WHATEVER YOU SAY I AM by Anthony Bozza


The Life and Times of Eminem
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Fevered hagiography of the prominent rapper and recent movie star.

Former Rolling Stone editor Bozza’s encounters with Marshall Mathers (Eminem) while writing a 1999 RS cover story form the backbone of this extended profile. At that time, Bozza recalls, Eminem was on the verge of stardom, yet still scuffling and more inclined to let his guard down: “He told me as much as he’d told any journalist . . . to the healthy dismay of his eavesdropping manager.” During their travels together, he observed an Ecstasy-fueled Eminem win over both white and black audiences in different clubs; beyond these sorts of recollections, the text essentially collects sketches and observations documenting Eminem’s rise from late-’90s regional “battle rapper” to parent-scaring boogeyman “Slim Shady,” transformed in 2002 into mainstream media darling by the film 8 Mile. Bozza grasps how Eminem’s mass appeal transcends race and age. The hip-hop community perceives him as having “paid his dues”; the ugly elements of his work resonate with an under-25 generation familiar with promiscuity, substance abuse, and domestic entanglements; and baby boomers embrace him, the author suggests, in order to be associated with youthful hipness. Although Bozza intends this as “an analysis, as much of America as . . . Eminem,” his unabashed sycophancy renders it mainly supportive of his opinion that “Eminem is hip-hop’s signpost artist, the one gifted enough to blend black and white musical and cultural elements without compromising the integrity of the music.” He supports this stance with the accolades of critics like Shelby Steele, only briefly considering and never really refuting the views of those who consider his hero a bully or corporate shill. Eventually, Bozza produces shrewd chapters on the music industry and the evolution of hip-hop in decayed, tense locales like Detroit, but only zeitgeist-chasers and youngsters who love Eminem are likely to make it that far.

Written from the amen corner, nothing here will perturb the rapper’s worshippers.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 2003
ISBN: 1-4000-5059-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2003


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