With the dust settling on 2013, superstars have been the general theme in hip-hop. Almost every big name artist came out with an album, from Drake releasing Nothing Was The Same, Jay Z coming with Magna Carta…Holy Grail, Kanye West blessing the world with Yeezus and last but certainly not least, Eminem’s' The Marshall Mathers LP 2. MMLP2 was huge, becoming Em’s seventh album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, grabbing the second-largest debut sales week of the year, and he making Eminem the first lead artist since The Beatles to have four singles in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time. XXL revisited MMLP2 with superproducer Emile to discuss working with Marshall over the years—he also worked on Em’s Recovery—the difference between Recovery Eminem and MM2LP Eminem, and the production process behind his songs “Legacy” and “Headlights.” —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
XXL: How was working with Eminem this time?
Emile: Amazing as usual. We had the opportunity to do some stuff over the years. I actually started working with him 10, 12 years ago. I didn’t record with him for his albums but we produced records together dating back to Obie Trice’s Cheers album, it’s always good. It’s always a pleasure; it’s always kind of an experience to watch someone at that level craft their music.
Is there a difference between Recovery-era Eminem vs MM2LP Eminem?
Slightly. It wasn’t too long ago where I think it wasn’t that much of a difference. I do think he’s at a different space, and that kind of reflects in the music and reflects a bit in real life, like in our interaction as well. But no drastic changes. We spent a lot of time talking this time around and telling stories so that was a little bit different and interesting. But it wasn’t like a drastic thing.
He’s notoriously secretive with his music. Was he like that for this album? Were you in the studio when he recorded?
I would go to Detroit if I were to hear anything. I would feel comfortable sending him ideas, little sketches and if there was something I wanted to work on, ’cause I’m just really comfortable just working out of my studio. But for the most part if you want to work with Marshall you get on a plane and go to Detroit. It’s just an in-house vibe. It’s just get in the studio and really talk and really spend time and see each other and cook up.
What was the process behind making a track like “Legacy”?
That’s an interesting one. We had that a long time ago. It actually started with a writing team—this girl Paulina and this dude David Brooke—kind of came up with a bit of a chorus. They sang me this idea they had and instantly [I said], ‘That could work for Eminem, let me sort of turn it into something and show it to him.’ I would show Eminem [tracks] like a sketch, like an architect would draw something quickly and show it someone. You just show him a sketch and say, ‘What do you think?’ And if it’s something that he grabs up, the process begins. So that was a while back when they played me that thing that they wrote together and I immediately kind of went in and started putting some little ideas to try to present to him and say, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ When I did that and gave [it] to his manager Paul Rosenberg, he reacted well and said he really liked it. It evolved over time. He came up with the idea with the vocal effects and the different instruments. That was the first one that we actually started on for the album.
That might have been over a year ago. He’s always recording and always coming up with ideas. He lives in the studio, so before any big album talk, I was just like, ‘Oh, I have this thing I think Eminem would like,’ which I was told he did. Once I heard that, it’s just sort of in the vault for whatever he wants to do with it.
What about the song “Headlights”?
It originally started with me being friends with both Nate Ruess from fun. and me working with fun. [on their album Some Nights] and also having the relationship with Eminem and Paul. I would always talk about Eminem with Nate, and Nate is a massive Eminem fan. I think I always mentioned it to Paul—’Hey, Nate’s a fan of Eminem’—just kind of putting it out there. At one point it was me, Nate and Jeff Bhasker—he produced the record with me, and Jeff did the bulk of fun.’s album, so we’ve kind of got a history together —we went into the studio one day and we all just so happened to be in New York. Were like, man, let’s try some ideas out for Eminem and see what we can come up with. Maybe I can send something to Paul. I spoke to Paul as well, we had a long conversation about where Eminem was in life, his relationship with his family. Just different ideas. Sort of come up with something that he could gravitate towards. It really stems from this long talk I had with Paul and getting an ideas [about] what was on his mind at the time.
Once I had that, me, Nate and Jeff came up with a little bit of an idea, kind of a sketch of the beat and some melodies and some words to throw around, and apparently he loved it and was a big fan of Nate as well and the fun. album. Then it was a back and forth thing where the beat and Nate worked for Eminem, and Eminem sort of dove in and came with his ideas of how we can change lyrics and how we can change things on the drums. I would talk to Eminem a lot, and he was really excited about the record. And I would get calls from him like, ‘What if we tried this here? What if we tried this there?’ Some of there words—’What if we changed these to this, this is a little more accurate.’ We just went back in forth and finally I ended up going to Detroit and finalizing it and hearing what he wrote to it. Pretty amazing hearing it complete; all Eminem’s and Nate’s voices on there, and mine and Jeff’s production.
The track made a lot of sense.
Yeah, it really made a lot of sense. Nate always has been such an Eminem fan. When I first started working with Nate, he would constantly ask me about Eminem and he would get really into his albums and tell me what songs he loved. And it’s funny because Eminem would always ask me about Nate, and [say] he loves the way he writes and puts melodies together. They’re both really, really powerful writers. Very different, they both have their own lane, but just lyrically alone—beside Eminem’s rapping and Nate’s singing—the way they write, the two of them are at the top. I put them in the highest writing category there is. It’s amazing to have them on the same song.
Previously: Review: Eminem Battles Slim Shady On Marshall Mathers LP 2
The 50 Best Eminem Verses
Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 By The Numbers
XXL Tallies Up Eminem’s Most Frequent Lyrical References
Ice Cube Praises Eminem’s “Rap God”: “Lyrics Still Rule The Day”
Producer STREETRUNNER On The Concept Behind Eminem’s “Bad Guy”
Eminem Manager Paul Rosenberg On The Evolution Of Slim Shady
Skylar Grey On The Making Of Eminem’s Track “Asshole” From MMLP2