Eminem’s Roots-backed rendition of “Lose Yourself” was a highlight of last year’s Grammy Awards. Clad in the “Free Yayo” T-shirt he might have to pull out of the closet again, Em broke out his fiercest mic swashbuckling for the affair.
The performance was so pure, honest and invincible, who would have guessed it had taken a year and a half to record the track nominated for Record of the Year at this year’s Grammy Awards?
“It was an old idea we kept banging away at, trying to make it a song,” recalled Jeff Bass, one half of Eminem’s longtime production team, the Bass Brothers. Em and J knew almost immediately they had the makings of a potential hit on their hands, but they didn’t know it would take so long to complete.
Bass claims to have “no idea” how he devised the track’s signature opening guitar riffs. “To be honest, we were in the studio with Royce da 5′ 9″. We’d just done ‘Detroit Rock City.’ I picked up the guitar and started playing that little chord progression, not knowing if it was a song or not. Typically, I’ll come up with the music part. Em may have a drum beat going, and I’ll pick up a guitar or keyboard and put some chords together, see what’s feeling good and lay a bass line down. A lot of the tunes on The Eminem Show started like that.”
“Lose Yourself” slowly came together over the ensuing months. Em built a drum track. Bass wrote a bass line and more guitar licks. But a lot was still missing.
“We kept pulling it out of the computer and saying, ‘We gotta do something with this,’ ” Bass said. “But we were stuck. It took a long time for him to write the lyrics. But the rhymes weren’t flowing easily. Em would come up with words, but they wouldn’t be right for the beat. It took him months to author the perfect lyrics.
“I don’t think Em throws his rhymes away,” Bass said. “I think he puts them aside so he can draw from them later on. He jots things down on everything. Whatever paper is around, he’ll write on it. He’s got his own system of writing lyrics, so if somebody picks them up, they really couldn’t tell what it was. There might be a verse to one song and a line from another song in the same paragraph.”
Slim Shady was still looking for a muse after many trials and errors. Then he read the script for “8 Mile.” Although he was working on The Eminem Show at the time, he remembered Bass’ guitar-laden beat and decided to give it another crack.
“The ‘8 Mile’ soundtrack was different because it forced me to step into Rabbit, the character I play in the film, and write from his point of view,” Em stated in October.
Three homemade mixtapes filled with rap music popular in 1993-95 helped fuel Em’s writing.
“We pulled the beat out and worked on it again between scenes on the movie set,” Bass recalled. “It really developed in the little studio we set up in his trailer.”
Luis Resto played most of the song’s keys, replacing some of Bass’ guitar lines. And Shady sharpened his verses once the soundscape was to everyone’s liking.
“It flowed pretty easily once he got a grip on it,” Bass said. “He had the beat together and could sit down and concentrate on building the best song he could.”
Bass thinks it’s Em’s best recording. “To be honest, it’s the best rhyme he’s ever written,” he declared. “The lyrical content and delivery are so intense. The first time I heard it, I sh– in my pants. That’s the tune we were doing for the last year and a half! We knew the track was good, but it was a matter of writing the right song. A musician comes up with a ton of ideas. Some you use, some you don’t. Some you use and say, ‘I wish I’d done something else with that.’ ”
“Lose Yourself,” recorded around the same time as The Eminem Show’s ” ‘Till I Collapse,” became the lead single from the “8 Mile” soundtrack, spurring it to multiplatinum heights and helping the movie earn $100 million. And it may once again be a Grammy Awards highlight.
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