Detroit rapper Eminem talked Wednesday to Free Press pop
music critic Brian McCollum. Here are some excerpts. Editor's
note: The numerous profanities in the conversation have been
replaced with dashes.
MCCOLLUM: You say on "The Way I Am" that "I'm
not gonna be able to top 'My Name Is.' " Here you've
sold four million records in five weeks. Guess you proved
EMINEM: When I wrote that song the label was really stressing
me for a first single. I had my whole album just about finished.
I went up to Interscope and played it for everybody. But everybody
was saying they didn't feel like I had a leadoff single --
they were all second singles, like "Stan" and "Criminal."
That's when I wrote "The Way I Am," right after
we had that meeting. I was feeling the frustration and
pressure of like trying to top "My Name Is." So
instead of giving them "The Real Slim Shady," which
I ended up writing at the last minute right before my deadline
-- thank God -- I gave 'em that song. I just let it out. It
was a message to the label, a message to everybody, to get
off my f------ back.
Nobody really understands the pressures put on me, to always
be good, to always be on point. There are so many pressures
that go with my job right now. It's crazy. I'm really glad
we're shooting a video of this song. It's my favorite song
on the album.
Despite all your success last year, it doesn't sound like
you've found much peace. In fact, it seems quite the opposite.
You gotta be careful what you wish for. I always wished and
hoped for this. But it's almost turning into more of a nightmare
than a dream.
In what way?
In every aspect: not being able to walk down the street anymore,
people not treating me like a normal human being anymore.
I miss going to the park and playing basketball. I was never
that person who wanted big cars and Benzes. All I really wanted
to do was have a career in hip-hop and be successful.
Does that mean you would take back the last year?
Would I take it all back? That's a good question. That's
a real good question. It's 50-50. People would argue, "You
got everything you want. You've got money, you don't have
to worry about paying bills."
But I can't even go in public anymore. I've got the whole
world looking at me. I can't be treated like regular person
But there are positives, just in the sense that my little
brother's not gonna need anything the rest of his life. My
moth ...My mother! My daughter's not gonna need anything the
rest of her life. Sometimes I feel like I'm living my life
for everyone else. I wake up at seven in the morning, and
the rest of the day is work. I can't sleep. I don't eat. It's
just crazy. It's a lot of f------ work, a lot more work than
I ever expected.
When you look back at your days playing clubs around town,
does it feel like ancient history, or are those memories fresh
in your mind?
It doesn't seem that far away. These past couple of years
have really shot by for me. S--- is speeding now. Before I
was famous, when I was just working in Gilbert's Lodge, everything
was moving in slow motion.
Most people figure that after delivering a multiplatinum
album, like you did last year with "Slim Shady,"
you could go just about anywhere you wanted. But you stayed
in the Detroit area. Bought the big house in Sterling Heights
I tried to stay close to home. For one thing I bought the
house when I didn't know I would be as successful as I am
now. It was like, "I better grab this house, I don't
know if any more money is coming." I bought the house,
got it on the main road ...just figuring I might get a couple
of fans every once in a while. That was a big f------ mistake.
And the city won't let me put up a fence. They won't pass
a city ordinance for me. They won't take my case as a special
case. Everybody wants to treat me like a regular f------ person.
But I'm not a regular f------ person. I've gotta have security
guards sitting outside my house now because they won't let
me put a fence up. The other night somebody hit one of my
security guards in the head with a battery. That's they type
of s--- I get, m-----------s coming to my house, knocking
on the door. Either they want autographs or they want to fight.
We've had people getting in our backyard and swimming in our
I take it you're planning to find somewhere else to live.
Yes, I will. Yes, indeed.
And you stayed close to home ...
Just because I'm so used to it. Like I said, a lot of people
don't understand this about me.... I guess the point I'm trying
to get across is not only did I never think I'd get this big,
it's like I'm still refusing to believe it. I don't like having
security hold my hand to walk out to my f------mailbox. There's
something inside of me that refuses to believe I can't walk
down the street or be as normal as I want to be. That's the
Your run-ins with the law have upped the ante.
I can't comment on it as much as I'd like to. All I can say
is that it's the story of my life: Whenever something good
happens, the bad always follows. That's the story of my life
since the day I was born.
I should have been out celebrating my record sales. Instead
I'm sitting there in jail. Hopefully I can get through this.
How do you feel about your chances?
Uh . .. (Pauses) Man, I can't even say what I feel. But I
have no idea what's gonna happen. I hate not knowing that,
but I guess it's part of the life I lead. I don't know, man.
My personal life is kind of f----- up. Every aspect of my
personal life is put out there.
And you've helped put it out there. How does somebody get
past the intimidation of airing their dirty laundry for millions
I don't know. I think one of the reasons is because I make
my songs for me. Me and the missus, we go at it. It's no secret
we've had our problems, or that we're still having our problems.
I feel like when something's bothering me, the best way to
get it out is to write a song about it, I think when I do
that, people can relate to me more. The more I tell them,
the more in touch they are with me.
Because I guarantee you there's a lot of people going through
this kind of s--- with their relationships -- with their girl,
their man. I think a lot of people feel what I'm really saying.
There's a lot of people out there that get in relationships
and have kids involved. Once you have a child, once you bring
a child into this world, it makes it that much more complicated,
especially when you don't get along with someone. You're trying
to make it work, you want to make your family work. But s---
keeps happening that f---- it up.
Not to defend Kim, but I realize what has happened to me
has probably been a strain on her, too. It's a crazy thing
to deal with. You've really got be in shape.
How supportive was she of your music as you were trying to
catch a break?
Want me to be honest? It was off and on. When we were younger,
she supported everything I did. The older we got, the more
reality started to set in. She's one of those people that's
real down to earth, like "Hello! You're living in fantasy.
These things don't happen to people like us." I was always
the optimist, like, "Yo, I'm gonna make this happen."
And I just kept busting my ass. To be honest, I really didn't
have much support, nobody in my family, in her family. Just
a few friends. And just myself.
By Brian McCollum, Detroit