This was a GREAT Interview. Very insightful! Shout to Vibe.com for this piece:
EMINEM IS A 37-YEAR-OLD DAD who goes to work every day and has a fantasy football team. He is trying really hard to be normal. Of course it’s too late for that. His childhood was totally fucked. His drug addiction to a myriad of prescription pills and alcohol nearly killed him. He is incredibly talented—only guys like Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer know what it’s like to be that damn good at something. And once again, he stands alone as the biggest rap star in the world. In June, hisseventh studio album Recovery sold 741,000 copies during its first week. That’s more than Drake sold. That’s more than Jay-Z sold last time out. Hell, that’s more than even Justin Bieber sold. Some people were surprised. (1) Others were not. (2) Either way, it’s quite the comeback story.
Eminem points out several times on Recovery that his previous two albums, 2004’s Encore and 2009’s Relapse, were not very good. It helps that he is sober now and has been through some rigorous rehab. He has emerged from a personal hell—the drugs, the death of his best friend Proof, the failed marriage to his childhood sweetheart Kim—as a stronger artist and a stronger person.
We meet at his homely studio in Ferndale, Michigan, about a thirty-minute drive from downtown Detroit. He walks past the row of old school 1980’s video games and introduces himself with a firm handshake. “Hi, I’m Marshall.” From there, it’s over to his office where he takes a swig of sugar free Red Bull. “I’m addicted to these,” he says without a hint of irony at the poor choice of words.
He wears blue-and-white Nike sneakers, a white T-shirt, navy blue gym shorts and a matching navy Kangol baseball cap. Eminem rarely makes eye contact. He is, however, articulate and commanding. He also frequently lassos the conversation and steers it back into his comfort zone, which makes him a challenging interview. On the song “On Fire,” Eminem says, “Critics never ask me how my day went.” It’s a simple request. He will give you what you want. After all, his life was always an open book. He knows he’s a star. He just wants you to know he’s also human. He wants to be treated like a regular person. God help him with that.
VIBE: How’s your day going?
Eminem: Good. I’m just coming back from L.A. It’s the album cycle again.
Are you doing more publicity than last year?
Yeah, I am. I was taking baby steps. I was in my first year of getting clean so it was a little awkward for me.
Upon telling a friend about this interview he said, “Eminem hasn’t done shit since The Eminem Show.” Do you agree?
I do feel like that. The last couple of albums I let some people down. It wasn’t like, “Let me put some bullshit out.” At the time, obviously I felt like it was the best I could do or else I wouldn’t have put it out. But looking back on it now, there was some pretty mediocre things that I was putting out. (3) When I was making Encore, my addiction took on a life of its own. I remember going to L.A., recording with Dre and being in the studio high, taking too many pills, getting in this slap-happy mood and making songs like “Big Weenie” and “Rain Man” and “Ass Like That.”
What did Dr. Dre say about those records?
He would just laugh. He didn’t understand what was going on. Nobody understood what was going on with me or why I was acting so fucking goofy.
Did Interscope pressure you to finish Encore and Relapse? Were they telling you, “We need the album. We need product?”
No. Interscope, Dre and Jimmy, they kind of let me work at my own pace, which is a cool thing. I don’t really get the pressure. Every now and then, I’m sure they are like, “Yo, what’s up?” But for the most part, I pretty much don’t put it out till it’s right.
You seem very self-assured on Recovery. Is this the most confident you’ve ever felt? Not as a rapper, but as a person.
As a person, yeah. I feel stronger than ever, better than ever, nothing is going to stop me. That is the undertone of the record. It’s also; I think that, um, by me putting out a record like this, it can show people that no matter how down you are, it does get better. (4)
So this is an uplifting Eminem record?
I, um, yeah, kind of. To an extent. This is probably the most uplifting record I’ve made. But I don’t want to go too far with it. You know what I mean? So let me pull it back a little so I have some songs where it’s like, “Fuck all that other shit, let me just get on some hip-hop shit.”
After the last two mediocre albums, Recovery was vital for your legacy. How important is it to you to be mentioned as one of the greats, if not the greatest?
How important is it? I think, hmmm. I mean, anytime you hear things like that (5), it’s certainly an honor and feels good but I don’t rap to be the absolute best rapper in the world because I think there is no such thing. I rap to be the best that I can be. I feel like I compete with myself a lot and I’m always trying to top what I did. I think Wayne once said, “Of course you are rapping to be the best rapper. Because otherwise, why are you doing it?” So everyone raps to say they are the best or to be the best or whatever. I don’t even know if I’m making any sense. It’s what hip-hop is based on: “I’m better than you. I do this better than you.” At the end of the day, I don’t believe that there is one rapper that can be the best because that means you have to be the best at everything. There are certain things that I may do better than Wayne. There are certain things that Wayne may do better than me. There are certain things that Jay may do better than both of us. Everybody has certain things that they are good at. Being the best? There is no such thing.
Let’s discuss the opening lines on “Talkin’ 2 Myself.”(6) Did you just decide one day that you would attack Kanye and Lil Wayne?
Well, it wasn’t one day. And it wasn’t just them. The reason why I singled them out on the record was because to me, they were the ones killing it the most. There was a point in time where I was walking around the studio feeling like I should go at everybody. I don’t give a fuck if it’s Paul Wall or Bubba Sparxxx. If you’re out there and doing well, I’m not and I know that I’m not. I didn’t like them because I didn’t like myself. Now, I like those guys because I like myself.
You also said that if you released a diss record it would have sucked. (7) C’mon, really?
It would have been terrible. It would have been terrible. I’m certainly glad I came to my senses. [At the time], I couldn’t even write a fucking punch line. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t write period.
At the time—2006, 2007—50 Cent was baiting Kanye and Lil Wayne. Did you guys talk about that?
Me and 50 never discussed the Wayne thing. As far as the Kanye thing, we never really got into detail on that either. I never took it as him having a real beef with Kanye. It was a friendly competition and hype to [promote] both albums.
You had so many battles. Do you regret anything you’ve ever said about anyone?
I don’t really regret anything because it was certainly the way I was feeling at the time. I’m sure that a lot of the shit went pretty far out there but it’s my art, man.
I think the coldest thing you ever rhymed was directed at Everlast. (8)
Yeah, me and Everlast had a pretty good beef going back then. We’ve squashed it now but yeah we were going after each other for a while. I was a hell of a lot angrier person back them. [Laughs.] My mentality was just [sic] everybody. It may even be rooted in the way I was treated growing up. It might be psychological.
What was the best thing someone said about you? Was there ever a hot Eminem diss?
Um, no. [Laughs.] Nah, I’m kidding. Shit, there was a couple of lines Everlast said like, “You ain’t running up on me with no empty gun.” I know there is a lot of shit that I would have said about me.
Just like that scene in 8 Mile?
Yeah. Which is why I chose a lot of times to make fun of myself. If you’re not going to say this about me, I’m going to say it about myself. There are a lot of things I can say about me that would destroy me.
Offhand, I can’t think of it, but going into those battles and beefs, I remember thinking, “If he says something about this, I’m going to kill this motherfucker.” At the end of the day, it’s just words. Looking back, at the point I’m at with my life, I’m glad to be out of them because I’m not about that anymore.
Last summer you released a record going at Mariah Carey. Why even bother?
You know what? I got to be honest. I really don’t want to talk about her anymore only just because it’s kind of like the last thing I said about her was on “Cold Wind Blows.” I made the comment. (9) I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse. I’m not even going to comment about it. I’m done with that whole situation. I said what I had to say. I’m done.
Why are there barely any mentions of your mom, your ex-wife and your kids on Recovery?
It’s kind of where I’m at in my life. I also want to make a record without having to talk about these three things. Also, my kids are growing up, they have their own lives, and so I have to be careful about what I say. On “[Going Through] Changes,” I said (10) what I wanted to say about the whole situation and the rest is my own private, personal business, which is, you know, kind of my privilege.
Why is there no jokey first single?
About halfway through recording the record, I was probably thinking, one of those kind of singles isn’t going to make sense. It’s one of them things man . . . [I’ve] grown up so much just in the last couple of years since I’ve been sober. Relapse didn’t reflect that [or] where I really am mentally. (11)
was waiting for the first single’s video. I had visions of you dressed up like Tiger Woods and surrounded by porn stars.
Which would have been so predictable.
You do target another celebrity though. Ben Roethlisberger gets it bad on “Almost Famous.” (12) What are your thoughts on his situation?
That’s a tricky one. I don’t have any thoughts on it. To be honest, I don’t have an opinion whether he did it or didn’t. I do know that he certainly puts himself in bad positions. It was a hot topic. And that’s kind of what I’ve done for my whole career—take hot topics and talk about them. Although it may sound like a personal stab, it wasn’t like, “I’m out to get this guy.” If I was out to do that, I would have elaborated on it more. It’s just how I wanted to start the song. First of all, I’m not defending him but he’s a fucking great quarterback and it’s a shame that something like this would happen or he would allow it to happen or he would put himself in these situations where he would allow it to happen.
Do you think people overlook your artistry because you are a provocateur?
Maybe sometimes in the past. I think that sometimes people just never took it for what it was. A lot of times people tried to find deeper meanings in shit. I think a lot of people early on didn’t understand the fact that I was doing it to try and piss you off.
Did you think those critics were stupid?
I was thinking that a lot. It was funny to sit back and watch what a stink I’m making because I never knew I could make a stink in this world. Little old Marshall, like, “How the fuck could I do this?”
Other critics called you the voice of a generation. Did you buy into that?
I don’t know. I’m trying to think how I felt back then. It’s so weird man. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole but things were moving so fast for me that I don’t know if I took time to stop and feel or be able to assess what was going on around me. I just remember moving so fast. It was way too big back then for me to actually grasp what was happening. You know what?
I got to use the bathroom.
[Two minutes later.] On Recovery, you mention “the perfect verse” several times. What’s the closest you’ve come?
Every verse that I put out on this album. And by perfect, I don’t mean the best verse ever. I mean that I got it to where it’s good enough for me. There will be shit that two years from now, I will think I could have said better. I always feel like I can do shit better. If this album isn’t better than my last one, then why am I doing it? Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I have in this game. I’m always going to love hip-hop. But how much longer am I going to still do it? I couldn’t really give you an answer. But the day that this is not better than the last will probably be the day I stop.
You sure don’t need the money. Well, I hope you don’t need the money.
I hope so too. Shit.
I can’t picture you quitting because you seem to really love hip-hop.
I do love it so much. But even if I was rapping at 50 [years old], I don’t know if I would put it out. I know it always makes me feel better to lay things to tape, and—“Lay the tape.” See, I’m old school. The fans might say the shit is garbage. You don’t how long people are going to want you around . . . Realistically, if I don’t rap, what the fuck am I going to do? It’s too late to just be unfamous right now at this point.
Do you go out more in public?
In public? As far as doing regular things? I think I do. (13) I go out more than in the five-year period that I was using.
Do you consider yourself normal?
Normal by whose standards?
I don’t consider myself a star. Obviously, I know I’m a celebrity but I don’t look at myself in that light. I’m just me, man. It’s one of the reasons that I stay here [in Detroit]. I don’t want the attention. I don’t like the attention. I don’t like all that shit. Yes, I love the respect and the admiration that some people show me but I don’t thrive off that whole thing. I just want to be regular.
What were your thoughts when you heard that your 8 Mile co-star Brittany Murphy had passed?
It was crazy. It’s crazy. It’s crazy because at one point we were very close and she was a really good person. It’s crazy when you see things not just with her but just all these things that are happening in Hollywood with people in music, with people in acting . . .
. . . famous people.
Famous people. Famous people are overdosing at alarming rates and—that almost sounded like a commercial. Wow.
It sounded like a Sally Struthers commercial. “Please give to this charity.”
Right. But they are. And it’s one of those things man where you’re famous, doctors will kiss your ass because they love the celebrity. “Oh, I can call up Eminem and get him on the phone right now. Oh, hi Marshall, how are you doing? Do you need that [prescription]?” There are doctors that will give you certain things just because of who you are.
That is mind-boggling.
That is fucked up. You tell them what you need. You don’t need to go in and see them. They will just write you a [prescription] because they want that connection with you.
Do you think about your own death?
Yeah, I do. A lot. I think about it a lot. I try not to think about it, but I do and it creeps me the fuck out. It creeps me out because they say that if I got to the hospital two hours later then I would be gone. I think about that a lot. When I lay in bed at night is when I think about it the most. It creeps me out man.
A cynic would say that your story is depressing. It seems you have everything—fame, fortune, respect, talent—yet life still manages to kick you in the ass.
If you would look at it from a pessimist’s point of view, you can look at it like that. Yeah, life does seem to find a way to kick me in the ass but at the same time, I try not to look at it like that anymore. I stopped carrying around my fucking woes and started counting my blessings. I’ve got so much to be thankful for. I’ve got so much to live for.