Eminem has been sober for 13 years, and has been in the rap game for even longer. In a new essay shared by XXL on Wednesday (Sept. 14), the rapper opens up about every step of his come-up, his struggle with addiction when he became famous and his future goals.
“Before any of this happened, before I signed to Dr. Dre and Interscope, I remember having this conversation with Royce [5’9″],” he began of the jump of his career. “We had somebody at this hip-hop label who said they wanted to sign me when I was working with the Bass Brothers. I made three or four songs, and we gave it to this guy, and found out that he worked in the mail room and he wasn’t really who he said he was.”
He continued, “I was at the lowest point. I didn’t even know what I was going to do because it didn’t look like it was going to happen. I’m 24 years old and I got a baby to take care of and all I want to do is rap, but it didn’t look good. I was super depressed.”
Em said that in 1997, he drove to LA and three weeks later, he met Dr. Dre, who worked with him on The Slim Shady LP and ultimately changed his life. After his career began to blow up, Eminem started to struggle with drug addiction. “My addiction didn’t start in my early days when I was coming up. We used to drink 40s on the porch and just battle rap each other. My drug usage started at the beginning of that first album,” he explained. “I didn’t take anything hard until I got famous. I was experimenting. I hadn’t found a drug of choice. Back then you went on tour and people were just giving you free drugs. I managed it for a little while. And then, it just became, I like this s— too much and I don’t know how to stop.”
He continued, “I was able to downplay my addiction and hide it for a while until it got really bad. […] So, I’m coming off The Marshall Mathers LP and going into Encore when my addiction started to get bad. I was taking Vicodin, Valium and alcohol. I kinda fell off the map a little bit and didn’t explain why I went away.”
“I remember things started getting really, really bad when me, 50 and G-Unit did BET’s 106 & Park. We performed “You Don’t Know” on the show and then we did an interview afterward. That’s when the wheels started coming off. One of the hosts was talking to me and I could not understand a word she was saying. 50 had to cover for me and answer every question.”
Eminem added that his addiction spanned for five years, and it got worse after D12’s Proof died in 2006. “I remember just after Proof died, I was in my house by myself, and I was just laying in bed and I couldn’t move and I just kept staring at the ceiling fan,” he recalled. “And I just kept taking more pills. I literally couldn’t walk for two days when that happened and eventually my drug use f—in’ skyrocketed. I had f—in’ 10 drug dealers at one time that I’m getting my s— from. Seventy-five to 80 Valiums a night, which is a lot. I don’t know how the f—I’m still here. I was numbing myself.”
As for the present and future, Eminem says his goal is to “always try to be the best rapper. That’s it.”
He added, “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.”
Eminem concluded his essay by writing, “I couldn’t sit up here, say, ‘Man, I want to be the best rapper that ever was and ever will be, but I don’t listen to anybody else’s s— and I think that I’m untouchable'” No, because the minute you sleep, someone’s coming to take your head off. That’s what I’ve always loved about rap. It’s always evolving, and to succeed you need to be constantly aware of that and keep up with it.”
Read the full essay on XXL here.