Eminem may now be one of the most successful rappers in music history, but at one stage he was struggling to launch his career.
The ‘Stan’ rapper released his first album in 1996, but the album barely sold 1,000 copies.
The rapper pictured with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine in 2014. Credits: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
While Eminem, real name Marshall Mathers, had made a name for himself of his hometown of Detroit, he was struggling to get nationwide recognition for his music – until Dr. Dre heard his work.
A year after the release of Infinite, Eminem took part in the Los Angeles Rap Olympics and battled against the likes of Thirstin Howl III, JUICE, Kwest tha Madd Lad, and Wordsworth.
Eminem, who was in his 20s at the time, eventually freestyled against Otherwize, with his competition going on to win.
Otherwize went on to win the grand prize of $500 and a Rolex watch.
But Eminem’s efforts weren’t in vain as Jimmy Iovine caught wind of his skill set after being given a CD of Eminem’s songs and played it to Dr. Dre.
Eminem became a ‘staple’ on the Wake Up Show. Credits: XM/Sirius Radio
“I heard something in the kid who gave it to me,” lovine recalled to Rolling Stone in 2012.
“He was 19, an intern. He said, ‘I heard a tape on the street, at this rapathon.’ I said, ‘Tell you what – people helped me a lot when I was your age. I’m gonna do something for you. Bring me the CD, and I’ll play it to Dre. I trust you enough.'”
The demo was then passed to Dr. Dre, who ultimately liked what he was hearing.
But, as well as doing the Rap Olympics while in LA, Eminem was also invited on the the Wake Up Show, then hosted by hip-hop duo Sway & King Tech, where he performed his now-legendary freestyle.
His performance resulting in him landing a weekly slot.
Discussing his time on the Wake Up Show, Sway described the rapper as being ‘staple’ of the show.
“I think those sessions were like his training, and he eventually found his voice and who he would become as an artist,” he said.
“After two to three months, he really became a regular staple of the show.”
The combination of his fire demo CD and radio slot is said to have consolidated Dre’s decision to sign the then-young rapper in 1998.
The following year, Eminem released The Slim Shady LP, which has gone on to sell over 10 million copies.