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Eminem Interviews

Strength in Numbers

Date: 2001
Source: Times Pop Music Critic Date

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Eminem declined to talk about the legal issues in his life, citing the advice of his attorneys. Despite the confrontational image, Eminem (whose real name is Marshall Mathers III) was thoughtful and polite as he was joined by D12 colleague Proof (Deshaun Holton) in talking about the tensions of the last year.

Question:
How did you come out of the last year? Did the success give you strength, or did the controversy leave you drained?

Eminem:
You feel a little bit of both. It's not like you are going to get all "yeas." You know you are going to get some "nays." But it was like the parents were all freaking out, "This music is going to. . . ." But then the kids were going, "Mom, Dad, relax. I'm just listening to the music. I'm not killing everybody."

Question:
Did you really think you might go to jail?

Eminem:
You can ask these guys D12, I was walking around saying, "I'm going to jail, I'm going to jail." It's been stressful . . . , something that has been hanging over my head for a long time. There's still another case, but it was like a real burden was lifted when the first probation order came down. That's one thing you learn from something like this . . . , the value of friends. It's something we tell each other every day. . . . No matter where this road takes us or whatever, we're friends before anything.

Question:
Let's talk about the language in your music. Were you surprised by the GLAAD criticism?

Eminem:
I don't want to get into another argument with them, but you can't take a line out of my song and put it in the paper out of context. It's not fair. You have to listen to the album as a whole. One of the things I'm saying in "Marshall Mathers" is, "Look, I'm a product of what you made me." Many rappers have done that. Ice Cube, for one. In the song "Criminal," I spell it out when I say, "Half the expletive I say I make it up to make you mad."

Proof:
We're just looking at the world. We're not inventing anything.

Question:
But do you ever worry that they may be right--that the music may encourage people to pick on kids who are different?

Eminem:
I've said many times that I know what it's like to get picked on and bullied because you're new and you're different and you act different. I think most people understood what I was doing in the music.

Question:
What's the story behind the D12 album? Do you worry at all about overexposure after all the success of last year?

Eminem:
There was like a personal agreement we made when we first got together years ago in Detroit--if any of us made it, we'd bring the others along and do something together. Everyone thought Proof would be the one to make it. He was the always the host at the Hip-Hop Shop, where we all hung out in Detroit. He later had deals on the table with Tommy Boy and other labels when, out of the blue, Dr. Dre heard my stuff and I became the one.

Question:
Proof, did you have any worry that Eminem would get so caught up with his own career that he'd forget about you guys?

Proof:
Never, nothing's changed between us. We still go to Burger King and Taco Bells and wear Nikes. I knew we'd make an album together. The whole idea of D12 was to bring the freshest, best MCs in Detroit together in one group, a supergroup thing.

Eminem:
Besides, I'm not the first guy in hip-hop to bring his boys along. Anybody with a good heart is going to do that. Nelly is putting all his boys on a record. When you dream to be a rap superstar and you finally do become one, it's like you owe that to your buddies.

Question:
What was it like working as part of D12 instead of doing a solo album?

Eminem:
It was fun. I love doing the music, sitting around in the studio, especially with these guys, because it takes a lot of the burden off me. I no longer have to sit there and write the whole song. Sometimes I just write a hook, and then they finish. On some tracks, I was just the producer.

Question:
Are you surprised that your music appeals to such a wide age group? Did you ever think kids 8 and 10 would be listening to the stuff?

Eminem:
That has always stumped me, but it's odd how you hear about people always complaining and you see parents on TV say, "My son listens to that music, and it's horrible. "Well, I meet parents all the time that don't seem to have a problem with it. They'll come up to me with their 6-year-old who wants an autograph.

Question:
Do you have a target audience in mind when you write something? Do you picture a 10-year-old or 20-year-old, or do you just write for yourself?

Eminem:
We just want to make the music dope. If we like it, we know there's a lot of other people out there that'll like it. That's the only thing we go by.

Question:
What about the movie? Is it going to be a comedy or a serious film?

Eminem:
It's a serious film, pretty emotional, but it's only based loosely on my life. I don't play Marshall in the movie. I play somebody different, but still a white rapper trying to come up and do rap music.

Question:
Did you think you had a chance to win the best album Grammy that went to Steely Dan?

Eminem:
Do I think I should have won in the prestigious best album category? Maybe. But I didn't think I would win. There's no way they could have given it to me too. But I didn't get into this rap game to win trophies. I do it to please myself and my fans, and make a better life for Hailie his 5-year-old daughter.

Question:
Looking ahead, what did you learn from the confrontations in Detroit about your own conduct?

Eminem:
Well, I'm not supposed to go there. . . .

Question:
Proof, how would you answer that question? What do you think you've learned in the last year or so?

Proof:
There was a time when the only thing we knew was to react to things the same way we did as kids. If someone attacks you, you attack back. But we know now that we have to show more control. You can't just go around like you're 15 forever. There are consequences, and you don't want to throw away everything you've worked so hard for.

   
           
   


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