"Eminem is the culture stealer, and I'm coming for him," says Raymond "Benzino" Scott, a Boston-bred rapper who touched off a war of words with Eminem late last year that culminated in a volley of dis tracks between the two artists. In Benzino's "Pull Your Skirt Up" and "Die Another Day," Em gets called "2003 Vanilla Ice" and "the rap Hitler."
"I've never met this man, this girl," Eminem said on New York radio station Hot 97. "She is obsessed with me. I never would think I would see the day when I seen the worst rapper in the world going against one of the best." Eminem released two hard-hitting response tracks: "The Sauce" and "Nail in the Coffin."
Benzino complains that Eminem's blockbuster success takes sales away from all the other rappers. "A lot of people got skills, not just Marshall Mathers," Benzino says. "But nobody else is going platinum anymore."
Benzino, meanwhile, would settle for going gold. (His latest album, Redemption, is out this month). Since 1991, he has recorded under a variety of names -- the Almighty RSO, Made Men -- with his new single, "Rock the Party," as his only modest hit. "I'm trying to get this [gold] plaque," he says. "I'm gonna tour until I get it." Hip-hop business insiders suggest that Benzino, who is also a co-owner of hip-hop magazine The Source, is taking on Eminem in a desperate attempt to increase his own profile. It's not the first time he's stirred up controversy. He has been arrested multiple times and once served time for disorderly conduct. One source reveals that Benzino was recently investigated by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a Boston drug ring -- an accusation Benzino denies.
Former Source staffers complain that they were pressured to give Benzino's groups positive reviews and that the rapper routinely intimidated editors to get his way. In 1994, the magazine's editorial staff quit after publisher David Mays inserted a three-page feature on the Almighty RSO. Benzino says he doesn't get involved in editorial coverage, but that "people know I'm there, because I'm like the breeze of truth."
Then there is the long-standing rumor that Eminem mentions in "Nail in the Coffin": that Benzino exchanges coverage in the magazine for guest spots on his albums.
"You can't be a rapper and own a magazine," Em said on Hot 97. "When you call rappers to do a guest appearance and they don't want to do it because you suck, then he's gonna shut you out of his magazine."
"People get all of these mixed-up perceptions of me," Benzino counters. "Eminem don't know me. He just knows what he read somewhere." And then, with a sly twinkle in his eye, he adds, "It's like the WWF. Could there be a hero without a villain? I'm the villain. But when people are booing, they're really cheering. They love me."