"Right now, I'm probably working harder than I've ever worked in my life," says a sleep-deprived Eminem, gulping diet Red Bull in his suburban Detroit studio. He's well past deadline ("They keep telling me a different day," he says) on his new album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 – out November 5th – and the final mixes still aren't quite done. "Aside from around the time of The Eminem Show, when I was also doing the 8 Mile movie and soundtrack and score and shit like that. This is probably the equivalent of that, but all focused on the record."
A lot of fans – including Eminem himself, most days – consider 2000's original The Marshall Mathers LP his best. So making an album worthy of the name meant recording, and then discarding, dozens of extra songs. "Calling it The Marshall Mathers LP 2, obviously I knew that there might be certain expectations," he says. "I wouldn't want to call it that just for the sake of calling it that. I had to make sure that I had the right songs – and just when you think you got it, you listen and you're like, 'Fuck, man! I feel like it needs this or that,' to paint the whole picture."
Some tracks, including the Rick Rubin-produced, Beastie-esque single "Berzerk," draw on old-school hip-hop. Eminem was already headed that way when his manager, Paul Rosenberg, hooked him up with Rubin. "Getting with him was like, 'Holy shit!'" says Eminem. "As many genres of music that he is able to fuck with, he's like Yoda. I couldn't do it. You sit me there with a rock group, I don't know the first fucking thing about banging on the drums."
Eminem emphasizes that the album, which includes collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Nate Ruess and Rihanna (again), is "not necessarily a sequel, as much as it is a revisitation.
"So there's not gonna be, like, continuations of every old song on there or anything like that," he adds. "To me, it's more about the vibe, and it's more about the nostalgia."
This story is from the November 7th, 2013, issue of Rolling Stone.