Eminem has often spoken fondly of his roots coming up as an underground rapper on the Detroit rap scene, and he’s now shared the importance of that experience.
During an interview with The New York Times for their “50 Rappers, 50 Stories” special on Tuesday (June 18), Slim Shady talked about the impact that being a battle rapper — which he recounted in the box office smash 8 Mile — had on him, and how it shaped the trajectory of his career.
“Tuesday night I would go to the Ebony Showcase on Seven Mile. Wednesday night would be Alvin’s. Friday night would be Saint Andrew’s. And then Saturday would be the Hip Hop Shop,” he told the publication. “Proof was hosting open mics at the Hip Hop Shop, and they started having battles.
“The first one that I got in — it was actually the first battle there — I won. And then the second battle, I won it again. I realized maybe I should try to go out of state. So I would hop in the car with friends and drive down to Cincinnati for the Scribble Jam.”
Eminem continued: “Coming up in the battle scene was the greatest thing to happen to me because I knew what lines were going to get a reaction from the crowd. That’s what I would focus on. So when I got signed with Dre, I was trying to translate that to record, to get that reaction. I would picture the listener sitting there and what lines they might react to. I just used that as a formula. Like, ‘How you gonna breastfeed, Mom?/ You ain’t got no tits.’”
In the same interview, Em praised Nas‘ classic album, Illmatic, and the impact it had on him while he was perfecting his craft.
“I remember The Source gave ‘Illmatic’ five mics [a perfect score],” Em said. “I already knew I liked Nas from ‘Live at the Barbeque’ with Main Source, because his verse on that is one of the most classic verses in Hip Hop of all time. But I was, like, ‘Five mics, though? Let me see what this is.’
“And when I put it on, ‘And be prosperous/though we live dangerous/Cops could just arrest me/Blamin’ us/We’re held like hostages.’ He was going in and outside of the rhyme scheme, internal rhymes. That album had me in a slump, too. I know the album front to back.”