Eminem just released his first album in four years, Revival. Reviews for the album have been mixed. Eminem made headlines last October when he recorded a freestyle rap, The Storm, for the BET Hip-Hop Awards that absolutely lambasted 45. The Storm split his fanbase, which he talks about in his new song Chloraseptic. In honor of his ninth studio album release and his manager of 20 years, Paul Rubenstein, taking over as Def Jem’s CEO, both Eminem and Paul sat down with Billboard. They gave a lengthy interview about how they started, where they see rap music going and how Eminem really feels about Stable Genius. Below are some highlights from Eminem’s responses.
On Trump’s election: I called it just from the rallies he was having when he first started running. Because just watching the impact he has, they were fanatics. There is something to be said about the person who really felt like he might do something for them — and he just fucking duped everybody. I know that Hillary [Clinton] had her flaws, but you know what? Anything would have been better [than Trump]. A fucking turd would have been better as a president. When I [put out "The Storm"], I felt that everybody who was with him at that point doesn’t like my music anyway. I get the comparison with the non-political-correctness, but other than that, we’re polar opposites. He made these people feel like he was really going to do something for them. It’s just so fucking disgusting how divisive his language is, the rhetoric, the Charlottesville shit, just watching it going, “I can’t believe he’s saying this.” When he was talking about John McCain, I thought he was done. You’re fucking with military veterans, you’re talking about a military war hero who was captured and tortured. It just didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. And that’s some scary shit to me.
On reaction to “The Storm”: I knew it would get a reaction, obviously; that’s what I rap to do. But where I was coming from in that cypher was a genuine place in my heart. I [hesitate] to say [I have] hatred in my heart for him, but it’s serious contempt. I do not like the guy.
On backlash from his fanbase who were Trump supporters: At the end of the day, if I did lose half my fan base, then so be it, because I feel like I stood up for what was right and I’m on the right side of this. I don’t see how somebody could be middle class, busting their ass every single day, paycheck to paycheck, who thinks that that fucking billionaire is gonna help you.
On whether streaming lowers the bar for successful rappers: It depends. I think rappers like J. Cole and Kendrick [Lamar] and Joyner Lucas rap to be the best rapper. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do. Some people might not care to be the best and just know how to make good songs, and some people make wack songs. [Laughs.] Hip-hop is always evolving, though, and that to me is the most important thing about staying in tune with what is going on.
The market is so oversaturated right now that it has shortened the life span of records; it’s here for a day, then it’s gone. You wake up and people are like, “Alright, what are you going to put out now?” What do you think, I made my album last night?
If you are interested in Eminem’s career, I recommend reading the whole interview because he and Paul discuss their history from how they met to pounding the pavement and finally breaking out. It’s clear how much they respect each other. It was a nice reminder of a pre-internet success story. As for Eminem’s comments on #45, I agree. I used to understand that it can always get worse, but now it feels like maybe this is rock bottom. Eminem hesitated to say he hated #45 but definitely felt contempt. My mom raised me that way too, that ‘hate’ is such a strong word, I shouldn’t use it casually. I think I might be able to feel hatred for the person that kills my hope. At least a turd is harmless.
Some have criticized the new album because Eminem is still leaning on misogyny and sexism in his lyrics (I haven’t heard the album yet). In response to this he said, “I know I say a lot of fucked-up shit. But a lot of shit is said in jest, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and it has always been that way through my whole career — saying shit to get a reaction out of people. It’s my artistic license to express myself.” I know this was Elton John’s defense of Eminem, that he could tell Eminem wasn’t homophobic, those were just his lyrics. I believe in artistic freedom so Eminem can write whatever he wants. I also like Eminem and a lot of his work. But I do question a person that wants to be heard when he’s criticizing the president but wants us to know he’s joking when it comes to his reoccurring misogyny. Should the responsibility fall on the listener to have to sort out which is a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and which is serious?
Photo credit: Billboard/Sam Drasin, WENN Photos