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Eminem Interviews

Eminem: "I Am All That Evil Stands For"

Date: June 13.2002
Source: VH1

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Yup, he claims to be evil, evil, evil. But in conversation America's Public Enemy No. 1 turns out to be thoughtful and only a little contradictory. He'd prefer it if the music did the talking . and the hacking . and the slashing, and vicious

denigrating. Em told VH1 how The Marshall Mathers LP was born of his frustrations with success, why there are some songs he won't let his daughter hear, and why saying, "Figgedty, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck" is ultimately a pointless exercise.

VH1: Why do you think that people misunderstood or misperceived your work on The Marshall Mathers LP?

Eminem: What I was saying wasn't very different than what N.W.A. or Ice-T had said. My problem was that people acted like I was the first one to say those things. A lot of my sh*t was so blatantly comic, how could you take it seriously? With The Marshall Mathers LP I brought it to a different level: If this is how you perceive me, then this is what I'm gonna be.

VH1: Did The Slim Shady LP's success change your direction at all?

Eminem: People said, "Well, he's got money now. What's he going to rap about? He's not going through hard times." But when you get successful, you have new types of problems, new types of drama. Everybody knows what I went through as far as family dilemmas and things like that. I wasn't used to people looking at me like I was an animal in a cage. I'd go back to the same places and play basketball and people would look at me like I wasn't Marshall anymore. It would be like, "Look! It's Eminem on the court." I'd say, "Dude, you know me. Pass me the f*cking ball and shut up." That was weird at first. So I wrote about it.

VH1: What was your goal in making The Marshall Mathers LP?

Eminem: My intent was the same as it's always been. I wanted to answer what people were saying about me, but when I answered, people ignored songs like "Stan" and "Who Knew?" They missed the real message and zoomed in on the bad sh*t. It didn't matter if I said six f*cked-up lines in a row about raping or killing and came back with, "I'm kidding. Don't do this." It was almost like, "He just rapped about killing and faggots and that's all he said." I could understand if I just said all those things and just left it at that, but I was using irony and keeping my tongue in my cheek. Anybody with half a brain should be able to listen to it and understand that I'm pushing your buttons.

VH1: Do you enjoy telling off people, especially ones who don't like you?

Eminem: I love it. That's the best thing about this business. If I was a regular person and somebody taunted me, I would taunt them back. So many people judge me that I have to throw it back at everybody. I'm not going to let anybody get the last word. I have to outsmart everyone or I lose.

VH1: How did you pick "The Real Slim Shady" as the first single?

Eminem: We had the whole album finished, but didn't feel like we had anything that was strong enough to be a first single yet. I felt like I had dumped everything out into the album, so when I was pressured to write a single, I wrote "The Way I Am." It was me saying, "Look, this is the best I can do. I can't give you another 'My Name Is.' I can't just sit in there and make that magic happen." But when that was added to the album, I thought, "I got one more song in me." I brought this hook to Dr. Dre, we made the track and I took it home and wrote the lyrics. I thought this could be it. After I heard "My Name Is" a few times, it had become cheesy to me. After listening to "The Real Slim Shady" five or six times, it became cheesy, too. I thought, "This is the formula! If this song becomes cheesy to me after a little bit, it might work." The songs that I love the most usually don't end up being singles. When I'm at my best is when I'm dumping my true feelings out, not when I'm being funny.

VH1: On "The Real Slim Shady," you alluded to being censored.

Eminem: There are certain things that I can't say. I don't usually know it until Interscope says, "You can't say that, because those things may get your album off the shelf." Marshall wants to push buttons but Marshall doesn't want to get his album taken off the shelf. So sometimes we compromise. I either change what I'm saying, take it out or bleep it. Sometimes it's unchangeable and we need to completely take the song off the album. So Marshall doesn't get to say everything that Marshall wants to say, contrary to what people may believe. You would really f*cking hate me if I got to say everything I wanted to say. Freedom of expression can only go so far before you have Miss Cheney knocking at your f*cking door or some guys in black suits and sunglasses whisk me away in a van and you never see me again.

VH1: Do you worry about going too far?

Eminem: If it isn't dope, then I won't say it. I don't go out of my way to deliberately push buttons if it's not entertaining and isn't worded in a clever way. I'm not going to say, "Figgedty f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, flim-flam, f*ck" for no reason - although that's a good line - because it would be pointless. It would be overkill and it wouldn't even be fun to me.

VH1: On "The Way I Am," you mention your father. Why bring him up at that particular point?

Eminem: My father was absent in my life. When I look at my little girl, I know I could never abandon her. I can't see how a father would do that. The line "Sometimes I just feel like my father/I hate to be bothered/my father didn't want to be bothered with me" was spoken as a metaphor, but it was true. But we shouldn't get into analyzing lyrics. Why can't you just put my record on and let it explain itself? Why do I have to sit here and talk about myself and about what I was thinking when I wrote each lyric? If you listen to the lyric, you can tell what I'm thinking. If you play my records front to back, they will tell a story because I set them up as one big story. I really don't like to sit and talk about why I wrote this or how I did that.

VH1: Is there a connection between the song "Stan" and the character Stan in "Guilty Conscience" on The Slim Shady LP?

Eminem: No. Stan was just somebody completely made up, based on what could happen if you take my lyrics too seriously. I'm nice enough and courteous enough to tell the kids at the end of the day this is not how you want to be. You don't want to grow up to be just like me. When I say, "Jump off a f*cking bridge or slit your wrists," that's not what I'm really trying to say. It's tongue in cheek.

VH1: What are you trying to say?

Eminem: I don't know what I'm trying to say. I just talk in circles. That's how I make my albums, talking in circles.

VH1: How did you hook up with the 45 King on "Stan?"

Eminem: People were submitting tracks for me to listen to as I was recording. My manager Paul Rosenberg sent me a 45 King beat tape. "Stan" was the second beat on the tape. I heard it and was like, "I need this." When I heard the words to that song, I was like, "Yo, this is an obsessed fan." Dido's words instantly put me there. Usually as I'm writing, the concept will form as I go along. But "Stan" was one of the few songs that I actually sat down and had everything mapped out for. I knew what it was going to be about.

VH1: Why were you interested in celebrity stalkers?

Eminem: Anybody who lives and breathes for an artist in music or movies is taking it too far. They probably have something mentally wrong with them to begin with. It's going to make them do something f*cked up. That's basically what I was trying to say. "Don't take everything that I say literally" - I hate saying that because I want people to take everything I say literally, because I'm evil and I am all that evil stands for. There is a positive message in my music and it's "F*ck you." That's the message that I'm trying to get across. Basically what I'm trying to say is, "If you don't like me, eat my white d*ck"

VH1: How are you going to explain "Kim" to your daughter Hailie?

Eminem: I've never played that song for her. That's one song that I won't play for her because it might give her nightmares. But there is going to come a time when if she hears that song, she may ask questions. I have to cross that bridge when I come to it. There are certain things I won't do in front of my daughter or let her know about. I just let her hear most of the "f*ckety f*cks."

VH1: What did you think when you sold 1.7 million copies in the first week?

Eminem: There was talk at the label that I could be the first rapper to sell a million records in the first week. My first thought was, "Holy sh*t! I'm going to be Elvis!" But I was scared to death. I wanted to be successful, but before anything, I want respect. When it became 1.7 million in the first week, I thought, "This isn't real. This is not how you sell records." Am I a f*cking trend? I wanted to be normal. I wanted to take my little girl to the park and not be bothered. But I guess those are things you got to sacrifice for fame and fortune.

VH1: What do you think The Marshall Mathers LP's success meant for rap?

Eminem: If I was phony with it and I blew the doors off the hinges, it would mean nothing. It would mean I was another Vanilla Ice. But the fact that I am real showed that you can be true to yourself and not compromise and still be successful. Aside from watching my daughter grow, my ultimate dream is to be successful at what I do, be respected and help the music that I love and grew up on.

VH1: What about the album cover? Where was that shot taken?

Eminem: That was the house that I grew up in my teenage years. One day I dreamt of being able to go back to that house and remember everything that I went through. I thought, "What if I did the cover at my old house sitting on the steps like I used to do?" That would be so crazy to me. We did it and I guess I made my house famous.

VH1: What did it make you feel?

Eminem: The guy who lives there now let me in and let me see the house. I had mixed feelings because I had a lot of good and bad memories in that house. But to go back to where I grew up and finally say, "I've made it," is the greatest feeling in the world to me.


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