Eminem enters Rock Hall with nod to hip-hop heroes who 'saved my life'

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Eminem gave a tip of his cap to a long list of his hip-hop idols and credited them with not only his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but with saving his life during a star-studded, 5½hour ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in the heart of downtown Los Angeles Saturday night.

Eminem was inducted by his mentor, Dr. Dre, and he performed a medley of hits that included special appearances by Aerosmith's Steven Tyler (singing parts of his own "Dream On" during Em's "Sing for the Moment") and Ed Sheeran (who played the role of Dido on "Stan").

Eminem performs during the 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The Detroit rapper then took the podium and rattled off a list of 100-plus artists from hip-hop's golden age — listed in alphabetical order, starting numerically with 2 Live Crew and going down the line to YZ, touching along the way on biggies such as the Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and of course Dr. Dre — and said he wouldn't be where he is without them.

"I realize what an honor it is right now for me to be up here tonight, and what a privilege it is to do the music that I love, and the music that basically saved my life," Em said.

More:Eminem's very long thank you list: His full Rock Hall induction speech

"I’m a high school dropout, man, with a hip-hop education, and these were my teachers," he said, reading from behind a pair of black-framed eyeglasses. "And it’s their night just as much as it is mine. So thank you."

Eminem joined a Rock Hall class that includes Dolly Parton, Duran Duran, Lionel Richie, Eurythmics, Carly Simon, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Pat Benatar and Neil Geraldo, Judas Priest, Jimmy Iovine and others, while inductors included Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson, P!nk, Lenny Kravitz, Alice Cooper, John Mellancamp, Sheryl Crow and more. Additional famous faces at the ceremony included Olivia Rodrigo, Dave Grohl, Zac Brown, Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige and Brandi Carlile.

It was a celebration of music, diversity and the power of the arts to inform, heal and bring people together.

Several artists, Eminem included, spoke of not necessarily fitting underneath the "rock and roll" banner, and Parton — who initially asked for her name to be removed from the Rock Hall ballot, since she doesn't consider herself a part of rock and roll — embraced her new designation wholeheartedly. "I'm a rock star now!" the country legend said during her spirited induction speech.

Dolly's induction closed the night, preceded by Eminem, whose entire program — Dre intro, performance and speech — lasted about 25 minutes. The ceremony will air on HBO and HBO Max Nov. 19.

Earlier in the night, Mellancamp made the night's most pointed speech while inducting entertainment lawyer Allen Grubman, calling out the hatred and anti-Semitism that has festered in recent weeks after comments made by Kanye West.

"Here's the truth: silence is complicity," Mellancamp said, after imploring his fellow artists to speak out against those who traffic in anti-Semitism, "all forms of bigotry and all forms of hatred. I don't give a f--- if you're Jewish, black, white, tutti frutti, I don't care," he said, his words stoked with anger.

Legendary Detroit rocker (and Rock Hall of Famer in his own right) Alice Cooper welcomed heavy metal pioneers into the Hall, shouting out their hometown of Birmingham, comparing their hometown to "England's Detroit," he said.

Backstage, Cooper expressed his pleasure over Eminem's induction.

"That's my boy," said Cooper, wearing a suit with a blood-splatter pattern on its interior lining. "All the White rappers came out of Detroit" — he noted Kid Rock, Em and Insane Clown Posse — "because Detroit's got that kind of authority. I'm very proud to be from Detroit, and I'm glad Eminem is, too. He was the guy with the funniest sense of humor out of all that music."

Lionel Richie spoke fondly of his days on Motown Records as part of the Commodores, and was inducted into the Hall by Lenny Kravitz.

Carly Simon was not on hand for her induction, nor was 95-year-old Harry Belafonte. Duran Duran's Andy Taylor was not in attendance and sent in a letter on his behalf, read by his bandmates, discussing his diagnosis with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer.

Eminem, clad in an all-black leather jacket and hood, was joined on stage by his rhyme partner and early collaborator Denaun Porter, and his six-song medley included a snippet of "My Name Is" followed by the majority of "Rap God," his rapid fire 2013 single which earned him a spot in the Guinness Book for his speed-rapping abilities. He followed with "Sing for the Moment" and "Stan," rolling into his verse on "Forever," his 2009 collaboration with Drake, Lil Wayne and Kanye West, and finishing with "Not Afraid."

His 10-minute performance gave several shades of Eminem the performer: the prankster, the technician, the hitmaker, the motivator, the guiding hand through troubled times.

Eminem is joined by Ed Sheeran on stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2022 induction ceremony.

In his eight-minute induction of Eminem, Dre spoke of how when he first heard the rapper, he didn't realize he was White, and he talked about the resistance he encountered to the idea of signing him to his record label.

"While everyone else around me had their doubts, I knew that his gift was undeniable," Dre said, as cameras cut to Em, his daughter Hailie Jade seated behind him in the audience. "His raw, dark and humorous lyrics coupled with an impeccable cadence stood out from anything I had ever heard before, and he was hungry. Both of us were. 

"We were two artists in do or die situations: He was desperate to find a way to feed his family and I was searching for something to sink my teeth into creatively," said Dre, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of N.W.A. in 2016. "Each of us was exactly what the other needed, and I was willing to bet my entire career on it. My rebuttal to those naysayers went something like this: 'He's going to be the biggest selling artist on our label.' Little did I know, he was going to be one of the best-selling music artists of all time."

Dre went on to rattle off Eminem's impressive list of sales accomplishments — 220 million albums sold, 13 No. 1 albums, Grammy Awards, an Emmy, an Oscar, the titles of best-selling music artist of the 2000s and best-selling hip-hop artist ever — "and he doesn’t care about any of that," he said. "I care about it more than he does.

"What's most important to him is that he’s earned the respect of his peers as one of the best to ever do it," he said. "Turns out, this unassuming White guy with blue eyes from Detroit went from being repeatedly turned down to turning everything we thought we knew about hip-hop on its head while forcing us to confront our own biases, growing not only the genre, but all of us right along with it."

For Eminem, who turned 50 in October, the Rock Hall honor caps a 2022 which has mostly been a year of looking back and both solidifying and celebrating his legacy.

PREVIOUSLY: Shady's greatest: Eminem's 50 best songs, ranked, on his 50th birthday

The 15-time Grammy winner's Hall of Fame induction was announced in May, the same month he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his third major label studio album, the sales blockbuster "The Eminem Show." His second greatest hits album, the double album "Curtain Call 2" — a sequel to 2005's "Curtain Call: The Hits" — followed in August, and last month he toasted the 20th anniversary of the "8 Mile" soundtrack with an expanded edition of the album that included a demo version of "Lose Yourself," featuring alternate lyrics.

Those releases followed his performance at Super Bowl LVI in February, where he shared the stage with Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent, and made headlines for taking a knee in protest during his performance, a gesture in support of Colin Kaepernick and against police brutality and racial injustice in America.

Outside of his professional commitments, Eminem keeps a notably low profile in the public sphere — he has a minimal presence on social media, outside of promotion for himself and affiliated artists — but he remains a vital presence in popular music's present tense.

While his 2022 output of newly recorded material has been slim — he contributed to Baz Lurhmann's "Elvis" soundtrack, collaborated with Snoop Dogg on "From the D 2 the LBC," and appeared on the remix to Kanye West's "Use This Gospel," released on DJ Khaled's album "God Did" — he's currently Spotify’s 13th most listened to artist in the world, with more than 57 million monthly listeners (up from No. 15 and 52 million listeners in May), beating out artists such as Beyoncé (27th), Billie Eilish (22nd), Post Malone (18th) and Ariana Grande (15th). Among rappers, only Drake (10th) has more monthly listeners on the streaming service.

This year, he has seen three songs — "The Real Slim Shady," "Love the Way You Lie" and "Godzilla" — cross the 1 billion streams marker on Spotify. He's the first artist to have three songs from three different decades cross the digital threshold, and he has six songs total that have surpassed 1 billion streams. ("Lose Yourself," "Till I Collapse" and "Without Me" are the others.)

He currently has three albums on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart: "Curtain Call 2" at No. 33, the original "Curtain Call" at No. 50 and "The Eminem Show" at No. 141. "Curtain Call," released in 2005, recently became the first hip-hop album in history to spend 600 weeks — more than 11 years — on the Billboard 200 sales tally. Over the course of his career, he has sold more than 227.5 million albums and singles, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Eminem, who was born in St. Louis but grew up and continues to live in Metro Detroit, joined a long list of Detroiters and Michigan artists who have entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the list also includes Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Hank Ballard, the Four Tops, John Lee Hooker, Martha and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Little Willie John, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bob Seger, Madonna, the Stooges, Alice Cooper and the Miracles.

Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. and songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland are in as non-performers, and Motown bassist James Jamerson was inducted in the "Sidemen" category, which was later amended to the Award for Musical Excellence. (Next up is likely the White Stripes; the duo becomes eligible in 2024, which marks 25 years since the release of the band's self-titled debut album.)

Steven Tyler and Eminem perform at the 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

And Em joined a short list of rappers who have been inducted into the Rock Hall, following Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and LL Cool J. Em was on hand to induct Run-DMC into the Rock Hall in 2009, and he performed live with LL Cool J during the 2021 induction ceremony in Cleveland.

His long list of MCs thanked during his induction speech was, in part, his way of righting the wrong of him leapfrogging over so many rappers who have been passed over for induction into the Rock Hall. Since the Rock Hall has allowed rappers in its ranks, its representation remains woefully thin.

"There’s only a few of us right now that have been inducted in, only a few of us," Eminem said. After the list, he called those he mentioned "my rock stars," and he touted their importance to him and to hip-hop culture at large.

"Those are just a few of the names that I hope will be considered in the future for induction because without them, a lot of us wouldn’t be here," he said. "I know I wouldn't."

Eminem didn't participate in the evening's show closing collaborations, which saw Benatar, Springsteen, P!nk, Sheryl Crow, Annie Lennox, Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon and Brandi Carlile joining forces on Parton's "Jolene," or the finale which saw Springsteen, Mellancamp, Zac Brown and more paying tribute to the recently passed Jerry Lee Lewis.

While the issue of "rock and roll" was brought up several times on stage and will continue to be an issue as younger performers with less of a relationship to the term continue to enter the Hall's ranks, Rock Hall president and CEO Greg Harris said they're sticking with the name.

"'Rock and roll' is at times a band that is the prototypical four guys with guitars, but you know what? Rock and roll is that and more, and more, and more. This year's class really identifies that strongly," Harris told reporters in the press room. "We embrace that. It's a big tent, it's an inclusive art form, and it's always evolving, always changing. We're keeping Rock and Roll as the name, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been doing that for 37 years, and will continue to do so."