FEATURE: Eminem, Hard To Kill

Photography Perou

Photography Perou

It’s felt sort of empty without him, hasn’t it? One of the biggest superstars on the planet, EMINEM has been on a three-year hiatus, dealing with some awfully heavy personal issues. He’s back now, though.

And up to his old tricks. Sick. But healthier than ever. Tucked away in the VIP room of Morton’s steak house in downtown Cleveland, Eminem sits at the head of a long, 12-seat dinner table, looking more like a high school baseball shortstop than a multimillionaire don of the hip-hop world. He’s rocking a white Jordan fitted cap to the back, with a platinum cross dangling atop a wrinkled white T-shirt, black sweats, and Nike Air Max on the feet. Along with his longtime manager and partner, Paul Rosenberg, D12 producer Denaun Porter, and an eight-member team of label support, assistants and security, the 36-year-old rap star is watching Michigan State handle Connecticut in an NCAA Final Four game, which is playing on a huge flat-screen hanging on the mahogany walls. Repping Detroit harder (and more successfully) than General Motors, the crew oohs and aahs and screams at every basket, urging the Spartans to victory. Em cracks jokes about his publicist peeing on people in a riot back in the days. (Never happened.) But just as everything seems dorm-roomish and festive, word comes down. “Let’s roll. Em has to be there now.”

That’s a sentiment no doubt shared by millions of fans worldwide. One of hip-hop’s biggest-selling artists ever (his 34 million total domestic album sales ranks second only to Tupac), Eminem has been mostly MIA for the past three years. After an aborted European tour in summer 2005, the troubled icon ducked out of the spotlight to deal with a growing drug problem—one exacerbated, the next year, by the failure of his second marriage to Kimberly Scott, and even more by the loss of his best friend and rap partner, Proof, who died in a tragic, and still somewhat hazy, shooting incident in a bar on the very 8 Mile Road that Em has made so famous.

But he’s back. This spring marks the release of his sixth solo album, Relapse, the first of two on tap for the year. Judging from a quick listen to the setup singles “Crack a Bottle” (with fellow Interscope Records pillars Dr. Dre and 50 Cent) and “We Made You,” and a few select unreleased tracks, it’s pretty clear that rap’s nimble-tongued clown prince wants to reclaim his throne. With an emphasis on the cartoony, TV-steeped ultraviolence that rocketed him to fame 10 years ago, Em’s rapping in his Slim Shady guise, with a nod to his favorite Marvel comic-book hero, the trigger-happy vigilante Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher. “The Punisher just seemed appropriate for my return to the scene,” he says. “Shady with a vengeance!” Everyone feels the wrath—from horror-flick serial killers, like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, to train-wreck starlets, like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, to failed vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In the video for the first single, “We Made You,” Kim Kardashian gets the wood-chipper treatment.

But tonight there’s more serious business to attend to. It’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 24th annual induction ceremony, and the blue-eyed, formerly golden-haired god of hip-hop’s modern era will be introducing the greatest group from hip-hop’s early years, Run-DMC, before they take the stage and receive their prestigious due. Fresh from Morton’s, backstage at the museum’s performance hall, crumpled-up, handwritten speech tight in his fist, Em paces the small dressing room right next to the one occupied by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. “I’m about to rock this shit!” he says, goofing on his own nervous energy, as a black leather coat arrives for him to wear. “I don’t know what I’m about to rock, but I’m about to do it! I’ma, ummm, rock this speech!”

He hops up, dons the coat and a matching Run-DMC–style fedora, takes the walkway to the stage and busts a b-boy stance at the podium. The audience leaps to its feet. The place goes crazy. Somebody screams “It’s Eminem! He’s back!”

Where have you been? It seems like a whole generation of hip-hop has gone in the time that you’ve been away.

Yeah, well, there were a few things that played into that factor. First of all, I went for seven years straight and never took a break. It got to the point where I felt like I needed to pull back. After the last tour, the Anger Management 3, as everybody knows, I went into rehab for a drug problem that, honestly, didn’t get better when I went into rehab. I wasn’t ready to go into rehab. I felt that, at the time, everyone else was ready for me to go. And I wasn’t ready.

You weren’t ready mentally?

I wasn’t ready mentally. I wasn’t ready to give up the drugs. I didn’t really think I had a problem. Basically, I went in, and I came out. I relapsed, and I spent the next three years struggling with it. Also, at that time, I felt like I wanted to pull back, because my drug problem had got so bad. I felt like, Maybe if I take a break, maybe this will help. I started to get into the producer role more… I can still be out there with my music, like with the Re-Up album, but I don’t have to be in the spotlight the whole time.

What types of drugs were you were taking?

Ever since the beginning of my career I dabbled in Vicodin, Valium, Ambien. It was kind of like a recreational thing that, for some reason, when it first started out, like ecstasy and shit like that, I was able to do it and step away from it. Drinking, I was able to do it and step away from it. But slowly it started progressing. For a while, there were, like, four to six months where I struggled with ecstasy. I had found myself taking it before every show.

So you would go out, rock these shows…

Yeah, like, on the Warped Tour, me and Proof would split a hit, like half a hit or whatever, and on top of it, I was drinking or whatever. Then I would come home and be like, Aight, I’m not gonna do it around the kids. So those would be the times I’d clean myself out. I’d be home for a week, two weeks or whatever and be like, I’m done with this. Then I’d get back out on the road and then… It started becoming that I’d be doing it all the time if people had it. I wouldn’t carry the shit on me. I wouldn’t have it myself. If we were around that kind of party atmosphere and somebody had it, which my music at that time always attracted that crowd, like the raver kids and shit like that, we’d end up hanging out with some kids somehow, and people would be around us and be like, “Hey, I got some mushrooms, I got this, I got that.” Slowly, after a period of time, it became where we were buying it on the road. So we would kinda say, “Who’s got the E?” It became where I wasn’t doing it anymore because people had it, I was doing it and actually purchasing the shit, just because. Then it got to a point where I felt like I needed it to be onstage. My biggest thing was sleeping. I would take NyQuil and shit like that. I’d be like, Okay, well, this worked last night. But I got to take extra tonight, ’cause it ain’t gonna work. Now I got to get a prescription for something. I got to see my doctor.

Because you couldn’t sleep?

It’s between the schedule and all the shit when it starts to get crazy. When you’re in album cycle and touring and shit like that, the schedule… You got to be somewhere at certain times. You only got this little window to sleep. And if you don’t sleep, you are kind of fucked for the next day. So it was all the mental things that I went through. I struggled with ecstasy, kinda struggled with drinking. But I was able to cut it off, which is what I never understood about pills. But that’s obviously what you learn in rehab. It’s what becomes your drug of choice. Certain addicts may not struggle with… I may not have a problem with liquor. But if I drink liquor and I get to where I get a hangover the next day, I’m screaming for a Vicodin. “Oh, I wish I had a Vicodin!” So, basically, I struggled off and on with prescription pills, like, the next three years. Then, everybody knows, I went through a divorce. I was trying to put my family back together. That ended up not working out. Then losing my best friend. It was kinda like going through those struggles. None of that shit was easy. My addiction got worse and worse and worse.
I had to come to the realization, I mean, I’ve been clean for a year now, but I had to come to the realization that I want to do this. This ain’t something that anybody can just tell me, know what
I mean? This isn’t something that everyone can want for me.

When did you know that it was time for you to go to rehab?

There were a bunch of moments where I felt like, I want to do it, I want to do it. Ah, maybe now is not the time. Maybe I’ll just do this for a little longer. I started realizing, like,
I took a break from the spotlight, and I felt like I wanted to be with my family and spend more time with my kids and stuff like that. But the whole time, I’m walking around the house high most of the time. So I’m missing out on the best parts of their lives. There were several moments. And it got to the point where the guilt that I started feeling inside for doing the shit… I wasn’t fooling anybody but myself.
I had to come to that realization. At the time, I’m 35 years old, how long am I going to keep doing this? I felt like I needed to grow up, and if I didn’t grow up, it was like, now or never.-DATWON THOMAS

For more of Hard To Kill, the Eminem cover story, make sure to pick up XXL’s May issue on newsstands now.

  • dwi

    first!….thats some real shit….im glad dude got off.

    • JCITYHUSTLA617

      RELAPSE JUST LEAKED 2DAY IM TRYIN HARD NOT 2 DOWNLOAD THAT MOTHAFUCKA BUT TEMPTATION IS A BITCH LOL I BET HE MOVES THE RELEASE DATE UP LIKE HE DID WITH MARSHAL MATTHERS LP HOPE IT SELLS IMA COP OH YEA CRIME PAYS MAY 12TH

      • Jon Dog

        Where did the album leak? Already got a copy on the way from amazon.com but I’m dyin’ to hear that shit.

      • http://xxl.com mark

        Were do you find the album?

  • Pierzy

    I know there’s been some backlash to his comeback but “3 A.M.” is nasty and I think May 19th will be a big day in hip-hop…

  • Jame

    Absolutely. 3 AM is ridiculous. May 19th will no doubt be huge.

  • Penelope Rodriguez

    I’m glad that Em is off the drugs.

    Just say no, kids.

    • JCITYHUSTLA617

      I WONDER IF EMINEM REALLY DID RELAPSE AND NEEDS HIS ALBUM 2 SELL SO HE CAN BUY MORE DRUGS

  • PARIS PERSHUN

    DONT REALLY HAVE ANT PITY/OR ANYTHING TO SAY…. I GUESS I CAN KEEP IT CLICHE’ AS FUCK LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE AND SAY “MAN,I’M GLAD HE OFF DRUGS” AND “DAMN RELAPSE GON’ BE A CLASSIC”…… HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA… WHATEVA….

    (LEANS BACK AND TURNS “THE WAY I AM” WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY THE FUCK UP))

  • tony

    Fuck the Honkey EM and the Pussy he come out of. If it wasn,t for Dr. Dre. This scrub will be in a Rescue Mission or Salvation. Bitch is not the best rapper. Brainwash! The reason he hired G-Unot because he needed black body guards. Honkey don’t know about no dam black hood. He didn’t won’t to make a song with Wayne. His bitch 50 told him don’t make no songs with Wayne. He scared of black people. The shit is a acting job.

    • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grand$

      Good luck with sobriety Em.

      I gave all the leaked tracks I have a couple more spins; decent. Hopefully the album will pull it all together. Definitely picking that up.

      @ diet tony-

      You are easily the stupidest motherfucker in the comments section. Why do you even come to this site? I understand actual, legitimate hate &/or being humurous, but guy, you offer neither.

      Your uncut idiocy & overwhelming ability to be lame as fuck completely cancel one another out. Scientifically speaking, you don’t even exist.

      I told you, you should have never said anything to me, shit-for-brains.

      “Honkey don’t know about no dam black hood”
      ^^Whaaaaaat? Have you ever even heared an Em song? When did he ever say he did?

      “He scared of black people. The shit is a acting job”
      ^^Dude, do you fire up the pipe before you fire up the (library) computer?

      “The reason he hired G-Unot because he needed black body guards.”
      ^^So, the whole story of how Em heard 50 & decided he had the “it” factor was just a front for him to have a black bodyguard. Oh, thank you for clearing up another man’s story.

      diet tony, I have some advice. Mother’s Day is coming up, I suggest you buy your mom a big ass box of condoms because I would hate for her to have anymore of you.

      Failure. End communication. Stop commenting. You lose & will forever.

      • JCITYHUSTLA617

        -DEAD-

      • Gloveson

        He ain’t comin back from that………DAYUMMM!!!!!!!!!!

      • C-Grizzy

        I have been checking this site for a while now, never commented, never wanted too….With that being said, this exchange (can it really be called that?) of the last week or so between Tony Grand$ and “diet tony” is responsible for the most excruciatingly painful laughter induced side-ache I have ever experienced. This dude “diet tony” appears to be so incredibly clueless that this supreme etherezation he has been handed has no effect on him. Rick Ross???????

      • Jordan

        That shit had me laughing out my chair! I think dude is in the special ed class or something. if he isnt then he should be. fucking retard.

      • FlapJack

        hahahahah!

        “Failure. End communication. Stop commenting. You lose & will forever.”
        – Cosign

    • Maxx P

      Cosign:
      diet tony, I have some advice. Mother’s Day is coming up, I suggest you buy your mom a big ass box of condoms because I would hate for her to have anymore of you.

      You dumb ignorant fuck!

    • monarch

      Tony, keep talkin bout tha honkey, don’t hate, just know that he is ten times better than anyone your stupid ass likes. Your comments make you sound like an idiot. Dre would be finished if it wasnt for em. He aint scared of no black folks, he runs with black folks. He dont know nothin bout no hood, he lives in DETROIT moron. Check yourself Tony tha Tiger

    • Recession

      Sound like you scared of white people and that your upset that a peicce of shit trailer trash white kid came from shit in detroit which is basically all blakc and became one of the most recognized rappers and lyrical genius’s ever to be in the game. Why would he rap with wayne? Wayne aint nothing but corny ass punch lines and bull shit. Best rapper alive? Ha now thats brain wash! Wayne is the fakest rapper out there and why the fuck does he have tear drops, is it for killing the rap game now days?He says the same shit over and over but changes the way he spits it out. The rap game is comming back and you cant stand that a white guy is doin it. FUCK WAYNE!! MAY 19 Rep 313

  • maCaso

    Relapsed already leaked?? Ah Fck!!! Its gonna be tempting!

  • Junior

    I Don’t care if it leaks or not im still gonna cop that LP no matter what. Album will sell 800k to 1.5 mill easy first week.

    • tony

      Shit won’t go Gold until 1 month!

      • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grand$

        @ diet tony-

        It may or may not go gold the first two weeks, but rest assured that when it does, you’ll still be Duck Sauce. Stop commenting.

  • Anti-Mainstream

    I’m glad to see em back and the game needs em back! I’ll admit the new voice he’s rappin with is kind of annoying, but it’s still no worse then all this other played-out bullshit that’s out! People are tired of hearing average, overrated-ass rappers spittin over boring slow-ass beats, (yes, I’m talkin about the south, and I’m not hatin I just know shit that sucks when I hear it). Welcome back Em! I’ll def be coppin Em’s and Busta Rhymes new albums when they come out along with the new redman/method man joint! Bout time some good shit is coming out!

    • mainstream detroit wtf dat means

      em is great and he from detroit even michigan burbs thugged out fool i know white bloods datll off u for dissing em severed head abandoned building type shhit

  • http://rezenmyhouse.com RezenBkDodger

    My Letter to Em and Dre
    http://www.youtube.com/RezenBkDodger

    I did this myself
    you seen a kid like me?
    Rezen

  • PARIS PERSHUN

    UMMM…DONT REALLY HAVE ANT PITY/OR ANYTHING TO SAY…. I GUESS I CAN KEEP IT CLICHE’ AS FUCK LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE AND SAY “MAN,I’M GLAD HE OFF DRUGS” AND “DAMN RELAPSE GON’ BE A CLASSIC”…… HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA… WHATEVA….

    (LEANS BACK AND TURNS “THE WAY I AM” WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY THE FUCK UP))

  • http://www.rezenmyhouse.com Rezen

    http://www.youtube.com/RezenBkDodger

    I did this myself

    You seen a kid like me? Rezen

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  • tru predator

    im definitely feelin the new shit minus crack a bottle and we made you.but for old times sake and 3am is good shit.but why is it that artists seem to make the best music when they are fucked up.then most of them try makin music sober and it either sucks or isnt as good as when they where one drugs.who says drugs fucks up the mind?history shows some of the best music was made by musicians who where bombed outta their damn minds.ironic isnt it.may 19th im coppin it,hopeully it isnt like encore.which only had a couple good songs and bunch of horrible songs.i know i sound picky but i hope he can muster up the creativity to make another album as cold as the eminem show.pure dope.one of the best rap albums ever.

    • Oz

      You’re prolly confusing it with the fact that em’s earlier shit was much better quality given the fact he was spitting at his best.. the drugs were just a by-product of his success.. he needed the x, xannies, or whatever when he had to constanly perform record hits and singles world-wide.. so basically yeah with time most rappers usually decline in skill

  • NE Richie Rich

    rerlapse leaked already ? sum1 please post a link so i can download that shit. Im def gonna buy that may 19th, but i cant wait nemore. POST A LINK

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  • http://www.myspace.com/ogdrastik dra$tik

    i really have to say eminem is one of my idols.. that said these new songs i dunno bout em i mean yea its him but at the same time its like wat happened to the chills i used to get listenin to the songs… with that point said his album did not leak as previously reported some gay fag jus posted another cd with the old songs new songs names i think its the encore one… but good luck on bein clean as i said.. ~1~ Dra$tiK CheCC Me OUt!! myspace.com/ogdrastik

  • mikey t

    Em is tha shit, but BIG is the best of all time. Anyways, the dude talkin all tha honkey shit is an IDIOT. You wouldn’t know rap if it slapped ur ugly ass in tha face. Tony, yeah thats you, you a stupid fuck. Dre woulda been done if not for em…you might as well listen to country music or some shit…get on that taylor swift bitch

  • C-Grizzy

    test

  • Maxx P

    Co Sign,
    “diet tony, I have some advice. Mother’s Day is coming up, I suggest you buy your mom a big ass box of condoms because I would hate for her to have anymore of you”.

    You little bitch ass ignorant fuck!

    Em is one of the few mc’s keeping hip hop on life support; as weel as Saigon, Jay-Z, LLoyd Banks, and Consequence. I hope Relapse lives up 2 the hype.

  • THA REAL HIP HOP IS OVA HERE

    EM IS GONNA SELL THE STORES OUT EASILY THIS ARTICLE SAYS HE IS RITE BEHIIND PAC WIT 34 MILLIE KEEP GOIN HARD THE INDUSTRY HAS BEEN MISSIN U

  • true hater

    yo em is mad overrated! the only reason he is who he is is because he’s white. if a black person rapped about that bullshit they would be considered trash. fuck em!

  • Pylo

    fuck u Tony! what the fuck do u know abt Em? u dont know shit! better shut your loud mouth before somebody does it for you, you stupid muthafucker!

  • the good goose

    OK, first and foremost, at least there’s a dude who keeps it real, i mean, Shady does keep it real (i just happen to think so) but…..is this just for the buzz of the album, maybe he’s magnifying his drug problems too much

  • http://www.myspace.com/seansimplydevine PittsburghGFX

    Good to hear that Em in off the drugs, just hope that doesnt make the album shitty. So where is this leak JCITYHUSTLA617? Let us know, you getting people excited.

    Need Graphics for the low?
    $100 Package: 2-sided Cover, Poster, 2-sided Flyer, & Myspace Design
    DoubleD Productions
    http://www.myspace.com/seansimplydevine

  • dcruz.88

    Word, so much hate! Everyone is criticizing “Relapse” saying it’s wack, I think it’s completely ill! No matter what happens, his lyrical status WILL be here to stay. Like he said, he wanted to try different flows on this album, and to me, still sounds dope. 3 A.M. is INSANE, Insane is INSANE, We Made You is INSANE, Medicine Ball is INSANE, fuck it, the entire album is crazy! I could only imagine Relapse 2… excited for that Em/Primo joint.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com kip

    HIP HOP MADE EMINEM BUT AT THIS POINT ITS NOT HARD TO SAY THAT WITHOUT SLIM SHADY HIP HOP CAN NEVER BE HIP GOP AGAIN>>MAY 19 NUFF SAID…..

  • Rosko P Coldchain

    Relapse, the album is fiyah, best tracks imo “Underground”, “Careful what you wish for”, “Beautiful”, “Same song and dance” & “Hello”….

    RELAPSE – MAY 19TH

    Welcome back Em!

  • http://www.eminemturkiye.com Eminem Turkey Fan Site

    everything is shady