Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem

By Andrew Ross

It’s hard to believe, but this biography of Eminem-and it is a biography of Eminem, not Marshall Mathers-is actually a good read.

One would think a book so pretentiously titled would be likely to find its place beside the throne, in the position formerly held by the Sears Catalogue. But alas, for Whatever You Say I Am, it was not to be. No, Bozza had to go and write a well researched, well thought out book.

Naturally, this makes the job of the reviewer much more difficult.

Fortunately, there is one fatal flaw to pounce upon: any good biography has to be written after the fact. Eminem has shown no indications of quitting the music business, nor is he on his deathbed. It is therefore impossible to write a complete biography of Eminem yet. The book only covers four-and-a-half freaking years, for crying out loud, up to and including this year. While what Bozza has written would be quite appropriate in a biography, that biography will have to be written years from now were it to have any semblance of completeness.

Furthermore, this contemporary-ography lacks the historical context necessary to objectively assess the long-term impact of the artist on hip hop, on culture, on his daughter (who isn’t even out of elementary school yet), et cetera.

Another side effect of the inappropriate timing of this biography is the necessarily contracted time frame it covers. Bozza resorts to going over the same four-and-a-half years seven times (once per chapter), each time looking at a different aspect of the story. The numerous pictures, repetition and overlap helps fill the space between the covers, but for anyone who has listened to Eminem’s albums more than once, or kept up with the news reports about him, there will be very few surprises.

By the time I got to chapter three, I was checking to see how many pages were left.

However, anyone not familiar with Eminem-my mother, for example-would probably find the book quite illuminating. Also, the next time you hear someone mouthing off that Eminem hates gays and women and is the problem with the world today, you can point them in the direction of Whatever You Say I Am for a sound rebuttal.

To sum up, it’s probably a waste of time if you knew the difference between Ice Cube and Ice T before Three Kings came out, but a good read for anyone not tuned in to hip hop.

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