Fresh from a visit to his Mom’s Spaghetti pop-up store at the Shelter in Detroit — one of the venues that inspired the rap battle scenes in 8 Mile — Eminem settled into a “Fireside Chat” early Friday evening (Dec. 15) on his SiriusXM Shade45 channel. Celebrating the release of his new Revival album, his ninth overall and first in four years, the rap icon spent nearly an hour talking about the 19-track set, playing a few of its songs.
With manager Paul Rosenberg alongside him, Eminem was also visited by longtime collaborator Denaun “Mr.” Porter and Bad Meets Evil partner Royce da 5’9″.
Here’s what we learned at the chat:
As the third in a trilogy that includes 2010’s Recovery and 2013’s The Marshall Mathers EP, Eminem told Billboard that the term Revival “is kind of like a double entendre in the sense it’s a revival for myself and it’s kind of the theme of the album, but there’s also hopefully the revival of America,” referencing the strong political tone of tracks such as “Like Home” and “Untouchable.”
He didn’t sound too worried about tweets from Donald Trump. “Man, that guy… It makes no sense. He’s not gonna answer me — what, ‘Washed-up rapper. Failing career. Over-the-hill rapper who sunk his fan base in half, now wants to attack me.’ If he does , I’ve got ideas.”
During the four years since The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem learned to be patient in letting Revival find its path. “The first thing I had to do when I started making this album was I had to let off the gas,” he explained. “I had released a couple songs a couple years ago, ‘Phenomenal’ and ‘Kings Never Die;’ Going back to them now I realize, ‘Damn, I never took a breath. I didn’t leave no space.’ I had to figure out how to let off the gas but not too much. I probably recorded between 40 and 50 songs for this album, and in the process it took me about six months to really figure out, ‘OK, now I got the pacing right,’ ’cause I didn’t want to let off the gas too much. As I got along and the songs get better than the last one, the last one gets scrapped and it just keeps going until I feel like we have the right ones.
Though he has an executive producer credit on Revival, Dr. Dre had a different role than on previous Eminem albums. “This album, the last year or so is when things started to come together and connect, but I knew Dre was taking a break and I knew that he had taken some time off, so I really couldn’t hit him up for some beats,” Eminem says. “So I really kept going with what I was doing and come to him when the album was pretty much almost finished. We had a discussion that if he didn’t do a beat on the album, could he at least mix, ’cause he’s not only the best beatmaker in the world to me, but he’s also the best mixer, hands down. I don’t know what he does on the board or how he does it, ’cause I’ve stolen all his tricks and I still can’t make it sound the way it sounds.”
Dre didn’t entirely sit out of the beatmaking process, however. “There’s a couple of tracks that I do have that I might revisit and check them out,” Eminem revealed. “There were two of them. I’m sure that at some point in the future, me and Dre are gonna connect again and hopefully be able to be as intertwined as we were on past projects.”
Revival‘s last three songs — the deeply personal trilogy of “In Your Head,” “Castle” and “Arose” — “are the key to get me to where I’m at now,” Eminem explained. “When [daughter] Hailie was about to be born, I would always write letters I thought one day I would give her just to have ’em; that’s kind of where the concept came from: Let me start from the beginning. And it goes into the addiction part; The ‘Castle’ song basically takes place in 2007, which leads to the overdose, which leads to Christmas and her birthday and me missing that because I was in the hospital. Me not being there for my kids for Christmas was rough. And if you listen to ‘Castles’ all the way through, you hear me taking pills and falling; that was the re-creation of me falling in the bathroom and then waking up in the hospital and not knowing what the f— was going on. I had tubes in me, I was angry and I couldn’t talk at all.
Having Beyoncé on “Walk on Water” was “incredible,” he said. “I didn’t think it ever could happen. It was one of my things on my wish list, but I wasn’t sure if it ever could happen, and also I never really had the right song to bring her, to present, so I’m super grateful that came together.”
Alicia Keys was in the studio with Eminem to record “Like Home.” “We got the chance to actually collaborate, so that was super important, and I also feel like having somebody on a song like that, to me, just made it mean more. It just felt right to me.”
Ed Sheeran created a place for himself on “Rivers.” “One of the producers I work with, Emile [Haynie], did the track,” Eminem said. “He did the beat and I think he sent it to Ed and they worked on it in the studio and came up with that hook, and I just heard the hook and what it was talking about and wrote the song.”
Eminem regards P!nk, who guests on “Need Me,” as a kindred spirit. “I’ve always looked at P!nk as kind of a rebel, and I’ve told her that. I super respect her art and her music and we worked together in the past too. It only made sense for me to have her on that song.”
As for the notable lack of rap features on Revival, Eminem explained, “There’s a couple of things I had in the works that ended up not working out, just ended up not being able to have any rap features apart from Phresher doing the hook on ‘Chloraseptic.'”
The prospect of concerts or even a tour to support Revival is still up in the air. “I don’t know — possibly. Who knows. It’s something that’s being thought about. It’s not a ‘no’ right now, let’s just say that. It is possible.”
And, by the way, he pronounced the Mom’s Spaghetti at the pop-up shop — which will be open through Sunday — “good. We’re gonna make some minor changes.”
“It’s a work in progress,” Rosenberg added, “but it’s only gonna get better.”