Recording his first proper album The Slim Shady LP with Dr Dre in LA, Eminem decided he wanted to get his infant daughter Hailie on the work-in-progress “97 Bonnie and Clyde.” Then-wife Kim Mathers was curious to know what the song in question – in which father and daughter together dispose of mother’s murdered corpse – was about. Playing it safe, Eminem told her the lyric detailed his taking Hailie on a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s, a Will Smith “Just the Two of Us”-style scenario the song parodies. When Kim heard the finished track, Eminem believably claims, she “bugged the fuck out.”
“97 Bonnie and Clyde” was the kind of composition that got Eminem in trouble with the Tipper Gore parade as well, along with others who would supply the controversy (those “picket lines” for his “wicked rhymes”) that would go on to inspire so much of the material for his next record The Marshall Mathers LP. One of the most thematically coherent albums in hip hop history, The Marshall Mathers LP features verse upon verse ridiculing the wider culture for its apparent inability to distinguish between word and deed, fiction and fact, often mimicking the confusion for poetic effect:
“Put lives at risk when I drive like this [screech]/ Put wives at risk with a knife like this [scream]”
In “Stan,” for example, the song’s famous protagonist has fatally confused Eminem (or Marshall Mathers) with Slim Shady, and ends up killing his own girlfriend in a manner reminiscent of “97 Bonnie and Clyde.” Elsewhere, Eminem reprised the wife-killing theme for the gothic murder-ballad “Kim,” a slower, crueler and darker version of its predecessor that ends with the following “dying” refrain:
“NOW BLEED! BITCH BLEED!/ BLEED! BITCH BLEED! BLEED!”
While the rest of the accompanying album would be quick to remind us that “no actual Kims were harmed in the making of ‘Kim,’” did anyone ever wonder how the tune played chez Mathers?
Not that well, funnily enough, as I confirmed last week stumbling upon a 2011 interview with (the real) Kim (Shady) Mathers herself, a rather beleaguered woman horrified by her frequent cameos in the work of the twenty-first century’s most famous living poet. Indeed, in the Mathers’ fairly fraught marital home, Kim reveals that “Kim” was such a contentious issue that it was solely referred to (in passing or – you imagine – the odd nucleur domestic squabble) as “that song”…
So when Kim was planning to attend a show on her husband’s stadium tour in 2000, the occasion warranted a special conversation that afternoon as to whether Eminem planned to perform “that song” that night. Sensitive Mr. Mathers reportedly answered in the following reassuring fashion:
“No, because I know that you’re going to be there and I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Syke! At the concert, Eminem, would perform a robust “Kim” – acting it out with a blow-up doll, no less – before the sixty thousand strong crowd, including not only his wife, but her sister and some accompanying friends (must have been awkward for ‘em, eh?) – in the interview, the former Mrs. Mathers describes the surreal horror of being embedded in a stadium rocking with festive hatred – all indirectly directed at her – watching “everyone singing the words and laughing and jumping around in approval.
“BLEED! BITCH BLEED!/ BLEED! BITCH BLEED! BLEED!”
Sure enough, Kim went home and attempted to kill herself, slashing her wrists; so a song in which Eminem fantasizes about killing his wife… almost kills his wife. Words become deeds, fiction fact. Odd.