Eminem’s current mode of transportation has none of the plush luxuries you would assume a rapper might have in his traveling venue: no TV, no PlayStation 2, no DVD player and no roof.
“Throw it up,” the Detroit rhyme Goliath says, looking down at an anxious fan waving a CD. Eminem’s in New York City, traveling with a small entourage around Manhattan on a double-decker bus, made for tourists to go site-seeing. But Slim Shady is the spectacle today as he rides downtown from Times Square.
“I remember them days, just being so f—ing hungry,” Eminem laughs after trying to catch the guy’s CD that was flung to him from street level. “People will go to such lengths. I would do anything to let people hear my sh–. I didn’t care, [I was like] ‘Please dub my sh–, please listen to my demo.’ “
Nowadays, there aren’t too many people who haven’t heard Eminem’s irresistible irreverence, and while he loves to be heard, nothing will ever beat a day at home chilling with his daughter, Hailie Jade. And while his young one thinks her dad’s gone crazy, Eminem insists he’s quite the sane one. It’s the world around him that’s gone bonkers.
Atop the double-decker and on a hotel roof in Manhattan, Shaheem Reid and Sway Calloway got the lowdown on Marshall Mathers, the man. Among the things they chatted about were how he rates himself as a dad, what he thinks of his own father, why he doesn’t cover himself in ice and what it feels like to have strangers jumping into your pool …
MTV: Jay-Z has a new album coming out where he says fame is both a gift and a curse. Do you agree with Jigga’s assessment?
Eminem: You gotta take the ups and downs with it. Fame has got its pros and cons. The pros would be you don’t have to ride one of these [double- decker buses] anymore. The cons would be all the craziness that comes with it. When you get rid of some of your small problems, like having bills, [and then transition] to getting to where somebody like me or Jay-Z is, you have a whole new slew of problems, like lawsuits and other things I never knew could exist.
MTV: The tour is going well and you’ve sold millions of records, but you’re one of the few rappers that we never hear talking about ice or cars or your bank account. What do you do with your money? Better yet, what’s the first big-ticket item you bought?
Eminem: The first big-ticket item that I bought was a house. When I first started seeing money, I treated that like it was the only house I would ever buy and the only royalty check that I would ever get. That’s how I treat every [check]. The truth is, you don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. This is a crazy ride and nothing is guaranteed. I could wake up tomorrow and this could all be over. You have to invest.
MTV: What was it like owning your first home?
Eminem: At the time I bought it, I had no idea how famous I really was. It was across the street from a trailer park and we had kids coming across all day knocking on the door. We had a pool in the backyard, kids were jumping in the pool. It was crazy. The house was on a main road so we had people whipping in my driveway like, “Em, what up?” I literally couldn’t go outside my house. So we deaded that real quick, sold the house, lost money and bought a new house. That’s probably the best investment I’ve made, my new house.
MTV: You say you weren’t aware of your fame when you first started blowing up. When did you start sensing how popular you were becoming?
Eminem: The first time I really sensed it was flipping through channels and seeing my face on every channel. You kind of get sick of yourself. The first time I experienced it was probably walking through a mall or something and not realizing how many people really know who you are. I probably got the most unmistakable nose and chin in the business. Sometimes I’ll go out and cover up [most] of my face. If they see one eye [people know it’s me], it’s crazy.
MTV: Your daughter Hailie is obviously a huge inspiration in your life and music, and the two of you have even recorded a song together. But does she know the depths of her daddy’s fame yet?
Eminem: Yeah, she knows. She’s six and she’s getting the grasp of that whole thing. She’s starting to realize. She goes to school like, ‘My dad’s on TV,’ and these other kids, their dads aren’t on TV.
MTV: Hailie is becoming a mini celeb in her own right. She seemed really comfortable recording “My Dad’s Gone Crazy.” Do you see her following in your footsteps and making music when she gets older?
Eminem: When she’s 25, maybe she can. She’s gotta grow up first. She scares me a little bit ’cause she’s got that “little star” quality.
MTV: So will Hailie be getting any siblings anytime soon? Maybe you could spearhead a hip-hop Partridge family.
Eminem: No more kids. I’m good with Hailie. I’ll spoil her and give her everything I never had. I have other family members that I take care of and want to take care of, but as far as kids, I’m cool. No more, one is enough.
MTV: As you approach the big 3-0, are you getting this whole parenting thing down pat? How would you rate yourself as a father?
Eminem: I do the best I can right now. I truly believe I’m doing the right thing and I do a good job. I’m a father before anything. I’m a father before I pick up the mic. I’m a father before I’m Eminem. Of course I’m not the perfect parent. There may be things I’m doing wrong and I’ll find out in 10, 15 years, but right now I’m doing the best job I can and that’s all I can do.
MTV: As much as she depends on you, in “Say Goodbye Hollywood” you liken Hailie to sort of your lifeline, saying “I gotta get up, thank God/ I got a little girl/ And I’m a responsible father/ So not a lot of good I’d be to my daughter/ Layin’ in the bottom of the mud …” Do you think that your daughter has saved your life?
Eminem: I think that in a roundabout way she did save my life. I always had drive coming up and I always wanted to make it as a rapper. That was my dream. But when she was born, it was the reality of “I have to do this.” I had nothing else. I had no high school education. I want her to be able to grow up and look back on this and be like — whether people agree with it or not — “My dad put me on a song. My dad wrote songs for me, my dad said my name all over the place.” I want her to be able to look back in magazines and everything and just know. I don’t ever wanna be like my father was to me.
MTV: In the video for “Cleaning Out My Closet,” you talk a lot about your mother, but some of the most mind-searing images portray your recollection of how your father treated you and your mother. Have you ever tried to reach out to him?
Eminem: I have never spoke to my father and I never will. I’m cool. It’s not a void in my life, [I don’t feel there’s something] missing or anything. I’m happy and I’ve got who I need in my life and I think I’ve found a peace, an inner peace. I don’t feel like I ever need to meet him one day and be like, “Oh my life is complete.” I don’t want to know him.
MTV: You’ve been feuding with your mother for quite some time, you’ve dissed her numerous times in songs and even took a couple of shots at her during the Anger Management Tour. What type of toll, if any, has your estrangement taken on Hailie’s relationship with her grandmother?
Eminem: That’s a difficult situation because my little brother lives with me now so my mother occasionally has to come there. I know that I can’t imagine what goes on in a six-year-old’s head. I know there’s probably part of [Hailie] that maybe wants to see her grandmother but she doesn’t know what’s going on, and I just basically keep her sheltered from it. When [my mother] does come to the house, I try to occupy Hailie. When she’s old enough and she wants to know her grandmother, she can make that decision on her own. But as of right now, I’m not gonna subject my daughter to any of that.
MTV: You have a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to come from a home where the parents are not together. How much of an effect do you think your divorce from Kim will have on Hailie?
Eminem: I think that it’s good that this happened while Hailie was real young and didn’t get so used to seeing her mother and father together all the time. I think it’s better we did it early because sh– was rocky for a while … I don’t wanna subject my seed to that type of turmoil, ’cause it was turmoil a couple years ago. I think that right now when I look at it, she’s a happy little girl. To me she doesn’t show any signs that something’s bothering her or anything like that. Maybe when she gets older she could tell me, maybe it was something I didn’t know.
MTV: So now that you’re single once again, are you going the Puffy route and looking for a new girl to ride, ride, ride?
Eminem: No. I’m not looking for a new woman. I’m cool being single — not to say I don’t get down (laughing). But as far as a relationship or getting married again, I’m cool, man. I learned my lesson and I’ve seen what it is and what it can and can’t be and I feel like I’ve learned enough from my first mistake. Let that be the last one and keep moving forward. Relationships? No.