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Interview:
Eminem and Royce make peace with Bad Meets Evil
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Bad Meets Evil is the result of a happy accident rather than a master plan.

The duo of Detroit rappers Eminem and Royce da 5’9” — who released the EP “Hell: The Sequel” on June 14 — came about when Royce and producer Denaun Porter approached the superstar MC last year to guest on a song they were working on called “I’m on Everything,” ostensibly for a Royce album. Eminem agreed, and Royce says the two “had so much fun doing it, we decided any time we had a little bit of spare time we’d record something just to (mess) around like we used to back in the day.

“After a certain amount of time we just looked up and had all the record. It was a blur. This just came really organically and smooth.”

Porter, who helmed five of nine tracks on “Hell: The Sequel” and is listed as an executive producer, adds that, “one song turned into another one and into another one ...We didn’t even know what we were doing. We didn’t know we were doing an EP at first. It just kind of formed itself.”

But while “Hell: The Sequel” — which is expected to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart this week — seemingly came out of nowhere, it’s actually the result of a long and not always friendly history between its principals.

Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers III) and Royce (Ryan Montgomery) met on the Detroit rap scene around 1997 and became fast friends and collaborators. Eminem provided an entree to Dr. Dre, who used Royce as a ghostwriter on some of his “2001” album, while Eminem and Royce collaborated on the song “Bad Meets Evil” on Eminem’s 1999 major-label debut “The Slim Shady LP.”

“We just did a song together. I didn’t know he was gonna put it on his album,” Royce, 33, recalls. “I didn’t think we were going to be any type of dynamic duo or anything like that.

It was one hip-hopper working with another. Because I’m younger than him, he’s basically my influence, like the sensei and the student, because I learned so much from him.

“And at that point, of course, he was blowing up. The buzz was just crazy, and he was throwing my name around, so it was a great thing.”

The relationship soon hit some speed bumps, however. Royce had a falling out with Dr. Dre, who had signed Eminem to his Aftermath Entertainment label, over business matters. Then Royce became estranged from the other members of D12, who even took shots at each other in their music, which led to a complete split with Eminem.

“You just look back in retrospect and say you were young,” Royce explains. “We were in our 20s. You make mistakes. We’ve all grown from it.”

Porter, who was introduced to Royce by Eminem and was working with the younger MC at the time of the schism, remembers that “it was like a competitive thing.”

“This business is competitive. It got serious at times but, ya know? Boys will play. We were all young back then, and we didn’t have a lot of teachers.”

D12 co-founder Proof (DeShaun Holton), a respected elder statesman in the rap community, took the initiative to heal the rift, according to Royce. “Me and Proof did a lot of talking,” he notes. That led to peace with D12 and subsequently with Eminem. “They took that information to him and said, ‘We’re all good with Royce, man. We squashed it.’ ”

Both were deeply affected by Proof’s shooting death in April 2006, and when Eminem “felt the time was right, he called me himself so we could talk,” Royce remembers. “It felt like we’d be stronger together than against each other.”

The depth of healing was made clear earlier this year, when Eminem announced he’d signed Slaughterhouse, an all-star rap group Royce is part of, to his Shady Records label.

But even before that, the two had started working on the songs that would become “Hell: The Sequel.” “I believe for those two guys it was a lot of, ‘Man, I wish we could’ve done this a long time ago. I wish this would’ve happened back then,’” Porter says. “For them I felt like it was a really gratifying experience.”

Royce — who happily proclaims on the EP that “me and Shady deaded the past” — says “the chemistry just clicked pretty easily” between him and Eminem, and that they smoothly slipped into their roles as Bad and Evil, respectively.

But, Porter acknowledges, there was some concern in the beginning when he and Royce brought “I’m On Everything” to Eminem, who had, after all, gone through a well-publicized bout of drug addiction and rehabilitation, which he wrote and rapped about extensively on his latest pair of multiplatinum, Grammy Award winning albums — 2009’s “Relapse” and 2010’s “Recovery.”

Even though the song is tongue-in-cheek, featuring a guest appearance by comic Mike Epps in the finished version, Porter, who serves as Eminem’s in-concert hype man, wasn’t sure how it would be received.

“We were wondering about how Em would talk about being on drugs and everything being that he wasn’t in that place anymore,” Porter notes. “We didn’t know if he was going to want to approach it, but it turned out crazy. He wound up jumping back into that character. That showed me just how clear-minded he is to remember what to say and how to say it all these years later.”

Royce adds that, “A lot of people love the new, more mature, more sober, conquering-his-demons (Eminem). But a lot of them still want to hear the old, crazier Em from back in the day. So whenever we get together we try to make it as nostalgic as possible, just take it back to when it didn’t matter and we just wanted to rhyme.

“We wanted to play those characters again. That’s what feels normal to us when we get together.

Eminem’s sharp tongue and irreverent lyricism has also attracted attention for the EP track “A Kiss.” Besides eyebrow-raising references to Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, it also jabs at Lady Gaga, referencing her hermaphrodite rumors in the line, “Tell Lady Gaga she can quit her job at the post office/She’s still a male lady.” Eminem recently told Fuse TV it was “all in fun” and saluted Gaga as an “undeniable” artist. And Royce concurs that any controversy is overblown.

“He has a great sense of humor,” says Royce, whose reference to “the corpse of Jack Kevorkian” on the song “Fast Lane” is timely, even though the song was written well before his actual death. “He’s been doing that type of thing his whole career. It’s one of the things that makes him great. I laughed when I heard it and told him he was crazy. I definitely don’t think anyone should take it as an insult.”

Royce says he and Eminem are not planning any formal Bad Meets Evil performances, although he plans to pop up at Eminem’s shows. He’s also looking toward the July 26 release of an independent solo album, “Success is Certain,” that features an Eminem guest appearance on the song “Writer’s Block.” Meanwhile, Slaughterhouse — which guests on the “Hell: The Sequel” track “Loud Noises” — has “got a lot done” on its first Shady album, including work with producers such as Porter, Just Blaze, The Alchemist and others.

As for Bad Meets Evil’s future, no one is making firm predictions.

“We didn’t ever talk about it in the first place; it just kind of happened,” Royce says. But Porter says it’s not something to rule out, either.

“If time allows and it turns into a continuous thing,” he notes, “it’ll be another bullet in the gun for Shady, and another bullet in the gun for Detroit. I can definitely say they had a lot of fun making (‘Hell: The Sequel’), and let’s just see what happens.”





Royce da 5’9” and Paradime perform Thursday, June 23, at the Emerald Theatre, 31 N. Walnut St., Mount Clemens. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of show. Call 586-913-1920 or visit www.emeraldtheatre.com.



Web Site: www.emeraldtheatre.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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