Staff Writer Teri vanHorn reports:
LOS ANGELES — In a change from his multimillion-selling major-label debut album, The Slim Shady LP (1999), Eminem will incorporate rock elements and singing on his follow-up.
But the volatile rapper promises he'll still speak his mind.
"I think my first [major-label] album opened a lot of doors for me to push the freedom of speech to the limit," the 25-year-old Detroit native (born Marshall Mathers) said on Friday. "I feel like [I'm now able] to say whatever I want to say and ... other people [can now] say whatever they want to say."
Eminem's propensity for bluntness has garnered him some trouble in the past. He took heat for his first major-label album's tales of rape, murder and drug use. His mother is suing him for statements he made in the press that she claims painted her as a welfare-dependent drug user.
The rapper described his forthcoming LP as more raw than its predecessor, as well as "a lot more lyrical, as far as getting back to what I love doing and free-styling writing and saying the first thing that comes to mind."
"This album, he's going out and saying what he really wants to say," Jeff Bass, one of the album's producers, echoed on Monday. "I read something that he wrote a long time ago about how he was going to get angrier and be more truthful about things on the second album, and he does exactly that."
Stepping It Up
Bass said two of the most marked changes from The Slim Shady LP are Eminem singing on some tracks and the addition of rock elements on such songs as "Kim" and "Amityville."
The rapper has been considerably more involved in the production this time around, Bass said. "The first album, it was all kind of new to him," he said. "Now, if he wants to change something in the music, he'll hum something, and we'll interpret what he's humming."
Eminem discussed the new LP during a break in rehearsals for the first episode of Farmclub.com — a weekly TV program of the Universal Music online imprint, Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com. He performed two songs with gangsta-rap pioneer Dr. Dre (N.W.A) — including Dr. Dre's current single, "Forgot About Dre" — for the taping, which aired Monday on the USA Network.
Dr. Dre took Eminem under his wing in 1998 and signed him to his Aftermath label, which co-released The Slim Shady LP with Web Entertainment and Interscope Records.
Now, Dr. Dre has produced several tracks for Eminem's new disc, and he's expected to guest on at least a couple of those songs. FBT Productions, composed of Bass and his brother, Mark Bass, produced the remainder of the tracks.
The album marks a quantum leap in Eminem's growth as an artist, said Jeff Bass, who added that the rapper has "stepped it up" in every respect, from his delivery, to his involvement in the production, to his lyrics.
"I think a lot of people are waiting for him to not do as well with this album, but he has something that's unique," Bass said. "He is not just your average rapper. He really is true to the hip-hop game, and his skills are unreal. I don't think the sophomore jinx will affect him at all."
Though The Slim Shady LP was Eminem's first album for a major label, he made his debut with the independently released Infinite in 1996. The rapper also released The Slim Shady EP in 1998.
Eminem, who said he plans to finish the LP within the next two weeks, declined to divulge the album's title or discuss its themes. "I can't say that or I'll have to kill you," he said. "Let's just put it out there, and see what the people think."
He explained that he was gun-shy after one of the tracks he recorded turned up on the Internet. The song, titled "Kim," is a prequel of sorts to " '97 Bonnie & Clyde" (RealAudio excerpt), which appeared on The Slim Shady LP.
"Some motherf---ers already downloaded that sh-- on the Internet, but there's a lot of sh-- you can't get," Eminem said. "I've been keeping my album pretty locked down as far as songs. Once I saw that sh-- on the Internet, I just said, 'No more tapes, no more CDs are going out, or anything.' "
FBT Productions is mixing about 20 songs for the album, but Bass said he expects the album will include 11 or 12 songs. The LP features guest appearances by the Detroit hip-hop group D-12 (the Dirty Dozen) and Dina Rae, who appeared on Slim Shady's "Cum on Everybody." Rae appears on the new disc's "My Drugs" and "Under the Influence."
While Bass said the album is less comical than Eminem's major-label debut, Eminem recently finished a track called "Kids" that the producer called "hilarious." He compared the tune to the rapper's breakthrough hit, "My Name Is" (RealAudio excerpt).
"Kids" features Eminem rapping in a character voice with a nursery-rhyme track behind it. "It's his 'Say No to Drugs' anthem," Bass said.
Eminem said he is deciding among three songs for the LP's first single. One possibility, Bass said, is one of the songs Dr. Dre produced, "I Never Knew."
Durst: "Yeah, Tommy Lee's breaking off some phat crazy shit at his house."
Eminem (incredulously): "What?"
Durst: "He's doing hip-hop beats."
Eminem (even more incredulously): "Tommy Lee?"
The conversation moves on to growing up a token Caucasian in a hip-hop world that had yet to cross over. Eminem, an inner-city welfare kid, seems genuinely surprised to find another white guy who has lived the same experience as deeply as he has. "Yo, your fucking story is so much like mine," he says.
Soon, he's telling Durst about a song he'd like to build around the chorus from the old Madness song "Our House." "Yeah, that sounds dope," Durst agrees. It fits in perfectly with his ambition to "do what Puff Daddy does-take an old song and make a gigantic smash out of it."
5:15 p.m. Durst and Eminem have decided to start working on their Madness idea A.S.A.P., but first they need the record to sample. The mall is only a few blocks away, but this is L.A., so the two rappers and a couple of friends pile into Durst's black Mercedez C-280 for a trip to The Wherehouse. On the car's stereo: a remix of Limp Bizkit's remake of George Michael's "Faith." Durst croons along happily as he drives; when he pulls up at a stoplight, he blows a kiss to a gray-haired matron idling next to him in a maroon Jaguar. She blows him one right back. "Damn," says Eminem, shaking his head. "I think she wants you."
At the mall, they valet-park the car, then make an A&R guy from Interscope Records stand in line to buy the Madness album for them. None of the customers or clerks appear to recognize Everymannish Durst as the lead singer of the band with the No. 24 record in America.
6:30 p.m. Back at the studio, Limp Bizkit's DJ Lethal methodically creates a simple rhythm track while Eminem plots out his lyrics for the song in a notebook. Durst passes the time by sitting in a corner of the recording room and talking about Limp Bizkit's new album, untitled as of yet, but expected to come out this summer. "I watched our fans during all our live shows over the last two years," he says. "Whatever they reacted to most, that's what I took and put into these new songs. It's gonna be insane."
7:40 p.m. The semi-famous heartthrob and several other buddies reappear, en route to watch the Mike Tyson-Francois Botha fight at Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell's house. Which is a somewhat improbable destination,perhaps-why, even in the six-degrees world of Hollywood, would a bunch of alt.idol types want to sit around watching two heavyweights slug it out with a couple of aging movie stars? Of course, fresh young movie stars, including Hawn's pretty 18-year-old daughter, Kate Hudson, are likely to be there, too.
"So what the dilly-yo?" Durst inquires. "You headed now?"
"Whenever you," a friend replies.
"Look at me, though," Durst says, pointing to his plain down jacket and baggy green pants. Is he sporting enough rock-star finery to bum-rush Kurt and Goldie's pay-per-view soiree?
"It's all good," someone insists.
"All right," Durst says, deciding to go. "I'm gonna just duck out for an hour or so to watch the fight," he tells Eminem a tad guiltily.
"That's cool," Eminem says. "I'm gonna start making this shit, throw some rhymes down."
And, thus, while Durst and his friends head off into the night, Eminem, who hasn't yet reached that level of stardom where work does not always take precedence over fun, returns to his rhymes. But the next time Mike Tyson fights, he'll probably be watching it with Kurt and Goldie, too. G. BEATO
Watching Eminem hurl himself backward from a dumpster and onto a parked Lincoln Continental, you think he's somewhat eccentric. Hearing him snicker as his back crashes into the hood, you upgrade him to weird.But it's while listening to the Detroit MC's as-yet-untitled Web Entertainment debut that you realize this white boy is seriously bent. Preoccupied with drugs, violence and sex with underage girls, the album reaffirms the declaration of Eminem's 1997single, "Just Don't Give a F*ck."
"I'm just trying to express myself and offend people," says Eminem, 24. "I've matured, but I still like to do dumb shit, like punching hookers in the mouth and pissing in eleva -tors. So that's what I rap about. Fuck whoever gets mad! It doesn't take a genius to tell when I'm joking and when I'm serious." Still, Em will offend some, whether it's with "Just the Two Of Us," about killing his baby's mother, or the studio track "Role Model," on which Eminem talks about sodomizing Nicole Brown Simpson alongside football great Marcus Allen.
But Eminem isn't pimping the macabre to mask deficient skills. He recently won the Best Freestyle Award on L.A.'s 92.3's "The Wake Up Show." His multisyllabic style is both sobering and silly, as on "Murder, Murder:" "Left my keys in the van / With a gat in each hand / Went up in Eastland / And shot a policeman / Fuck a peace plan / If the citizen by-stands / The shit is in my hands...."
As Em readies a rhyme for a local radio show, he snatches up a crumpled piece of paper and scribbles a string of rhyming words, the skeleton for a song he'll flesh out later. He's crazy, sure, but the madness does have its methods.