Eminem shared in his 2002 hit "Cleanin' Out My Closet" that daughter "Hailie's gettin' so big now, you should see her, she's beautiful."
"But," he promised, "you'll never see her—she won't even be at your funeral!"
The apple of his eye, Hailie Jade Mathers, was only 6 then, giving her dad and mom—the rapper whose real name is Marshall Mathers and his ex-wife Kim—the final say in who saw her. And for most of her life, minus the small handful of baby pics that ended up in circulation, you did not see her and she most certainly did not go to your funeral.
And though you'll see the occasional shot of her fiancé Evan McClintock, what you still won't see on her well-curated page are pictures of the influencer and her dad together.
Even when they're both rooting for their hometown Detroit Lions at Ford Field, as they did during the NFL team's Oct. 8 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"football, family and seemingly ranch," Hailie captioned a few pics, including a shot of her Taylor Swift-reminiscent dipping sauce.
Eminem, who's celebrating his 51st birthday Oct. 17, also got in on the action, topping off his "Detroit strong!!!" caption with a resounding "let's f--kin gooooo!!!!"
And in the rarest of rare moves, his slides included a snippet of the video shown on the stadium's big screen as "Lose Yourself" pounded throughout the stadium, which provided a quick glimpse of their outing.
But as much as Hailie fueled her father's music over the years—let alone his drive to succeed and give his family everything he didn't have as a kid—somewhere along the way they seem to have agreed that, share what he will in song, the actual time Eminem and his daughter spent together was going to remain private.
Their elusiveness begged the question of whether she saw her father much at all, to which Hailie replied when she granted DailyMail.com her first-ever interview in 2018, "Of course, we're very close."
Hailie spent most of her youth under Eminem's 15,000-square-foot roof in the Detroit suburbs with half-sister Whitney, mom Kim's daughter from another relationship, and cousin Alaina Marie Scott, the daughter of Kim's twin sister, Dawn.
"My kids are comfortable here. I want them to have the stability I didn't," Eminem, who walked Alaina down the aisle at her June 9 wedding to Matt Moeller, told Rolling Stone in 2011 about continuing to live in the area, albeit a world away from where he grew up on the east side of Detroit, just south of 8 Mile Road.
But by 2018, Hailie was living in her own four-bedroom home not far from the family roost and was just getting serious with Evan.
"i rarely share my feed, but when i do i'm happy it's with you," she captioned a couple's pic in July 2021, winking at the fact that she usually poses solo for the 'gram.
"No babies, she has a boyfriend, but she's doing good," Eminem said of Hailie in extremely rare non-musical remarks about his family on Mike Tyson's YouTube show Hotboxin' in March 2020. "She's made me proud for sure. She's graduated from college."
"When I think about my accomplishments, that's probably the thing I'm the most proud of is being able to raise kids," he continued. "It's important to keep your kids grounded when they're in a situation like I have, it's very important. People also think, too, that money just buys happiness—that absolutely is not the truth. You've got to be right inside otherwise none of this s--t means nothing."
Hailie didn't open her Instagram account until 2016, when she was 20, so Eminem could rest assured that she didn't hastily rush into going public like some celebrity kids. Because, as he later shared through his 2017 album Revival, he did have some regrets about making his daughter such a prominent character in the personal domestic drama that so often played out in his music from day one, including his overtly hostile jabs at Hailie's mother, who once upon a time was his high school sweetheart.
"Grab a couple of toys and let Dada strap you in the car seat / Oh, where's Mama? She's taking a little nap in the trunk," he rapped on "97 Bonnie & Clyde"—called "Just the Two of Us" on his 1997 release Slim Shady EP—which he recorded alongside his toddler.
"I lied to Kim and told her I was taking Hailie to Chuck E. Cheese that day," he told Rolling Stone. "But I took her to the studio. When she found out I used our daughter to write a song about killing her, she f--ing blew. We had just got back together for a couple of weeks. Then I played her the song, and she bugged the f--k out."
That being said, Eminem and Kim still got married in 1999. Their first union lasted only two years—or nearly twice as long as their 2006 marriage, which began that January and ended in April. But for the sake of the kids, they got their act together and stayed friendly, so much so that in 2010 they were the subject of promptly debunked rekindling rumors.
"I said your name but always tried to hide your face," he rapped in 2017 on "Castles," off of Revival, lamenting that Hailie ever had to shoulder any of his baggage just because she was his kid. "This game is crazy / I wanted to claim my love for you but damn / I never knew it'd be like this / If I did, I wouldn't have done it/ You ain't asked for none of this s–t. / Now you're being punished? / Things that should've been private with me and your mother is public."
All told, Hailie Jade—either one of her monikers or just her existence—has featured in almost two dozen songs over the course of his career. ("Hailie, baby, I didn't mean to make you 80 percent of what I rapped about," he offered in 2017's "In Your Head.")
The height of his daughter's involuntary fame probably came in 2002 thanks to The Eminem Show's dueling tracks "Hailie's Song" ("My baby girl keeps getting older / I watch her grow up with pride / People make jokes, ‘cause they don't understand me / They just don't see my real side / I act like s--t don't faze me / Inside it drives me crazy / My insecurities could eat me alive / But then I see my baby / Suddenly I'm not crazy / It all makes sense when I look into her eyes") and "My Dad's Gone Crazy."
The latter of which features 6-year-old Hailie's unforgettable "I think my dad's gone cray-zeh!" hook, which, Eminem told Rolling Stone in 2004, she came up with.
"If I feel like I'm working too much, I let the kids come up to the studio," he said, explaining how their collaboration came about. "I get this little guilt trip inside, so I would have Kim just bring her up and let her hang around the studio. So me and [Dr.] Dre were working together, and Hailie was running around the studio and she was like [in a little girl high voice], 'Somebody please help me! I think my dad's gone crazy!'"
"Instantly that locked in with a beat we'd made the day before," he continued. "I went to my house, and I had her go in the booth and say it. When she opens up, she's just like her dad in a lot of aspects. I just told her what to say and she nailed it, the first take. It almost was scary, to where I had to slow it down."
"I don't know if I wanna put her on any more songs. I don't wanna make her any more famous. She can live a life. She didn't choose to have her father become a rap star. Nor my niece, nor my brother. So they're able to go outside and live a normal life, go to stores and do things normally that I can't do. Which is why, a lot of times, certain things I can't be there for."
Eminem said he did not miss out on school-related activities, however, "even if I gotta deal with the craziness." The year before, he shared, he had even gone in to read two books to Hailie's class. "And the teachers are really good about telling the kids, 'When Hailie's dad comes in, he's Hailie's dad, Mr. Mathers.'"
But so much of his daughter-related lyrics reflect his fear of not being there for them, whether because he's on the road or, more often, because he's gone for good, a scenario he alludes to in 2017's "Arose": "Smile pretty for pictures, always cherish each other / I'll always love ya / And I'll be in the back of your memory / And I know you'll never forget me / Just don't get sad when remembering."
It makes sense then, that back in 2011, he told Rolling Stone that, to him, being a good father meant "just being there. Not missing things. If there's anything important going on, regardless of what it is, I'm there. Helping them with homework when you can. At the grades my older ones are in, it's hard." He added with a laugh, "I never even passed ninth grade. They're already way smarter than me." (He had since completed his GED.)
And it broke his heart whenever they couldn't be together, such as when he was hospitalized in 2007 following a methadone overdose.
"I think I'd been out for two days, and when I woke up, I didn't realize it was Christmas," Eminem told Rolling Stone. "So the first thing I wanted to do was call my kids. I wanted to get home, and show them that Dad's OK." It was "definitely" hard to miss the holiday, not to mention Hailie's Dec. 25 birthday. "Being a father, wanting to be there with your kids. It's not a fun thing to deal with."
On 2017's "Arose," the scene is a hospital bed as he thinks he's dying from an overdose, and he raps, "And it's your birthday, Jade / I'm missing your birthday / Baby girl, I'm sorry," a regret ripped right from reality.
With all the multi-platinum sales, prolific creative output and headlines about what he said out in the world and what people thought he was saying in his music, Eminem became one of the most influential and controversial artists of his era. But he struggled through the '00s, with his personal life, legal issues and a prescription pill addiction, which he kicked for good in 2008, marking 12 years of sobriety in 2020.
"To my babies, stay strong / Daddy'll be home soon," he rapped on "Beautiful," from 2009's Recovery.
Because throughout, it was only about staying alive so he could be there. Which he is, but that's not for anyone on the outside of the inner circle to see.
When Hailie graduated from high school with honors in 2014, in the school's commemoratory newsletter she named her mom and dad, Marshall and Kimberly Mathers, as the biggest influences in her life, "because they have pushed me to be the person I am and have given me all the support to achieve what I have."
And back at ya, kid.
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This story was originally published on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 3 a.m. PT.