I recently reviewed, "EMINEM and The Detroit Rap Scene" by German born author Isabelle Esling. I found Isabelle's insight gave the book great credibility, but she digs much deeper showing how Eminem and the Detroit Rap Scene has impacted our American culture.
This book was more than a well documented biography of the rapper's life. Isabelle has given her readers a level of access to Eminem that I feel no other journalist has come close to. Her insight takes the reader deep into the heart of the Detroit ghetto long before Eminem was a superstar.
With that said, I asked her a bunch of deep and interesting questions about her recent book on Eminem and the Detroit scene. This interview will allow you to discover more about her motives, Eminem, Detroit rappers, and what inspires her. Have a look at this in depth interview!
DK: Tell me a bit about yourself?
IE: Well, I am a music journalist and a writer. Writing is my passion.
DK: How did you get into music journalism or what motivated you to write?
IE: I think the wish to be writing has always been latent in me. It just needed a big detonator to get me started.
My big motivator was Eminem s music. I wanted to share my knowledge, my impressions and my passion for the artist and his message with the world.
DK: Making it as a writer is a lot of hard work. What's the biggest challenge you had to face?
IE: My biggest challenge as a writer was to become a published author. I had to rewrite my book several times in order to perfect it. It took me 9 years.
DK: I had the privilege of reading your new release. What inspired you to write about Eminem and The Detroit Rap Scene?
IE: I discovered Eminem back in 2001 thanks to my son Marcus. At first, I was a little bit suspicious about this white dude rapping. I am always suspicious at first, even as a white person, when I see a white artist in a traditionally black musical genre. This has nothing to do with racism, it is just that there are loads of wannabes. So I first thought to myself "Oh not another white guy mimicking black people!", but then I discovered his work, listened to his interviews and found him amazing and full of talent.
I have been so enthusiastic that I really wanted to write about this artist in particular. Getting to know the whole D12 crew encouraged me to dig deeper into the Detroit hip hop scene. There are so many talented artists on the scene and they deserved exposure as well, because at this time the Detroit scene was pretty much unknown from the world.
DK: How long have you followed Eminem and his work?
IE: I have been following Eminem since 2001, so more than a decade and I analysed his musical work from Biterphobia, Infinite, to Recovery.
DK: Eminem has had a lot of success in his career. Do you think he is as powerful as an artist as he was 5 years ago?
IE: Difficult question…I think that Eminem really was at his peak in 2003, at the time I came to see him in concert in Paris Bercy. Everybody was talking about him, in my country and in the whole world.
I think that people cooled down a little bit when he retired from the scene due to his health problems. I also think that he is not reaching out to the same kind of people (besides the die hard fan base) now than at the beginning of his career.
He is still powerful, but maybe perceived differently-and less controversial than he used to be.
DK: There are a lot of talented artists in the underground Hip Hop Scene that have the talent but don't get the recognized or fame they deserve. Why do you think some rappers, like Eminem, make it and find success, and some don't?
IE: Eminem could have stayed like this too. The rhymes he wrote at 14, like in the Biterphobia song, are so much impressing. Infinite was a great album, lyrically speaking, but it lacked technical means. I do think that meeting Dr Dre was the chance of his life. When you meet the right people at the right time, you are getting the right type of promotion.
There are loads of talented rappers in Detroit, some of them really need more recognition, like Lazarus. He is a rapper and a doctor . His parents emigrated from Pakistan to Detroit. He is truly one of Detroit s best battle rappers.
DK: Who, in the music business (underground or mainstream) would you most like to meet?
IE: Mainstream: Dr Dre, no contest! He is a legend, and Underground: Uncle ILL, Mu, I-Mac and Dogmatic in Detroit and Dirty Red in Compton.
DK: Musically speaking, who is your biggest influence? And why was it so important to include the Detroit Rap Scene in your book?
IE: If you are speaking generally, James Brown is one of my biggest musical influences. I love the dynamism and positivity of his music.
In rap music, the early Eminem is certainly a very big influence. I also love Compton legend Eazy E.
DK: You dedicated your book to your two sons; Marcus and Simon and Big Proof "Deshaun Holton." What was the inspiration behind the dedication to Big Proof?
IE: Proof is a symbol of unity in Detroit rap. His goal was to unite emcees and make them work together for the love of music. I love his dedication to hip hop, I love his way of experimenting different styles in his solo work. I also love his simplicity as a person. I was very fortunate to interview him ( thanks, Darcey of Iron Fist Records), before he was brutally murdered. I think that nobody represents Detroit hip hop better than Deshaun Holton aka Big Proof.
DK: Was it a challenge to find the essence of the Detroit ghetto and its rappers to find the real character of Marshall Mathers III?
IE: I wouldn t call it a challenge, rather a wonderful opportunity to explore Detroit underground rap. The main difficulty was to be taken seriously in the beginning. But soon people started to support me and to help me out with my musical investigations.
DK: What is one thing you respect about Marshall Mathers? And do you find some of his lyrics disrespectful to the way he refers to women?
IE: I respect Eminem showing people that they should go for their dreams. He showed people, that no matter where you come from, you can develop the will to succeed and make your dreams happen. In that way he is a role model for many people. I respect that, because his life was far from being simple.
I don t react to his misogynistic sounding lyrics, I even find them funny in the context he uses those…people should read Eminem between the lines: he is not a bad guy, a woman beater. He is just an emcee messing around with your head and playing with words.
DK: Through your book I found Eminem and the Detroit Rap Scene to impact our American culture. Do you feel the same way and why?
IE: If you are speaking in terms of creativity, I do think that Eminem and the Detroit rap scene impacted the American culture to a large extent. Detroit artists have an original way of combining instrumentals and influences. I find it musically very rich.
Eminem is very creative, not only in his lyrics, but in also his videos. His musical genius impacted not only America, but he took over the rest of the world.
Consider someone like Merciless Amir: he mixes beautiful Lebanese music with the rough Detroit spirit, or have a look at I-Mac s Ruthless Aggression mix tape: this is so much innovative in terms of sound techniques, how could it not impact the rest of America?
DK: I have read many Eminem biographies. How is this book different from a well documented biography of the rapper's life?
IE: The originality of my book is to look at Eminem from a Detroit perspective and also to show how Eminem bridges Detroit s black and white communities through his music.
DK: Marshall had several approaches to music. Do you feel his success was due to his turbulent youth and relationships with his mother, Debbie, and girlfriend, Kim?
IE: No, I don t think so. I think that his success was due mainly to his determination to make it as an artist. Persistence always pays off. Winners never quit.
On the other hand, a lot of elements and circumstances played in his favor: being signed by Dr Dre, the whole controversy around his music etc...
DK: The world seems to hate Kim Mathers. Do you feel Marshall shared too much of his personal life in his music and that is a reflection why so many people hate or have hard feeling towards Kim? And do you ever see the public feeling differently towards Kim?
IE: I still don t get that: how can people hate Kim Mathers when they don t even know her personally? This is crazy!
From what I understand, Eminem s intent was to be very close to his listeners and as such, he wanted to share very intimate details of his life. In some way, he s been maybe a little bit too close…some crazed fans probably interpreted this as an open door to spread their hatred about his family members.
I am sure Eminem s mom, Debbie Mathers, had her deal of difficulties, raising her two kids on her own. She surely made some mistakes…but I think that she is a regular person who deserves privacy. So does Kim. I feel sympathy for both, because I realize that they never asked for all this media exposure.
A fan or a journalist, or whoever listens to Eminem s should understand that even when Eminem seems to be mad at his relatives in his music, it often expresses the anger of the moment. We should all take a respectful distance from his family members.
DK: As a Eminem biographer following Eminem's career and personal life, do you feel Marshall made mistakes in his relationships with his mother Debbie and ex-wife Kim?
IE: Difficult question, indeed. I don t know any of them personally, but I could assume, according to the official and inside sources that I have that he certainly made some mistakes, but isn't that human? No familial relationship can be described as "perfect".
I feel like the episode of the "Kim doll" was a little bit too much to bear for his ex wife.
I also feel like Debbies " image" has been permanently destroyed in people s mind. It is very difficult to cope with the press picking on you permanently.
DK: Many children and teens experience bullying. Do you think the abuse a Marshall experienced as a child impacted his life and helped him become the person he is today?
IE: I think that it certainly impacted him. It probably left some scars, but it also helped him to grow as a person.
I am glad Debbie Mathers and her partner Neal Alpert stood up, creating an official anti bullying campaign in 2012. Maybe it well help the public to see her as an engaged person, not as a perpetual monster.
DK: In you opinion, how many years do you believe Eminem has left in his rapping career? And once he retires will he will still have a hand in music?
IE: He left from 2005 to 2007, because of health and addiction problems. I cannot picture Eminem retiring, because he has a true passion for music. If he does, I think he will always have a foot into the scene.
DK: Do you currently have any projects in the works?
IE: Oh yes. I am working towards the success of this book. I also have two more books that have been accepted by two different publishing companies. My second book is a novel, in French, entitled " Sous le Ciel de Paris" and my third book is the biography of my dear grandma "Liebe Oma", in German language.
I am also in the process of submitting a fourth book, a spiritual one " Unwrap Your Present" to publishers. I have a fifth book in the works, it is a science fiction work, in French, based on time travel. So you see, I am kept busy all the time.
DK: If you could thank one person, for helping get you where you are today…Who would it be and why?
IE: I'd like to point out that I have to thank a lot of people for supporting me and helping me get where I am now (including you, of course), but if you are talking about my very beginnings, I would like to thank two persons in particular: Martin Harrell, a close friend, whom I met in my hometown back in 2002. He always supported me and gave me the right advice. Gavin Sheridan, an Irish professional blogger, who gave me my chance as a music journalist and got me started back in 2003.
DK: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
IE: I see myself as a successful, full time writer living in Paris.
DK: If you could invite one person to dinner tonight, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
IE: I'd pick Canadian writer Michael Losier, because he is an example of optimism and simplicity to me. I am also fascinated with his domain of expertise, the law of attraction. I believe that we can attract good things in our lives by thinking the right way. Michael is a great teacher, I chatted a couple of times with him on Facebook and I would love to meet him face to face.
Interview by Donna Kshir ~ Author, Yahoo and Detroit Examiner Contributor