Eminem and Royce da 5'9" are Bad Meets Evil | Extended interview | Lollapalooza 2011
When Eminem reunites with former collaborator and fellow Motor City native Royce da 5'9", it's like 1997 all over again.
After all the Rolling Stone covers, the Grammy awards, the Oscar, a 60 Minutes interview and the most successful 2000s of any pop star, it’s difficult to imagine Eminem as a hungry kid in Detroit, hustling his demo. Well, unless you watch 8 Mile. But what often goes overlooked in the story of Marshall Mathers is that he had a group before he was plucked from obscurity by Dr. Dre. Mathers formed Bad Meets Evil with a fellow son of Detroit, Ryan “Royce da 5'9" ” Montgomery, in 1997. You can probably guess which one is “Evil.” The duo had been on ice until the recent release of an EP, Hell: The Sequel. I chatted with the two old friends over the phone.
So let’s start at the very beginning. Let’s talk about how you two met.
Eminem I don’t remember the beginning. So…
Royce I remember it. My memory’s better than his, and my memory’s actually fucking terrible. I was opening up a show for Usher in '97. Em had an EP that he was selling on tape, The Slim Shady EP, and he was at the show selling his tapes.
Eminem I had a little booth set up.
Royce Yep, he had a little booth and I did an a cappella on the spot that he liked. My manager introduced us. Obviously, I’d heard of him before, but he hadn’t heard of me. My manager introduced us and we agreed that we should get together and do some music and eventually did.
What were your first impressions of each other?
Royce I thought he was cool as hell, man. I listened to that EP and I was kind of scared of him.
Eminem I don’t like Royce. I still don’t… Nah, Bad and I have very similar personalities. We get along real well. I think we've got a similar sense of humor and shit. When we first linked up, we liked to joke around a lot and that was one of the things that made us get cool so quick. Within a week or so, we were already at a studio. I went to one of the studios he recorded at and we did a record and ended up calling it "Bad meets Evil." And it was before I got a deal and got, you know, famous.
Royce Yeah, he showed up to the studio by himself, which I thought was pretty cool.
Why? Were you expecting an entourage?
Royce I didn’t know. I know I never went nowhere by myself. He’s quite the loner. [Eminem laughs] You know what I’m saying? He was just into the music and he wasn’t really fucking with a lot of people.
Eminem I go a lot of places by myself.
Did you have mutual friends back in Detroit? Royce, you said you had heard of Eminem. How did you hear about him?
Royce Everybody around is pretty much a mutual friend, like the D12 guys. We’ve got them in common.
Eminem Everybody back in the day, in the hip-hop scene, it was kind of a small community. So everybody kind of knew each other. I hadn’t heard of Royce yet, but the name of his group back then was called Wall Street and I had heard of Wall Street, but I just hadn’t put a face to what it was yet. I just kind of heard of his group. But it’s a small world, or was in that time.
Royce Yeah, I agree.
There wasn't a lot of Detroit hip-hop nationally known before you guys, Slum Village, things like that came along in the mid-'90s. What was happening before that? Who locally was inspiring you?
Royce I looked up to Esham and Detroit’s Most Wanted. I was only 20 when I met Em. I was the new guy coming up. When I had seen the way that they battled, I had never seen nothing like that before. Once I’d seen Proof in action. They opened me up to a whole new scene, basically.
Eminem Yeah, I definitely listened to Esham when he first came out. There was a place we used to go to called Record Time, it was a little record store and they’d kind of pushed the local artists a little bit. So when Kid Rock first came out, ICP, Esham, they would really push ‘em. But even aside from that, there were also a lot of artists who didn’t have records, didn’t have tapes, you know didn’t have anything but a buzz, like Proof, for example. His buzz was huge, his name in the city was huge. And you know [he] didn’t really have a record and I think he might have, somewhere in that time period, may have released a little single or something like that, but [the buzz] was more so built on his reputation and how he was known for freestyling and battling. So there was that community of us in the underground that didn’t have records out. So we all kinda used to just feed off each other and influence each and inspire each other.
Let's talk about the rap battles. I’m here in Chicago and you went up against a lot of Chicago guys. Still to this day some of them say, "I beat Eminem." They’ll be 80 years old some day, on the front porch saying, "I beat Eminem." What do you remember about those battle days? What Chicago MCs stand out?
Eminem Um, from what I remember… Trying to think back, trying to think back. This is like Scribble Jam. The only person’s name that really I can remember right now that rings a bell that I had battled is Juice. And I know that Juice had a reputation in the city and that was one of the first things that I had learned when I went to… Scribble Jam was in Ohio, wasn’t it?
Eminem Yeah, so I went to Cincinnati. Juice's name was in people’s mouths. People were talking about him before I had even heard him. And then when I heard him, I was like, "Uh oh. The dude is nice." So it was definitely one of them things where I felt like, I can’t remember exactly how the battle went down or anything like that, but I think we battled a couple of different times and it was a tie-breaker or some shit. They ended up cutting the mics off, because we kept tying. They said we would battle again later on that night. Whoever the two people were that won would go to the semifinals that would take place in this club later on that night. I think they ended up having three finalists or some shit like that, because me and Juice kept tying.