The platinum-blond hair is back, and in so many ways — for the first time in years — Slim Shady truly is, too. In the new issue of Rolling Stone (on stands Friday), senior writer Brian Hiatt gets Eminem to reflect on his sobriety and a lifetime devoted to hip-hop in a more candid way than ever before.
"I'm as happy as I can be, I guess," Em reveals, later telling Hiatt, "Hip-hop saved my life, man. It's the only thing I've ever been even decent at. I don't know how to do anything else. I think they have a word for that — what do they call it? Idiot savant?"
Eminem stresses he was being intentionally spaced-out when he appeared alongside Brent Musburger on ESPN in September. In fact, he was channeling the Beastie Boys. "I knew we were about to show the 'Berzerk' video, so I was doing what I call the Berzerk face," he says. "The whole song to me feels like vintage Beastie Boys. And you know the 'Pass the Mic' video where Ad-Rock is making that face, kind of not looking the camera? I was doing my own version."
Em also admits he didn't always understand the Beasties' artistic twists and turns. "When Paul's Boutique came out, I was one of the fans that didn't get it," he says. "It took me years to realize how fucking genius it is. I felt bad for sleeping on it.
"Obviously, yes, there was something about Licensed to Ill — you had the Zeppelin samples and their vibe. You had Run-DMC, who were so cool, with the attitude of 'Fuck you if you don't like us.' Same as the Beastie Boys. 'Fuck you. We fucking curse. We spit beer. We throw it on our fucking fans.' And obviously as they got older their views and things changed, as all of ours do. You can be mad at their shit for not sounding like their last shit, but if it did, then they didn't grow as artists. Same as me."
Eminem's nostalgia for classic hip-hop albums shaped The Marshall Mathers LP 2, his nearly platinum new album, which moved an astonishing 792,000 copies last week. But he stresses his glances back to the past weren't purely mechanical.
"Being a student of hip-hop in general, you take technical aspects from places," he says. "You may take a rhyme pattern or flow from Big Daddy Kane or Kool G Rap. But then you go to Tupac, and he made songs. His fucking songs felt like something — 'Holy shit! I want to fucking punch someone in the face when I put this CD in.' Biggie told stories. I wanted to do all that shit."
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, November 22nd.