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Eminem on the Road Back From Hell

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So you missed Christmas morning? That must have been hard.

Definitely. Being a father, wanting to be there with your kids. It's not a fun thing to deal with.

And they didn't come visit? You didn't get to see them at all?
No. [Long pause] I was in the hospital.

What happened next?
I checked myself out – I think I had been there a week – but I went home too soon. I wasn't fully detoxed. It had zapped all my strength – I couldn't lift the fucking salt-and-pepper shaker. I remember lying on the couch, falling asleep for literally 10 minutes, and when I woke up, my knee was out of place. I'd somehow torn my meniscus. I'm just coming off Vicodin, my senses are coming back, and it's hurting 10 million times worse than it had to. I had surgery a couple of days later, came home... and had a seizure. Because I wasn't detoxed. Boom, ambulance, right back to the hospital.

I knew I had to change my life. But addiction is a fucking tricky thing. I think I relapsed within... three weeks? And within a month it had ramped right back to where it was before. That's what really freaked me out. That's when I knew: I either get help, or I am going to die.

As a father, I want to be here for things. I don't want to miss anything else.

How did you get clean? Did you go to meetings?
I tried some meetings – a couple of churches and things. It tended to not do me much good. People tried to be cool, but I got asked for autographs a couple of times. It made me shut down. Instead, I called a rehab counselor who'd helped me the first time. Now I see him once a week.

I also started running like a fucking maniac. Seventeen miles a day, every day. Just replacing one addiction with another. I had days where I could hardly walk. In my mind I was trying to get down to – what's his name, in The Machinist? Christian Bale. Which was really fucking stupid. But I'd get a number of calories in my head I needed to burn, and no matter what, I would do it.

I have a slight bit of OCD, I think. I'm not walking around flipping light switches. But when I say I'm going to do something, I have to do it.

Who else do you talk to?
I speak to Elton [John]. He's like my sponsor. He usually calls me once a week to check on me, just to make sure I'm on the up-and-up. He was actually one of the first people I called when I wanted to get clean. He was hipping me to things, like, "You're going to see nature that you never noticed before." Shit you'd normally think was corny but that you haven't seen in so long that you just go, "Wow! Look at that fucking rainbow!" Or even little things – trees, the color of leaves. I fucking love leaves now, man. I feel like I've been neglecting leaves for a long time.

Are you ever tempted to use again?
Honestly, no. For one thing, I try not to be in a position where I could be tempted. I've performed in a few clubs where there is drinking and shit, but I think even if I'd never had a drug problem, at the age I'm at, I wouldn't want to [use] anyway. I feel like this is the time in your life where you stop doing that stuff. Time to grow up.

What's your sober date?
4/20. Ironically.

Let's talk about rapping some. Do you remember your first rhyme?
Shit, I think I do. I was at my great-aunt Edna's house in St. Joseph, Missouri. I was 12, maybe 13 at the most, and I wrote a rhyme that sounded exactly like LL Cool J. Something like, "...da da da da, 'cause before you can blink/I'll have a hundred million rhymes and like a ship you will sink!" [Laughs]

Not bad!
I was proud of it. And I didn't think it sounded like LL at all. In my head, it was me [laughs]. It's weird, man. There's certain little landmarks in your life that you just don't forget. I remember walking back and forth between my little room there and the kitchen, just like I do today. I even remember the kind of paper I wrote it on. It was small, like from a notepad, and beige. And it had blue writing at the top.

And you still write on a notepad now – no laptop, no BlackBerry...
I've seen a lot of rappers stack their ideas in BlackBerries, but it wouldn't work for me. I'd have to, you know – scroll, scroll, scroll. If it's on the pad, I can look at everything at once.

Do you still write in the bathroom?
Sometimes. I think we do most of our best thinking on the shitter. What else do you have to do in there besides think?

How do you go about putting together a verse?
Even as a kid, I always wanted the most words to rhyme. Say I saw a word like "transcendalistic tendencies." I would write it out on a piece of paper – trans-cend-a-lis-tic ten-den-cies – and underneath, I'd line a word up with each syllable: and bend all mystic sentence trees. Even if it didn't make sense, that's the kind of drill I would do to practice. To this day, I still want as many words as possible in a sentence to rhyme.

Can you give another example? Maybe write a few bars about this interview?
About this interview? How much money you got? [Laughs] I can spit a hot 16 real quick!

I don't think I can afford you.
Yeah, probably not [laughs]. Let me think about it. [At our meeting the next day, Eminem flips open his notebook to a page near the back. "I wrote it right after you left," he says. "Just some dumb shit." I ask to read it, and he says he'd rather rap it. It goes like this:
This dude doin' this interview wants me to spin a few
Lyrics while I tie my fuckin' tennis shoes in the nude
A romantic interlude in a livin' room
In an inner tube with a dude with a bit of lube
Fuck that, I'm sniffin' glue, sippin' gin and juice
And a little bit of paint thinner with my dinner too
You better pay me for my bars like your rent is due
Now hurry up and finish, dude, before I finish you

Every line rhymes with the word "interview" – some twice, and one even three times. I ask him how long it took to write. "About two minutes," he says.]

Where do you think you get your love of words from? Are you a big reader?
The only book I ever read from front to back was LL's [1998 autobiography I Make My Own Rules]. I just never really got into books. My great-aunt Edna, she would read to me sometimes, like The Little Engine That Could. And I was into comic books heavy. But as far as book-books? Nah. I think it's just listening, being a sponge. I suck at math. I'm terrible at social studies. But I've always been good at English, and I always had a lot of words in my vocabulary. Even now, I might not know what a word means, but if I hear you say it and it's an interesting word, I'll go look it up.

What's a typical day like for Marshall Mathers these days?
I'll get up around 7:30 or 8:00 and work out. I was working with a boxing trainer for a while, but now I just run, bike, hit the heavy bag. I eat breakfast – low-fat waffles with sugar-free syrup and a Red Bull – and then just get to the studio as early as I can, try to put in a full day's work so I can get home early enough to see the kids.

And in the evenings?
I watch a lot of TV. The First 48 – that show is incredible. South Park. Tosh.0 is a funny dude. Intervention, Celebrity Rehab – those are good because I can relate to what they're going through. And sports – the NFL Channel and SportsCenter are on in my house 24/7. Football is my main shit – I like the Lions and the Cowboys. And I play fantasy football with some friends. I'm in third place right now, out of eight or nine teams. Not bad.

Who do you hang out with?
I've got a few close friends. The guys in D12. Royce Da 5'9". 50 [Cent] is one of my good friends – there's an extra bedroom in the house that he'll stay in when he comes to town. But for the most part they just come hang here [at the studio]. Basically I work five days a week, and then weekends and as many evenings as I can with the kids.

In your song "Going Through Changes," you talk about living "like a recluse." Do you feel disconnected from the world sometimes?
Well, that song is about my addiction, and my mind frame at the time. I don't feel like a recluse now. I do go out and do things – it's just hard. You've got to take an entourage. It's a pain in the ass. When I didn't have a record out for four or five years, I was taking little trips down to see my great-aunt Edna, before she passed. I knew it was getting close – she was in her 90s – and I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could. Not having a record out, I could stop at a gas station, go places and not get recognized. That was actually a pretty good feeling.

It might sound weird, given that I'm always trying to get people's attention with my music, but I'm not an attention-seeker. When I'm not Eminem, and I'm just Marshall – it's hard.

What about your love life? Do you date?
Not really. As far as going out, like dinner and a movie – I just can't. Going out in public is just too crazy. I mean, I'd like to be in a relationship again someday. Who doesn't? It's just hard to meet new people, in my position.

You mean being famous?
No, I mean being gay [laughs]. Kidding.

I wonder how much your problems with your mom and ex-wife have to do with it. Do you think it's hard for you to trust women?
I have trust issues. With women, friends, whatever. You always wonder what their real motives are. I've got a small circle of friends, and it's a lot of the same friends I've known forever. Right now, that works for me.

I came out of some difficult things these past couple of years. I kind of feel like I'm just now finding my footing. So I want to make sure that's secure before I go out and do anything else. I need to keep working on myself for a while.

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