I was nine years old when I first heard the song "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem, and I was instantly obsessed with it. I thought it was the most fun song I had ever listened to, and I actually remember thinking that all I wanted in life was to see him perform it live*. I literally compare my love for this song with falling in love for the first time, in that I had never felt so happy and excited and infatuated with the voice that I was hearing through the radio. Seeing as my parents would not buy me the album (stupid parental advisory warning...) I was determined to listen to it every chance I had, leaving the radio on constantly and staying up as late as my nine-year-old self could, just to hear it repeated as many times as possible.
My obsession with Eminem escalated quickly, long before I had much interest in any other hip hop artist besides him. His style was totally different from anyone else on my radar at the time, and even though I didn't relate to much of what he said, I really didn't care because in my head I totally did. (This is why being a kid is awesome.) Growing up, my understanding of the rest of the hip hop world at the time was simply based on whatever Eminem had to say about it. In recent years, however, I have added a few other awesome hip hop artists to my iTunes library, and in doing so I have gained a deeper understanding of the genre as a whole. I have come to appreciate that (surprise!) Eminem is not the only artist who represents what I love about hip hop-- the idea of going against the grain, "not giving a fuck" (his words, not mine), shamelessly saying what others are afraid to say, and doing what it takes to have a good time, whatever that may mean to the individual. I love that hip hop is often not socially acceptable, but at least it's REAL. This is a concept that I really do believe is at the root of why hip hop is so important, not only to me but to society as a whole.
*Don't worry, I did eventually see him perform that song live. So that's taken care of.