Has your dad ever tried to get in touch with you?
No. Well... I heard there was one instance. He had a baby book of mine, and he wanted to give it back. He was around until I was about six months old, so I guess he had pictures from then. But I didn't even know what my father looked like until I was 18 or 19, and my mother showed me a picture. I remember being a little kid, coloring in front of the TV at my aunt and uncle's house, and he would call on the phone. I would say, "Was that my dad?" And my aunt would change the subject. He had to know I was there. But I never even got so much as a "Brucie, your dad says hi."
Did that hurt?
I don't know if it hurt back then. But the older you get, you start to realize, "Fuck. I would never do that to my kids." You start getting a chip on your shoulder, getting bitter. At this point – look, I'm a grown man. I'm not gonna sit here and bicker about it. But at the end of the day, it's fucked up.
And now you have kids. What does being a good father mean to you?
Just being there. Not missing things. If there's anything important going on, regardless of what it is, I'm there. Helping them with homework when you can. At the grades my older ones are in, it's hard [laughs]. I never even passed ninth grade. They're already way smarter than me.
Why do you think you've never left Detroit?
A lot of it might have to do with moving around so much as a kid, never having stability. My kids are comfortable here – I want them to have the stability I didn't. And it's also nostalgic. Being a few miles from where I grew up, being used to the people, the mentality. I'm a creature of habit. I know one way to get downtown. I still get lost driving places and shit.
You've made your comeback. Where do you go from here?
If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I would have said I'd probably quit rapping by 30. Now I think I'll keep doing it as long as I have the spark. But I do worry about when the time comes that I need to do something else. Because it's going to be hard. What else do I know? Hip-hop is the only thing I was ever good at. What am I going to do?
More acting? Maybe go back to school?
Well, I did go back and get my GED. I don't know if that counts, but I'm proud of it.
I've never really had a plan. When I was younger, I just wanted to be a rapper. If I didn't make it, I had no plan B. Now that I am a rapper, I don't know. I'd like to refocus on rebuilding our label. Maybe doing a little producing. Other than that, I'm not sure.
Do you think about aging? In your song "Without Me" – the one where you called Moby a fag and told him to blow you – you also said he was "too old" and to "let go, it's over." He was 36 at the time. You're about to turn 38.
At the time that I wrote that, it seemed so far away. I do feel like I've grown up a lot. There's always going to be that part of me that reverts back to immaturity, but I think that's just my warped sense of humor.
"Not Afraid" has a positive message for people trying to overcome obstacles. Are you more comfortable now with the idea of being a role model?
Whatever I can be to people is fine. Some people may look up to me. Some people may consider me a fucking menace. But I'm grateful for every fan letter I get, and for every person who says I helped save them.
I don't know, man. I feel like I took a lot of time off. Not doing shit for those four or five years, how lazy I got – it's time to get back to doing what I love. I feel like I've got a lot of gas in the tank. I just want to make up for letting people down.
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This story is from the November 25, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.
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