Interview with Eminem
“I would ask Dre, ‘What do you think people wanna hear from me?’, and the best advice he gave me was, ‘People wanna hear you lose your fucking mind again’. I was like, ‘Okay’.” So began the sessions for Eminem’s brand new album 'Relapse' – his first new studio album since 2004.
“Ya know, I heard things like, ‘He should reinvent himself’, ‘He should come back completely different’, and I thought to myself, ‘No, I don’t, I just need to go back to what made me in the first place’,” Eminem says when we sit down together at a London studio to discuss his return to the recording studio and the public spotlight. The healthy-looking rapper is surprisingly candid - and surprisingly serious - throughout, referring to his recent battles with drug addiction and his loss of confidence. I asked him whether he was worried about his return, and whether he wondered whether he’d still be on the same page as his fans.
“Yeah… I mean there were several times where, within the break that I took, that I questioned myself. I didn’t know whether I still had it - the case of writer’s block that I had was pretty bad so I started to question myself, ‘Can I do it again?’.”
The writer’s block of which he speaks was a result of a number of things, including his over-exposure as a superstar, the death of his best friendProof (from band D-12), and his addiction to drugs – reportedly Vicodin, Ambien, Valium and methadone pills. The addiction resulted in the cancellation of international tours and sent the rapper into rehab, and kept him out of the recording studio.
“To make a long story short… I guess I wanted to step away from the spotlight for a while,” he admits. “I wanted to produce records, and I battled a pretty serious addiction problem … and I just wanted to re-assess and re-evaluate my life, and where I wanted to be in my career. I spent three or four years out of that time battling my drug addiction, and I’ve spent a little over a year sober, now.”
Following his recovery, back in the studio and working with Dre, Eminem began work on 'Relapse', which once again combines lampooning pop singles like 'We Made You' with morbid storytelling. This darker element can be heard on next single, '3AM', in which Eminem plays the role of a bloody serial killer.
Controversy goes hand-in-hand with Eminem and some critics are already up in arms about his new batch of lyrics. According to the rapper his songs are a product of both his sense of humour and the way he sees things. “It’s all of those – it’s sense of humor, it’s the way I think… it’s just all different sides. When I sit down to write there’s no formula that I go in and say I’m gonna make this kind of song, or I’m gonna talk about this – it’s kind of whatever the beat is telling me to do. Whatever I feel like the beat is saying, ya know what I mean?”
Surely he has to realise that his harshest critics will come after him saying that songs like '3AM' are ‘too’ dark, and that he has crossed the line again? “That’s great – I hope they do,” he shrugs.
As a lyricist, does he ever feel he can go too far? “I don’t think I can, no. And I certainly haven’t gone far enough yet. I’ve just begun – believe me when I say this,” he warns.
Eminem is equally unapologetic when it comes to his alter-ego, Slim Shady, who runs wild with a series of attacks on celebrities on the single 'We Made You'. “Well, the thing is, when I talk about all these other celebrities and things like that in my music, it’s not intended to be personal shots. These aren’t personal attacks on this person’s being. This is like picking names out of the air, or just picking names out of a hat. Their name rhymes with something I’m thinking about right at that moment, so it’s like, ‘Ooh, that’d be crazy right there’. And ya know what? They’re famous; they’re pop stars, so I guess they’re sitting ducks… so it is what it is, but it’s not meant to be personal attacks. Kim Kardashian said a couple of things publicly which were kinda cool to me because it’s like, she gets it. She’s not offended, she knows what it is.”
With plans to release a follow up to 'Relapse' later this year – already recorded with Dre – Eminem is firmly back on track, although he is still a little weary about overloading his commitments and planning a world tour. “I haven’t got that far yet… as far as touring and stuff like that I haven’t really even discussed it with anybody,” he says shaking his head. “I’m kinda just taking it a day at a time… my recovery and everything like that I’m taking a day at a time, so I’ll have to see what happens with these two albums,” he says, seemingly oblivious to the impressive reception fans and audiences are already giving 'Relapse'.