Eminem may already have had a legendary career, but he continues to look forward — by keeping an eye on who’s hot now.
In a cover story with XXL in celebration of the magazine’s 25th anniversary, Eminem reflected on his career in his own words and opened up about what he’s experienced, learned, and how he stays motivated after years in the business.
Reflecting on how he manages to stay relevant, the rapper admits that he looks to newer generations of rappers for inspiration.
“My role in today’s hip-hop is to always try to be the best rapper,” the “Shake That” rapper, 49, told the outlet. “That’s it. That’s how I want to feel inside. That’s what I want to feel. And I can’t do that until I listen to what the f— J. Cole just put out. What the f— did Kendrick just put out?“
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty; Antony Jones/Getty; Arturo Holmes/Getty Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole
He continued, “And I’m thinking, Oh, these dudes ain’t playing. I don’t want to get swept away in that shuffle. I still want to let everybody know who the f— I am. Like I said, ‘They rap to be the best rappers.’ I’ll hear some s— by them, and I’ll be like, Yo, I ain’t the best rapper right now. I need to f—in’ get up, get back on my s—.”
He also admitted that focusing on the metrics won’t get him anywhere, considering today’s rappers have the same goal in mind.
“At this point, a lot of the big achievements that could come in your career have happened for me already, so I don’t hyper-focus on numbers and being on charts. What I hyper-focus on is people like Kendrick Lamar, Joyner Lucas, J. Cole and Big Sean, and watching them and how the f— they’re doing their s—. Because they’re also focused on being the best rappers.”
But being in the business for years also means he sometimes finds himself getting stuck in his writing.
“My writing process is different now than it was back in the day. It used to be, give me whatever piece of paper is laying around and I’m going to write some ideas down. Sometimes I wish I could have that freedom back,” the “When I’m Gone” rapper said.
He continued, “At the beginning of my career, I had this whole canvas that I could paint on. ‘I haven’t made a song about this, this, this. I can make a song about this.’ The more you paint on that canvas, all of the sudden, you’ve made a song about every single thing you can f—in’ possibly think of. So I start getting in my head. If I had a choice between being the best rapper or making the best albums, I’d rather be the best rapper.”
“That’s how I rap, to be the best rapper,” he concludes. “Obviously, all of that is subjective, and everybody’s got their favorite rappers, but in my head, I would rather do that than just make good songs.”
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Last month, Eminem hit the MTV Video Music Awards stage with Snoop Dogg to perform their collaboration “From the D to the LBC.” He also recently released a greatest hits album called Curtain Call 2, which features Rihanna and Beyoncé.
Last week, he received his first Emmy Award for his appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show — and became just a Tony Award win away from the prestigious EGOT status.
In November, the rapper will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, and Carly Simon.