FEATURE: Eminem, Underground
[Editor’s Note: These are outtakes from the edited discography that appears in the June 2009 issue of XXL. In the outtakes, Talib Kweli, Bun B and fellow Detroit MCs Elzhi and Guilty Simpson revisit Eminem’s underground days and speak on the first time they realized Em’s star potential.]
Proof hit me up, this was about . Proof hit me up, we used to always talk about patterns and shit and rhyme schemes, so you know we connected like that. So one day he hit me up with Em on the phone, introducing me to him I ain’t never heard of him or whatnot so he had Em spit for me and so Em spit probably like a 16 bar verse and at the end of it he said, “How’d you like it?” I said it was dope and he was like, “I bet you ain’t know he was white though?” I was like, “that’s crazy” and from there I knew he had skills and I started seeing him at the hip-hop shop [in Detroit]. He was coming through ripping. I knew he was a star at the shop by how he battled. Man, he got this one dude, my mans was nice too, his name was IQ. Man he went on and on, he did like an eight or 10 bar run that go with [the] initials I.Q so he was calling him illiterate queer all type of stuff I was like, “man, this cat is crazy.” So I knew he had that star quality when I seen him live in action at the shop.
The first time I figured out he can rhyme would probably be “ I Just Don’t Give A Fuck.” That was the first time I heard from him. I was like, “who is this, what is this?” That was a song where I knew he was a lyrical beast. When I knew he was a star would probably be when he dropped the “My Name Is” video. It was pop but it was still hip-hop, it was lyrical, and it was funny.
I think “Without Me,” that’s when I realized that he wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t see what the fuck the plan was. He started being so critical of himself and then critical of his past. If you really think about that song, “What is hip-hop without him?” Shit is boring. Thank God for him and Ludacris, if not for them Hip-hop would be a bunch of serious niggas sitting around posing harder than a motherfucker.
When I first realized he was gonna blow up is at the time Eminem started he got signed to Aftermath. Black Star, we had just put our album out, we were a force to be reckoned with, people was fucking with Mos Def and myself and we were doing a show called Brooklyn Vermont and it was hosted by Green Lantern. This might have been the first time Eminem met Green Lantern now that I think about it unless he met him before. It was hosted by Green Lantern and it was in Vermont and it was like a skiing resort and we were headlining and Eminem was suppose to open up but from the time the show was booked to the actual time of the event, “My Name Is” had dropped and Eminem got on the cover of Rolling Stone and he had dyed his hair blonde for the video.
And it’s like… ok, like to me I see it was a conflict of interest for me cause I seen him come up through the ranks, I seen him do his thing, I seen him battle the best of the best, there is no taking his stripes away from him, so I felt like I gave him his props but to see him with his first single ever on the cover of Rolling Stone with blonde hair that fucked me up because cause I’m like, “yo who gets on the cover with one single out?” What black rapper would do that no matter how big they are, they would never do that so I realized that Eminem no longer belonged to me, no longer belonged to us like the community that I was involved with. It was like, “ok something way bigger is going on here.” When we did the show…. I’m not sure [if] we had to switch the order or he just got more response that we got, I’m trying to remember then, but I remember soon after that show I realized like, “ok, these dudes out here, these white boys from Vermont, they came to see Eminem they ain’t come to see Black Star.” Like, I realized Eminem was the draw for his show. –Compiled by Jesse Gissen and Rob Markman