Dr. Eminem is in the house — just not in the theatre. Marshall “man of mystery and master of transparency” Mathers released a cryptic image on his social media accounts just hours before a 15th Anniversary celebration and screening of 8 Mile last night, teasing a new song "Walk on Water" scrawled on a fake prescription pad (and a companion website) for a drug called "REVIVAL" (the speculated name of his upcoming record). In true Em fashion, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
The red carpet was rolled out as hundreds gathered at Detroit’s Bel Air Luxury Cinema (the original location of the film’s premiere in 2002) last night to watch, reflect, and honor the autobiographical do-rags to riches tale of a trailer park dreamer, Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. and (arguably the film’s antagonist) an empathetic portrait of late ’90s Detroit.
Eager faces pressed against glass dividers while preserving phone battery life and tip-toe strength for a possible glimpse of Detroit’s hip-hop elite and, of course, the man of the mile road himself. D12 alum Mr. Porter made a red carpet appearance alongside 8 Mile cast members Omar Benson Miller and Miz Korona. A gaggle of local favorites stopped by to show their support, too, including Detroit National Anthem singer and solidarity kneeler Rico Lavelle, ex-Lions player Dominic Raiola, and rappers T3 and Polo Frost.
Despite both press and fans holding out until the theatre lobby nearly cleared out, Eminem did not show — at least as far as we could see. But truthfully, we were not surprised nor disappointed. If anything, his absence highlighted just how much can change in 15 years. In the case of Eminem, he picked up where the film left off. He fucking made it out.
I first saw 8 Mile in 2002 at a theatre in downtown Birmingham opening weekend. I was 14 years old and was accompanied by an adult who, during Eminem’s hyper-realistic sex scene with the late Brittany Murphy, covered my eyes.
But I had already been sneakily listening to 1999’s Slim Shady LP for three years. A child of a broken home myself, Eminem’s world was both forbidden and comforting to me. Sure, it was dangerous and vulgar (and yes, I have mixed feelings about his lyrical content
It isn’t a stretch to label the Curtis Hanson-directed film as Shakespearean. A balance of comedy and tragedy, betrayal and love, family tension and complex division of social status, and, of course, wordplay, 8 Mile encompasses a tarnished but truly inspiring era in Detroit’s hip-hop history. Perhaps that’s what makes 8 Mile hold up beyond nostalgia and familiar cinematic underdog tropes.
While we left the theatre sans a Marshall Mathers sighting with our half-emptied commemorative 8 Mile popcorn bucket swag and an fleeting inspiration to attempt to spit poorly crafted freestyle rhymes at each other, Eminem was likely (we imagine) rehearsing at the Shady Records HQ for his upcoming MTV European Music Awards performance next week.
A relaunch? A resurgence? A rap god revival? Regardless of which incarnation emerges next, we know one thing: losing yourself doesn’t mean you’ve lost. In fact, you might just win.