Upon the release of his eighth major label album Revival, Eminem opens up about passion, politics, past albums, and political correctness in a candid interview with Vulture.
Speaking of the project, which is expected to top the Billboard 200 in its first week, Slim Shady explained how the album’s political undertones are not meant to appease all listeners. “I’m not worried about whether people like what I say politically,” he explained. “I just want to know they’re listening. As long as I have people’s ears, I have to say what I think is right.”
Apparently, this includes Em’s disses aimed at President Donald Trump, who he was once optimistic about. “He makes my blood boil,” Em explained. “I can’t even watch the news anymore because it makes me too stressed out. All jokes aside, all punch lines aside, I’m trying to get a message out there about him. I want our country to be great too, I want it to be the best it can be, but it’s not going to be that with him in charge. I remember when he was first sniffing around politics, I thought, We’ve tried everything else, why not him? Then — and I was watching it live — he had that speech where he said Mexico is sending us rapists and criminals. I got this feeling of what the fuck? From that point on, I knew it was going to be bad with him. What he’s doing putting people against each other is scary fucking shit. His election was such a disappointment to me about the state of the country.”
Despite his more conscious efforts, Eminem said he isn’t always serious or political and his music reflects that. Sometimes, he explained, he’s just out for a laugh. “When I’m writing, a line will pop in my head that’s so fucking ridiculous that it’s funny, and depending on the punch lines I need and the rhyme schemes in the song maybe I’ll use it,” he said. “Those are the things I’m thinking about with some lyrics, almost before the actual meaning.” He added: “I’m not saying I’ve never gone too far, but people shouldn’t be looking to me for political correctness.”
Read more about Eminem’s thoughts on homophobia, misogyny, pop stars, and his past albums below.
On Content: “One of the common themes I’ve noticed over the past few years is people saying they miss the old Eminem. So I’ll see something like that and I’ll give them the old Eminem. Then when I do, they say, ‘He’s too old to be rapping about that kind of shit. He needs to mature with his content.’ Then I’ll mature with my content and they go, ‘Oh, man, I miss the old Eminem.’ So what do you do? In the context of Revival, I tried to make something for people on both sides of that argument.”
On Misogyny: “I think it is, because I’ve had my share of experiences with women where I’ve felt a certain way and been mad enough to make songs about those feelings. All the bullshit around that — I’m not making an excuse, but the mentality that I’ve had since I was rapping at open mics was that you better have shit that’s going to get a reaction or you will not be accepted when you’re on the mic. Your first, second, third, and fourth line better grab attention or you’re done. That attitude morphed into my music. A lot of times I’m saying stuff just to get that reaction. Maybe I took it too far sometimes.”
On Dissing Pop Stars: “[Ed Sheeran’s] not a boy band, he’s an artist whose craft I respect. The reason that I went at pop stars back then is because people were calling me a pop rapper. What’s bugged out to me is that — I don’t know if everybody understands this — if everybody could do what I did, they’d just do it, wouldn’t they? I’m not this manufactured pop thing and I never was. A way people used to dismiss me was to call me pop. I got mad about that, and I lashed out.”
On ‘Lose Yourself’: “I remember I was on the set of 8 Mile. I had a day off and I was going through CDs at home. I used to have guys come in and play music with me and I’d try and come up with stuff and then record it and put on CD. Later I’d listen back and see if there was anything I could use. For some reason I popped in one of those CDs and it had the [Hums the song’s guitar riff] on it. I just kept hearing that loop in my head. I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but I made a whole song to that beat and didn’t like it. Then I revamped it and wound up with “Lose Yourself.” The other thing about that song that I remember is that I was so in-character as Jimmy Smith Jr. when I was working that on it — that’s where the desperation come from.”
On Hip-Hop Today: “As far as relevance, rap is definitely evolving — the flow patterns and beats. There’s a lot of trap beats that are half time and things like that that are new. Some of it I really like and some I don’t particularly care for but I can see why people like it. I’m probably more in tune with the state of hip-hop than a lot of people think, because listening to what’s great right now pumps me up to do my own thing. I think people look at me and believe I might be out of touch.”
On JAY-Z: “It’s cool that a younger generation can look to me and Jay and say, ‘Holy shit, a career doesn’t have to be a five-year run.’ I know I look at Jay to see what he’s passionate about. I’m right there when he puts out something new. I want to see where he’s at, then I use it to see where I’m at…For me, it’s super nerdy because I just look for the funny punch lines — Jay’s always got those — and the feel of the beats he’s rapping over [on 4:44]. His music also let me know that it’s okay to talk about the doubts you have about yourself and your material. That’s really what ‘Walk on Water’ is about.”
On Dating: “It’s tough. Since my divorce I’ve had a few dates and nothing’s panned out in a way that I wanted to make it public. Dating’s just not where I’m at lately…[I meet people on] Tinder…And Grindr. I also used to go to strip clubs.”
On Encore & Relapse: “Encore was mediocre, and with Relapse — it was the best I could do at that point in time. [Relapse] was a funny album for me because I was just starting back rapping after coming out of addiction. I was so scatterbrained that the people around me thought that I might have given myself brain damage. I was in this weird fog for months. Like, literally I wasn’t making sense; it had been so long since I’d done vocals without a ton of Valium and Vicodin. I almost had to relearn how to rap.”
On The Marshall Mathers LP: “I am forever chasing The Marshall Mathers LP. That was the height of what I could do. I just don’t have the rage I did back then. If I did, the music would be the same, and I hope it’s changed. And if I still had that rage it would mean I wouldn’t have grown as an artist or a human being. Technically I feel like I’m better at rhyming than I’ve ever been. I have more shit in my arsenal. I’ll go back and listen to old songs and be like, ‘I could have kept that rhyme scheme going for another 62 bars.’ I don’t know, man. I’m not the person I was at 28. The passion is still there but the rage mostly isn’t.”
On Racism & Homophobia: “I’ve always said that what I do was created by black people. I understand that everyone listens to rap, but I consider it to be black music and I respect that. The other shit you’re talking about got so blown out of proportion. The first time I got a taste of being called anti-gay was on ‘My Name Is’ when I said, ‘My English teacher wanted to have sex in junior high / The only problem was my English teacher was a guy.’ All I was saying was I don’t swing that way. So when I started getting flack for it, I thought, Alright, you people think I’m homophobic? Watch this. Hence the Ken Kaniff character and all that stuff. I was trying to push the buttons of people who were calling me something that I wasn’t. The honest-to-God truth is that none of that matters to me: I have no issue with someone’s sexuality, religion, race, none of that. Anyone who’s followed my music knows I’m against bullies — that’s why I hate that fucking bully Trump — and I hate the idea that a kid who’s gay might get shit for it.”