Eminem On 'Revival': 'I Speak To Everybody' Eminem joins Michel Martin to talk taking on President Trump, racial disparity and his own maturing career on his ninth studio album.
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Eminem On 'Revival': 'I Speak To Everybody'

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Eminem On 'Revival': 'I Speak To Everybody'

Eminem On 'Revival': 'I Speak To Everybody'

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RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

I mentioned earlier Michel Martin is out today, but we couldn't keep her out of the studio for today's final conversation. And we should warn you, you'll hear some colorful language which has been bleeped.

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Our next guest has been called many things - brilliant, controversial, shocking. He's been criticized as much as he's been celebrated. But here's one thing that's not up for discussion - he's the best-selling hip-hop artist of all time with 15 Grammys and an Academy Award to his name.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY NAME IS")

EMINEM: (Rapping) My name is chicka-chicka-chicka (ph) Slim Shady. Hi kids, do you like violence? Want to see me stick 9-inch nails through each one of my eyelids?

MARTIN: We're talking about none other than Marshall Mathers, as he's better known, Eminem. It's been more than 18 years since he hit the big time with that song. He's 45 now with a new album out that focuses on some things that a grown man, like he is, might have on his mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTOUCHABLE")

EMINEM: (Rapping) As I kick these facts and get these mixed reactions as this beat backspins, it's like we're drifting back into the '60s. Having black skin is risky 'cause this keeps happening. Throughout history, African-Americans have been treated like shit. And I admit, there have been times where it's been embarrassing to be a white boy, white boy.

MARTIN: That's "Untouchable." It's a new single from Eminem's ninth solo studio album titled "Revival." And we're joined now by Eminem, Marshall Mathers, from Detroit. Mr. Mathers, thank you so much for speaking with us.

EMINEM: I will never get an intro that good again.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

EMINEM: As long as I live, I will never get that again.

MARTIN: Well, we do our best.

EMINEM: That was incredible. Thank you.

MARTIN: Well, you know, I was looking up the last time you talked with us. And you talked with my colleague Guy Raz back in 2010 when you had just released "Recovery," and you were going through some things. You had just come to terms with an addiction problem. And you had recovered from an overdose. And so the first and most important thing is, how is your health?

EMINEM: I hope it's good.

MARTIN: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

EMINEM: I wish I had a better answer to that. No, I'm good. I'm good. I think I found out I'm allergic to myself.

MARTIN: Meaning?

EMINEM: I don't know, like eating healthy and stuff like that was something that I never really got into until I got sober. And then it's amazing how your life can change by just like eating the right things and not eating the wrong things, not eating medicine.

MARTIN: Do you like this new person?

EMINEM: I'm OK with him, I guess.

MARTIN: All right. So talk about "Revival." There's a lot that I want to talk about. Let's hear what you had in mind. You know, first of all, I mean, let's talk about the title. And also, let's talk about the cover art. It's an image, for folks who haven't seen it yet, it's kind of a translucent American flag with what appears to be a man holding his head in his hand kind of like a posture of grief. And why this image for the album cover? And why the title?

EMINEM: Well, the title just kind of made sense with everything that the album was about. And the cover, you know, is me kind of with my head down because, you know, as much as I love our country, we got [expletive] that we got to work on. So it's kind of like a - I love our country, I'm upset with it right now.

MARTIN: Was there an epiphany moment for you, or is this something that's been building for a while?

EMINEM: It's something that's been building for a while. And watching watching the Trump thing has been very frustrating.

MARTIN: What part of it's been frustrating?

EMINEM: All of it. What part's not been frustrating? In the very beginning, I kind of felt like, you know what? Why not? He seems like a smart businessman. You know, maybe he can help with the deficit or whatever, right? And then I start hearing him talk. And the more he talks, the more his true colors are showing. And it's, you know, I was watching the thing live when he was talking about, you know, when Mexico sends their people, they don't send their best. They're sending rapists. They're sending murderers, you know. Like I was almost like, yo, he can't say that.

MARTIN: Well, in case anyone isn't sure of how you feel about President Trump, even before the new record came out, you performed a freestyle at the "BET Hip Hop Awards." And this is what you said. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EMINEM: And any fan of mine who's a supporter of his, I'm drawing in the sand a line. You're either for or against. And if you can't decide who you like more in your split, on who you should stand beside, I'll do it for you with this - [expletive] you.

MARTIN: You got a lot of attention for that. And I was wondering, did it feel risky to you? The reason I ask is that in 2016, Michigan was supposed to be part of that blue wall, the safe area for Democrats, but the state went for Trump in the end. It was close, but, you know, Michigan went for Trump. And, you know, I know that people in that state are very important to you. A lot of your fans, I think particularly maybe some of your white fans, feel that you particularly speak for them and to them. And I'd wondered, do you feel like you're walking out on a limb? Or does it feel like this is where the community is, so this is where you need to be?

EMINEM: Well, first of all, as far as anybody who thinks that I speak for them, to me, it doesn't matter what nationality. Like, I speak for everybody. Regardless of whatever the risk it is, to me, it was more important to say what I need to say. And whoever's riding with me, cool. Whoever's not - whoever's not is just not, you know. And my goal is to either hopefully change some minds or just say screw it because if that person didn't like me to begin with, I'm not going to - I don't know if I'm going to gain a fan.

MARTIN: Well, here's another one in which I found - I was interested because here you - it's like you're taking on two different personas and they're talking to each other. It's called "Untouchable." Let's play a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTOUCHABLE")

EMINEM: (Rapping) Black boy, black boy, we don't get your culture. And we don't care what our government's done to [expletive] you over, man. Don't tell us your attitude's a result of that. Balderdash, where'd you get the chip on your shoulder at? Why you kicking that soda can? Pick your pants up. We about to roll up and throw your [expletive] in the van cuffed. You don't have to know our plans or what our intentions are. Our cards are close to our chests, you better show your hands.

MARTIN: It's like a scene from a play - right? - where people are talking to each other maybe across the wall or talking past each other. You can sort of envision both of them talking to us but not even hearing each other. Tell me what you were thinking about.

EMINEM: Well, if you remember, about two years ago, there was a time when it felt like literally every other day - every day or every other day you'd wake up and see the news and another black man is getting shot by police and killed for basically nothing. Seeing the thing that happened with Michael Slager and Walter Scott and being shot in the back from like 50 feet, 60 feet away, and Philando Castile, when he's reaching for his wallet trying to tell you I have a gun but I have a license to carry it, I'm reaching for my wallet, and get shot and killed in the front passenger seat in front of his wife and kid, it was very infuriating.

And it was one of those things that kept building up and building up. And I wanted to say something about it for the longest time, but I needed to make sure that I want to word it correctly. I want to make sure that I make all my points, you know, right way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTOUCHABLE")

EMINEM: (Rapping) And that's racism, the fear that a black face gives them - a subconscious racist. Wait, why are there black neighborhoods? 'Cause America segregated us, designated us to an area, separated us, section-eighted (ph) us. When we tear it up, the only time attention's paid to us. And education sucks. And every day's another Freddie Gray for us, a levy breaks or fuzz.

MARTIN: So now you're trying to open up awareness about this. I know you're familiar with all the stories that have been in the news about women not appreciating the way they have been treated in various places, you know, in Hollywood, in the newsrooms and so forth. And you know for a fact - you know that throughout your career, people have listened to your lyrics and wondered about your attitude toward women. And I wonder now that you're kind of at this stage of your career, do you look back on anything differently? Is there anything you wish you had said differently, or I don't know, rethink some of the things that you said?

EMINEM: Well, you know, for one, I think that it's cool that these women took a stand, for sure. And women who were put in a position where if somebody in a position of power is telling them, if you want to basically move up the ladder, this is what you're going to have to do is [expletive] messed up. I'm sorry. I know I'm not supposed to cuss.

But that being said, as for me, I feel like, you know, I've always kind of rode the line of the tongue in cheek. You know, I believe as human beings, we all have different sides to us - serious sides, dark humor side, whatever. That's kind of why I've always put the disclaimer out there. And I feel like people should be able to know by now, you know, when I'm joking and when I'm not. Aside from the fact I have daughters.

MARTIN: You do. Have any of them ever - you know, kids are our harshest critics, right? Did any of them ever have opinions that they want to share with you?

EMINEM: About my music?

MARTIN: Yeah.

EMINEM: Not really.

MARTIN: No?

EMINEM: Because, you know, they know that dad is just dad. When I'm writing, sometimes an idea or a line will pop in my head. And I'll be like, yo, that's - the thought is messed up. And I either laugh to myself or I say, you know what? That might be just going too far, you know.

So the argument that - have I ever took it too far? I probably have. Who knows? And then there's times where sometimes I don't think I took it far enough, depends on what it is. And as an artist, I feel like I just - I can't really - I can't just be one thing. I don't want to be one-dimensional because there's so many different angles that I feel like I can write from. So I can't just be boxed into one thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALK ON WATER")

EMINEM: (Rapper) It's true. I'm a Rubik's, a beautiful mess. At times juvenile, yes. I goof and I jest. A flawed human, I guess. But I'm doing my best to not ruin your expectations and meet them. But first, the...

MARTIN: How would you describe this point in your career?

EMINEM: I don't know. I'm at funny place, you know? Hip-hop has been around for a long time, but I don't know if it's been around really long enough to see how long someone can actually go for. So you've still got artists like me and Jay, Redman still has it to me. Like, I feel like as long as I'm passionate about it, which, you know, I could say obviously I am, I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. But I don't know. I'm still passionate about music, so.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALK ON WATER")

EMINEM: (Rapping) But when I do fall from these heights, though I'll be fine, I won't pout or cry or spiral down or whine. But I'll decide if it's my final bow this time around because...

BEYONCE: (Singing) I walk on water, but I ain't no Jesus. I walk on water.

SUAREZ: That was NPR's Michel Martin speaking with rapper Eminem about his new album "Revival."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALK ON WATER")

BEYONCE: (Singing) 'Cause I'm only human just like you.

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