The Infamous Eminem and Mariah Carey Feud, Explained

Of all the weird pop culture events to come out of the early 2000s, the musical and personal feud between rapper Eminem and pop diva Mariah Carey has to be one of the strangest. While it’s hard to imagine the two musicians running in the same social circles, let alone duking it out through their songs, that’s exactly what happened in the years-long saga that sounds more like a “South Park” bit than real life.

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The drama first started in 2002, when Eminem told Rolling Stone that the unlikely duo had almost paired up officially, except for the fact that “I just don’t like her as a person. She doesn’t really have it all together.” A harsh take, perhaps, but when have we ever known Eminem to mince words? It didn’t take long for the singer to respond in kind, giving her side of the story in her own interviews before both performers took their beef to the stage. 

It only got weirder from there.

When you’re a musician, what better way to get your point across than through music? Eminem was the first to address his alleged relationship with Mariah Carey in his 2002 track “Superman,” which was released just over a month before his Rolling Stone interview. What, you tryin’ to be my new wife? The rapper says in the first verse. What, you Mariah? Fly through twice. He released another track around the same time, “When The Music Stops,” which includes the line ‘Fore I do that, I’d beg Mariah to take me back.

Six months later, Carey released her own musical message to Eminem. In the November 2002 track “Clown,” the singer laments, I should’ve left it at, how ya doing? I should’ve left it at ‘I like your music, too.’ You should’ve never intimated we were lovers when you know very well we never even touched each other. As if her lyrical content wasn’t obvious enough, Carey had a backup dancer dress in a Detroit Pistons jersey and blonde wig while she performed “Clown” during a 2003 tour. (Eminem, of course, is famously from Detroit.)

This performative back-and-forth went on for years as both successful artists continued to tour, write, and record new songs. Eminem included voicemails that sounded eerily similar to Mariah Carey’s voice during his live performances; Carey denied they were really her. The rapper continued referencing the singer in his songs, radio interviews, and on-stage shows in his typical profane style.

The Not-So Climactic End To Mariah Carey and Eminem’s Cringey Feud

After years of not-so-subtle references to Mariah Carey in his music, the pop diva released a one-two punch with her track “Obsessed” and its subsequent music video. The lyrics were the first hit: Why you so obsessed with me? She sings. Boy, I want to know! Lyin’ that you’re sexin’ me, when everybody knows it’s clear that you’re upset with me. The music video also features Carey playing an obsessed stalker dressed in baggy clothes, chains, and a dark goatee.

Eminem might’ve been angry enough to include a few couplets about Carey here and there before, but after that music video, he dedicated an entire diss track to the singer with “The Warning.” The rapper goes into explicit detail about their alleged affair, even bringing Carey’s then-husband, Nick Cannon, into the narrative. It was obscene, more than a little violent, and overtly responding to Carey’s music video. Is that supposed to be me in the video with the goatee?

Amazingly, the feud still seems to be going on well into the 2020s—two decades after it first began. Eminem has never released the sexual photographs and audio he threatened to in his track “The Warning,” and although some speculated whether Mariah Carey would include the debacle in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, that didn’t end up happening. Was it all a publicity stunt? Maybe. Is it one of the messiest, cringiest feuds of recent musical history? Most certainly.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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