The Daddy Shady Show

Upstanding Suburban Citizen Eminem Sets the Fatherhood Standard

"She put my poor little grandson on such a guilt trip," Kresin remembers. "She told him that Ronnie was trying to call and call when Marshall was out rapping. Which isn't true, because I was with Ronnie the entire time! She said, 'I have some bad news for you—Ronnie's dead, and he wouldn't be dead if it weren't for you,' " Kresin says. Marshall wound up taking an overdose of Tylenol on the day of the funeral and couldn't go. (Debbie—who Kresin says is "in hiding, up north"—could not be reached, and Eminem himself was unavailable for comment.)

Deborah Mathers-Briggs, for her part, has insisted she never abused drugs, that she actually spoiled Marshall and never raised her voice to him when he was growing up, and that she sacrificed to support him and his 16-year-old brother Nathan (who still lives with her). She told the BBC that her relationship with Marshall started imploding when she also took in his girlfriend Kim, who was 12 at the time; she said Marshall, who is two years older than Kim, didn't move out until he was 25. A couple years ago, she even sued him for defamation and put out a CD single called "Set the Record Straight." The case was settled before trial by Marshall paying $25,000.

"He was an excellent son," counters Kresin. "He never said anything bad about Debbie, and it's coming out now. It's his way of healing." (Possible examples: lyrics about how he doubted his mom's breast-feeding abilities due to her lack of tits, how his mom took his bike away 'cause he stuck his guinea pig in the microwave, how his mom always taught him the important lesson of "goddammit, you little motherfucker, if you ain't got nothin' nice to say then don't say nothin'," how all bitches is 'hos even his stinkin'-ass mom, and how he never meant to hit her over the head with that shovel.) "I love that boy," Kresin says. "I'll defend him till the day I die."

illustration: Steve Rude

And if his relationship with Kim is any indication, he seems to be reliving part of his grandma's life. Starting at age 15, Kresin was married to, but repeatedly split up then reunited with, the same man. "He was the boss of me, and he was cruel to me," she says. "And I'd never heard the word divorce." Kim and Marshall were married in St. Joseph in June 1999; Eminem filed divorce paperwork in August 2000; they made up in December 2000; Kim filed for divorce in March 2001; and now they're apparently back together. Last time around, they wound up agreeing on joint legal custody of Hailie after a months-long battle, and a Macomb County court recommended Eminem pay $2740 a week in child support, $156 a week in health insurance, and 90 percent of health care costs.

Too many fathers are absent from the lives of their children," Al and Tipper Gore write in their feel-good tome Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family, published last month. "We believe that most single mothers do an excellent job of raising their kids, but it must be acknowledged that families are almost always better off with two loving parents present in the home, sharing both the work and the joy." In early editions of Baby and Child Care, they say, Dr. Benjamin Spock warned against "trying to force the participation of fathers who get gooseflesh at the very idea of helping to take care of baby." But these are different times, and what constitutes a family is changing. The Gores' book is organized around a bunch of examples—their sole in-depth discussion of fatherhood, in fact, immediately follows their story about the Logan family, a white gay couple named Josh and John raising two adopted sons of color.

Forty pages later, Tipper talks about getting upset at the dirty words on an album her daughter brought home, then co-founding the Parents' Music Resource Center, leading an effort to put warning labels on objectionable albums, and writing a book called Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. Which might partially explain why Eminem has a song where he tells Tipper "fuck you."

But in "My Dad's Gone Crazy"—a track prominently featuring Hailie's looped vocal—Eminem concedes, "I don't blame you, I wouldn't let Hailie listen to me neither." And by now, there should be no doubt that he's obsessed with the exact same transformation-of-American-family issues that Al and Tipper are obsessed with. For one thing, he's probably written as much about being a father as any popular songwriter of the past half-century.

Who else is there? John Lennon and Stevie Wonder and Bobby Goldsboro and Harry Chapin and that creepy "Butterfly Kisses" guy had a song or two each, maybe. John Prine, Art Alexakis of Everclear? Not out of the question. But Eminem came out of hip-hop, where the prevailing attitude about fatherhood was stated by the great Spoonie Gee, over 20 years ago. "When I got into my house and drove the female wild/The first thing she said is let's have a child," Spoonie postulated in 1980's "Love Rap." "If I had a baby I might go broke/ And believe me to a nigga that ain't no joke." Give or take isolated instances of parental pride from, say, Will Smith (who don't have to cuss to sell records but Hailie's dad does) or Coolio or OutKast (but not Big Daddy Kane), that's where rap music remains.

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