour (2014), Monster Stadium Tour with Rihanna (2014), and sold out stadiums shows across the world. US Festivals 2018, AU/ NZ Rapture 2019 tour in five stadiums broke all records. Abu Dhabi in 2019 and of course the greatest Super Bowl performance in 2022, insane, talk about Losing Yourself…” 

 It’s hard not to lose yourself to Slim Shady’s trove of touring data, which, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, puts his lifetime gross at $207 million with 2.3 million tickets sold dating back to 1999. This includes a gargantuan $8.8 million haul on Feb. 24, 2019 at the Cricket Grounds in Melbourne, Australia with 80,708 tickets sold and dates back to his club tours in the spring of 1999 with the Beatnuts and Pacewon, often playing to less than a thousand heads. In between, though, Eminem conquered the world. 

While it’s hard to pick a favorite show because, “every performance is an iconic performance,” Lewis says, she’s fond for his mid-aughts run. “I was lucky enough to tour and experience a major part of the Anger Management tour in 2005 and witness history in the making every night,” she says, “especially the Ferris Wheel on stage that everyone took turns riding during sound check. It was work, but so much fun at the same time.” 

Lewis also credits his top-tier team: “Em’s manager, Paul Rosenberg is totally hands on and a creative partner in every sense,” she says. “Em and Paul have always had an amazing collaborative relationship. Em’s same team Paul, Tracy (McNew), Marc (LaBelle)…including his long-time production manager have been with him since the beginning, that says a lot.”