Rapper Eminem silences opponents

Friday, November 1, 2002

NEW YORK -- Until recently, it seemed only kids -- and music critics -- could love Eminem.

Politicians condemned his obscenity-laced and violent lyrics. Gay and women's groups blasted him as a homophobe and misogynist. The Grammy-winning Detroit rapper had millions in album sales, but little love from mainstream America.

Well, he's still not America's sweetheart. But some of the vitriol directed at Eminem has diminished -- replaced not just by grudging respect, but by downright enthusiasm from some unlikely quarters.

"The guy is funny, smart, and sometimes shocking," author Stephen King gushed on his Web site. "Those are all things I look for in rock and roll."

Randy Newman called Eminem a "kindred spirit."

Writer Paul Slansky, a self-described middle-aged white guy, penned a New York Observer column titled, "Guess Who Thinks Eminem's a Genius? Middle-Aged Me." (He recently sounded the same theme in an essay on NPR.)

Whether the 30-year-old rapper has softened or America has just grown more accepting, "he has started to interest serious, grownup audiences that would have dismissed him as a teenage hip-hop phenomenon," said New York Times critic Janet Maslin, who spent time with Eminem on the set of his upcoming movie, "8 Mile," for Premiere magazine.

"He's moved out of the youth ghetto."

Interest in Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, should grow even more with the release next Friday (Nov. 8) of "8 Mile," loosely based on his own troubled youth.

The movie, directed by "L.A. Confidential's" Curtis Hanson, and Eminem's performance in it have received early critical acclaim.

"I think he's just going to earn a lot of respect from people," said Sia Michel, editor in chief at Spin magazine, which has Eminem on its December cover. "They're going to see that he's clearly a talented guy."

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