Eminem Is The Best-Selling Artist Of The Decade Despite Being On Hiatus For Three Of The Last Ten Years

Becky Bain | December 8, 2009 11:24 am

Eminem has spent the last decade trying to convince the pop world that he either is or isn’t Elvis Presley, but in the end it turns out his closest competition in the 00’s was the Beatles. How’s this for a legacy: Marshall Mathers III beat out the Fab Four (you know, that group from Rock Band) to rank as the best-selling artist of perhaps the most turbulent decade in music industry history, according to new stats from Nielsen SoundSan.

Rising from hardscrabble Detroit, Em sold 32.2 million units combined, triumphing over JohnPaulGeorgeRingo, who racked up sales of 30 million. (The Beatles still trump him with the best-selling album of the decade, their compilation 1.) An incredible feat when you consider that Em all but vanished from the scene between 2006 and 2009—but also an indication of how the slide in album sales really accelerated mid-decade. It’s getting harder and harder for anyone to put up the numbers Eminem did in the early 00’s.

Not to take anything away from the guy: he’s both popular and influential. Which is why it’s been so interesting watching him struggle through Relapse and its eventual followup.

Though Relapse was an instant hit, debuting at number one, in an interview with Complex mag, Em admits that his mind wasn’t “clear” while writing and recording the album since he was still recovering from drug addiction.

Complex reporter Noah Callahan-Beve starts off the interview sadly describing the change in personality between first meeting a fresh-faced Eminem back in 1998 and then meeting him each subsequent time:

The dude I met in that strip mall parking lot more than a decade ago, listening to mixes on the stock system of his Buick rental, was outgoing, hilarious, genuine, razor-sharp, and endlessly talented. He was a walking adventure and an inspiration. But, with him being overwhelmed by the fame—and then the work, and then the drugs—every encounter we shared after the release of The Slim Shady LP got incrementally more awkward, involved less eye contact, and left me feeling more concerned about the collateral damage of his unmitigated success.

Ouch. Not a pretty picture. But Em would probably agree with him. “I became more on-point towards the end of recording [Relapse],” Em admits. “I still feel like I have room to get better but I feel like I’m definitely on my game right now.”

“I was still working the drugs out of my system, so there was a lot of…just jokey shit. It was a lot of punchline-y, funny, shock value—kind of going back to The Slim Shady LP. And that was cool, but I’ve kind of flipped the page. Now I’m going for songs instead of one-liners. I don’t want to make shit that you hear once and then the joke’s over; I want to make records that you could play a hundred times, a thousand times.”

How will his sequel to Relapse fare? Complex’s reporter even thinks “Relapse 2 is to Relapse what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins.” That’s a bold statement, and we truly want to believe it, but with homophobic rhymes towards out gay musicians on the Relapse: Refill track “Elevator,” seemingly included just to get a shock out of people, this doesn’t exactly scream new-and-improved territory for Mathers, but just more of the same tired schtick he’s done since the beginning of his career. (And if he does end up taking that X-Factor gig, let’s hope he learns how to bite his tongue unlike some judges.)