Eminem Punishes the Cover of XXL
Eminem is looking extra dangerous on the cover of XXL, as he opens up about his life, career and comeback. Below you can catch a huge expert of the June 2009 issue.
Continue ReadingEminem Punishes the Cover of XXL
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Marshall Mathers returns to his favorite magazine to speak out on freedom of speech, satire, race, music, Michael Jackson and the President. Pay attention, homie!
In the waiting area of 54 Sound, a state-of-the-art recording studio tucked away on a typically nondescript stretch of Detroit’s 9 Mile Road, a scenario is unfolding that few hip-hop fans could ever imagine: Eminem—rap’s contentious king of pain, the pale poster boy of beef, Mr. Anger Management himself—is in the midst of being served a barrage of snaps courtesy of a fellow entertainer. And... miraculously, he isn’t losing it. In fact, he’s laughing his ass off.
“[Eminem] should lighten up,” quips Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the infamously acerbic canine hand puppet from Late Night With Conan O’Brien, on a flat-screen TV across the room. “I mean, my mom was a bitch too, but I don’t go writing songs about it!”
Slouched in a black armchair, sipping on a 7-11 Big Gulp, the bespectacled Em LOLs like it ain’t no thing as the dog pounds his public persona. A crew of handlers chuckles along.
“But I’ll leave Eminem alone,” Triumph says with mock sensitivity before adding a final punch line. “He’s just a guy trying to make an honest living… ripping off Black culture!”
The room erupts in laughter, Em’s guffaws audibly trailing off last. Maybe at some other point in the rap superstar’s notoriously combative past, such barbs would’ve elicited a less laid-back response. But somehow this peculiar scene seems completely appropriate here and now. Having just turned 32, Eminem might finally be mature enough to take a joke at his own expense. Yet he’s still juvenile enough to enjoy the crude rants of a dog-puppet character with a funny accent. (Whereas, upon meeting him at the 2002 MTV VMAs, he shoved poor Triumph—and comedian-creator Robert Smigel—out of his way.)
For more on the dichotomy of Em look no further than the blond bomber’s new album, Encore, an exemplary effort despite the fact that the serious-minded Marshall Mathers side and sillier-than-ever Slim Shady seem to be drifting further and further apart. On the one hand, damn-near-cinematic narratives such as “Yellow Brick Road” and “Like Toy Soldiers” address last year’s controversies involving race and beef with insight and masterful storytelling skills. On the other, thoroughly bugged-out numbers like “Rain Man,” “Big Weenie” and “Ass Like That” find him avoiding serious content altogether, playfully experimenting with off-the-wall flows and random word associations with the giddiness of a kid trying out new toys on Christmas morning. For every “Mosh,” the noble anti-Bush bash designed to mobilize young voters and inspire a complacent hip-hop nation, there’s a “Just Lose It,” the LP’s predictably pop-friendly lead single sure to irritate staunch hip-hop heads as easily as it pleases the masses and moves their asses.
Speaking of “Just Lose It,” there is a high probability that you, dear reader, are aware of the brouhaha said single set off with another oft-troubled mega-star who once repped for Motown. Taking issue with the satirical portrayal of himself in the song’s video, Michael Jackson cried foul in print and over the airwaves this past October, and a number of public figures (BET’s Robert Johnson, comedian Steve Harvey, etc.) came to his side in support. Also among the MJ sympathizers, The Source magazine’s publisher David Mays and CEO Raymond “Benzino” Scott reiterated past charges that Eminem has made “a mockery” of hip-hop, and (unsuccessfully) called for him to scrap the song and publicly apologize to the King of Pop (thus, once again putting XXL in the uncomfortable position of reporting on a story that directly involves our competition).
Three days after Dubya recaptured the White House for four more years, Eminem took a few moments between screenings of Triumph’s greatest hits and his extensive production work on the latest posthumous 2Pac LP, Loyal To The Game (a project he describes as “a dream come true”), to discuss the latest batch of issues that have arisen in Encore’s wake.
XXL: With your more recent records, it seems like your producing is influencing your vocals. You’re experimenting with different cadences, rhyming in melody more than ever. Is that something you’re doing consciously?
Eminem: Um, well it kind of goes back to just my ear. I seen a quote recently from Nelly where he said that there’s rappers that stay on top of the beat, there’s rappers that stay behind the beat and he wants to be inside the beat. And that would be the best way to describe it. I mean, I don’t think me and Nelly, stylistically, are similar at all. But I would definitely agree with that quote that he gave, because that’s the same way I feel as far as just wanting to be inside the beat, just hearing the melody and locking into the rhythm. Whatever the bass line is doing, whatever the drums are doing, I want to sink right into that. On TheMarshall Mathers LP I got a little better at riding beats, like staying on top of them. But on The Eminem Show I started riding the hi-hat instead of the snare or the bass drum, like with “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” Every time I do a new song, it’s like I’m learning a new trick.
There are certain songs on this album where you seem to be more intent on having fun with flows and placing less emphasis on content. Does it ever concern you that this could come at the expense of your lyrics?
I always concentrate on lyricism, whether I’m trying to make a point or I’m just buggin’ out. A song like “Toy Soldiers” has an eight-bar drum loop that sounds like marching-band drums. I took it home and I studied the pattern that it was doing. I wrote the rhyme right to it. Just memorized the pattern and learned it by heart. I tried to make every word hit on the kicks and the snares.
It’ll usually start out, when I first start making the record, that the first five, six or seven songs will be dark, like real emotional. And then, usually at the tail end, I get in with Dre, and that’s when I start making the crazy shit. His beats do something to me. They just inspire me to say bugged-out shit. When I hear his beats, I swear his beats talk to me. So the melody, there’s no trick to it. It sounds like his beats are saying it.
Dre produced “Just Lose It,” which was one of the last songs you did for this record, correct?
Yup, it was the last song. We kinda felt like I didn’t have a first single yet with the stuff that I did here in Detroit. So [Dre and I] went down to a studio in Florida and we just banged out the rest of the album.
You obviously put a lot of care into what you do, but I feel like your personal stuff is always more compelling than the radio singles.
I feel that way too.
When I hear “Just Lose It,” I can understand why regular people like it. But it’s not the song off this album that’s going to speak to me as a hip-hop listener.
There’s a certain level where you gotta follow a happy medium. I’m not gonna put out anything that I don’t like or I don’t stand behind, but that was just another fun song. “Mosh” was the only really serious song, with a serious mood and message, that came out of that group of songs that we did [in Florida]. But you got a whole album you want to bring people to. You want as many people to hear it as possible. So if those are the tricks you gotta do to get the people to hear it, and bring them to your album…
Rap is usually based on first-week sales. Your biggest week has gotta be your first week, and then it kinda just starts declining after that. So you gotta hit ’em out the box with a single. And every now and then it doesn’t have to be a “Just Lose It” or a “Real Slim Shady.” [8 Mile’s] “Lose Yourself” came out the box and was not one of them songs that was a cheeseball—you know what I’m sayin’, meant-to-be-fun song or something like that.
But can’t you take the chance of not going for that sort of single at this point? It seems like you’ve reached a level of success where you could put out a street single that’s also your commercial single, say like a Nas “Made You Look.”
Well, you know, we had discussions about that—me and Dre. And it’s not just me running that food chain. It’s not just me always calling the shots. I’m not always necessarily my own boss, so to speak. Between me, the label and Dre it’s got to be a mutual decision. Is this gonna make a big enough impact? Do we come out with this right out the jump, come out so serious and dark to where people don’t even know that the album’s out because it ain’t getting played on radio? Do you roll the dice like that? Or do you take a song like “Just Lose It” and throw it out there for the kids and for the clubs, and know that you got something like “Mosh” to follow up behind to say, This is what I want to say, this is my message? I got you to listen to me, I got your ears open. Now, here’s my song that’s gonna make a statement. Because “Just Lose It” ain’t really about nothing. Sometimes I get in them slaphappy moods where I just say anything.
What are your reflections on this whole Michael Jackson situation? It kind of came and went in a way, but some people did come out against you.
Well, I didn’t really think too much about it. I thought it was blown way out of proportion. I mean, there’s a line in there: “That’s not a stab at Michael/That’s just a metaphor/I’m just psycho”—basically [explaining] that I’ll say anything. That’s Slim Shady talking. But people don’t look at it like that a lot of times. [When we shot the video] we started trying to think of ’80s pop icons I could dress up as—obviously Michael being one of ’em, and Madonna—which is not the most enjoyable thing to do [laughs]. But you wanna get people’s goat, and you wanna make people laugh and all that shit.
Hey, you did it for Michigan.
[Laughs] Yeah… no doubt! I guess [Michael’s] very sensitive and he probably felt like he got it the worst. We pretty much thought it was equaled out throughout the video. I’m doing MC Hammer moves, the Pee Wee Herman thing. Obviously, this is a joke.