Eminem was the first introduction to the world of hip-hop for millions, acting like a gateway drug, opening hearts and minds to a plethora of work of a genre fit to burst into the mainstream. Em was the first chapter in many people’s journey to a library of songs and albums, and it’s a journey he shared when delving deep into the history of hip-hop. Shady’s first rap hero is a figure that he still reveres today and looks up to from an artistic standpoint.
In 1997, Eminem’s life changed forever when he went from being a local hero in Detroit – thanks to his rap battle antics – to becoming a global superstar after he was picked up by Dr Dre. Before getting spotted by Dre and Interscope Records, Eminem never envisaged that he would become the most famous rapper on the planet and, in truth, solidifying mainstream success seemed like an improbable dream. Then, his life dramatically changed in a short time, and the music world was suddenly talking about the real Slim Shady.
After developing his Slim Shady alter-ego, Eminem had the perfect vehicle to plough all his pent up anger into, unleashing a style and flow that made him an unstoppable and unique talent. First listening to rap music changed Eminem’s life, it allowed him to express himself fully, and the one rapper who had the most significant impact on him is LL Cool J.
In 2009, Eminem prank-called his hero on LL’s SiriusXM radio show while pretending to be ‘Jason from Miami’. After a couple of minutes, Shady revealed his true identity and then started begging the rapper to hang out with him, even telling LL about how he’s got cable TV in a bid to lure him in.
In a later appearance on the same radio show, Eminem spoke with Cool J again, this time to discuss how much he aspired to be him when he was younger. “I wanted to be like you; I hope that doesn’t sound weird,” Eminem explained.
“I absolutely wanted to be like you,” the rapper continued, “I wanted to be like Run-D.M.C. It was something about the energy to just say what you want to say, and you could talk about your life, and you could talk about shit that bothers you. I just gravitated towards it, and I never strayed from the first day that I heard a rap song.”
Shady continued: “It was interesting to watch you and see your range as a writer and see that you could make a love song, you could make a song for the dudes, and your range as a writer was so incredible,” Em continued to tell LL Cool J. “Then, when you didn’t drop an album for a couple of years, rap started advancing a little more. [That is when] you came out and advanced it again. It was so crazy to just watch it because you could do whatever anyone else was doing.
“You could do that and just do the shit better. Watching that, especially when you came back with ‘Mama Said Knock You Out,’ [mimics opening verse] I was like, ‘Yo! You wrote that?’ [Laughs] And the energy in the middle of the song was like…Goddamn! I wanted to fuck my room up.”
Eminem’s music has made countless rappers feel that same shot of inspiration that he felt as a youngster when he first heard LL Cool J. Since that moment, a switch went off inside Marshall Mathers, and soon enough, a rap demigod had been born.
The global reach, the millions of albums sold, and the tour dates maxed out to capacity, very little of that would have been possible without LL Cool J providing a young Marshall with all the inspiration he needed.