Bad Meets Evil's Royce da 5'9" The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Jun 26, 2011The backpack rap crowd of the late '90s salivated for a full-length collaboration between devilish wordplay mates Eminem and Royce da 5'9" after the Detroit duo dropped the "Nuttin' to Do" single on independent Game Recordings in 1999 and Royce burned through a cameo on Marshall Mathers' classic, The Slim Shady LP. But after Royce had a falling out with Eminem's crew, D12, the prospects of a reunion appeared dismal if not impossible. Personal matters ― Royce's jail term, Em's drug addiction ― made such a whimsical side project even less of a priority.
Ten years after that original twelve-inch, Royce's quartet of super lyricists, Slaughterhouse, appeared alongside Eminem in the video for the Drake-led smash, "Forever." Through phone calls, Eminem and Royce had mended their friendship. It was time to start recording. "Everywhere that he's been for the last couple years, I've been with him," explains Royce, who has been travelling and working closely with his friend again. Not only has Eminem signed Slaughterhouse to his label, Shady Records, but the Bad Meets Evil EP, Hell: The Sequel, is now an irreverent, triumphant reality. "We just wanted to go in there and rap ― which is what our relationship is based off, really. I think if we had gone in and made that first song back in the day and not had so much fun doing it, we wouldn't have cared about keeping in touch with each other. But we think so much alike on a creative level," Royce says. "When the last word on my few bars becomes the word I'm giving him to rhyme off of, it's kinda like doing a crossword puzzle ― and that's fun for both of us."
Why do you live where you do?
I can never leave Detroit, man. I could never do it. I've had apartments in New York and shit like that, and it don't really feel the same. Plus, my family is here. There's no place like home. I don't think I could get this feeling anywhere else. I know the ins and outs. I'm comfortable. I feel real safe here. That's what keeps me here. Plus, I get into my best zone creatively when recording here. It's a comfort zone that revolves around my recording process, which is the most important thing in my life.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Michael Jackson's Thriller is one of the greatest albums ever created. Even if you're not an artist, it's mind-altering. It makes you feel a certain way. My mother used to play Thriller all the time while me and my brothers was playing in our rooms. She would blast Thriller real loud. You always heard it on the radio, you've seen all the videos. I remember the first time I seen the "Thriller" video: it was me, my mother, my father, and all my cousins. They premiered it on one of the stations, and I remember being scared of it. It was like watching a scary movie, so I must've been young. We could talk about some Beatles albums. Or we could talk about hip-hop: [2Pac's] All Eyes on Me, [Jay-Z's] The Blueprint, [Eminem's] The Slim Shady LP. All of those works of art are mind-altering.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig?
When Em flew to Toronto for Drake's homecoming show [last summer]. Do you remember when Em came out and the crowd screamed throughout his whole verse of ["Forever"]? You couldn't hear nothin' he was saying. That was the first time I'd seen anything like that. Normally when Em comes off the stage, we leave right out. I wanted to stay for another few seconds to see Jay come out, because Jay was gonna come out right after Em, for the next song. So we was already outside by the time Jay came on. And I heard the same pandemonium when Jay came on ― I just heard it outside the building. So that shit was crazy to me. I'm actually doing Bonnaroo festival with him tomorrow, so once I do that, I'm sure it'll be my most memorable.
What have been your career highs and lows?
My career high is now. I've never been in this position in my whole career. And my all-time low was about five years ago when I was in jail. I was in jail for drinking and driving. My money was real low. People were saying, "He's not coming back from this one. He's done. He fucked up. He wasn't really doin' shit." It was definitely a situation I needed to get out of and turn around. That was a year lost of my career, of my life.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Probably before a gig, [my manager] Keno saying that the promoter doesn't have any Patron. That's if I wanna drink. I have settled for [budget tequila] before. It's not even the price of it, because Patron isn't the best tequila you can drink. But it's the taste I'm accustomed to. A lot of tequila is fuckin' disgusting. I have settled plenty of times, if I want to drink. I'll drink vodka or something. Other than that, people don't say anything mean.
What should everyone shut up about?
Osama bin Laden. Everybody should shut up about him. When you brutally murder and destroy so many people, you getting murdered comes with the territory. I don't know why everybody's so surprised and why they're talking about it so much. I wish everybody would just drop it.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like that I'm a warrior. I like that I'm consistent. I like that I'm very loyal. One thing that I'm paying attention to about myself that I feel is a flaw is, I need to learn a lot of things on my own. A lot of times it involves me making a mistake and learning from a mistake instead of listening to people. I'm trying to listen to people. But I've listened to people and gone against my better judgment, and I regret doing that. So that can get to where you're making mistakes all the time, you're learning from them, but it's costing you on some level.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Maybe somebody outside barbecuing, me being able to relax, maybe watch some games, play with the kids. A family day. Relaxation.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
When I think about advice I should have taken but didn't, I gotta go back to my all-time low, which was jail. I'm sure my wife told me, "Slow down. Stop drinking and driving." And I was like, "I got this." Mother and father ― I'm pretty sure everybody was telling me.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I had a crew back in the day, and I kicked somebody out of my life due to disloyalty. Starting to feel a sense of entitlement, not appreciating anything, doing a lot of talking behind our backs, and always surrounding himself with drama. I don't like all that shit; I try to stay away from all the negativity. I always try to keep off drama.
Kick 'em outta bed? I guess if they smelled. That's the only thing I can think of. Smellin' would be a deal-breaker. Get out.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Clean. Canada is very clean, and sort of peaceful. Whenever I go to Canada, it doesn't feel like I'm in the States. You can use Detroit as an example. Compare my city to Canada. Obviously, there's many parts, but overall, when you talk Toronto, Vancouver, they're pretty to me. Clean. You don't see a lot of crazy shit going on. I think of pretty girls, clean cities, and low crime.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Run-D.M.C. on vinyl. I think it was "King of Rock," the single. Me and my brother used to always do the routine. That and The Fat Boys Are Back. We didn't do the Fat Boys routine, but we did Run-D.M.C. We definitely was beatboxing; the Human Beatbox had everybody in the 'hood beatboxing. From there I moved onto L.L. Cool J "I'm Bad." His video came out, I learned the whole routine to the video. My father's friends would be over drinking, and he'd have me do the routine for his friends. All his friends thought I was a star.
What was your most memorable day job?
I worked at an oil dispatch. It was an oil-change company, and I used to change oil. I used to do that by day, and by night I worked at a clothing store called TJ Maxx. And I remember counting people back their change and I had oil under my fingernails. I could never get the oil from out my fingernails. I was working two jobs to pay for studio time.
How do you spoil yourself?
I like buying clothes. I buy myself a lot of clothes. I'm going through a little Gucci phase right now. So I spoil myself by buying a lot of Gucci.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
I have no idea. I can't even imagine. I'm the type of person ― and this goes back to what I was saying ― I gotta learn through trial and error. My Plan B is to complete Plan A. When I was growing up and I wanted to be a basketball player, you couldn't tell me that's not what I was going to be. If basketball wasn't working, I wasn't doing anything. Couple jobs, not career goals. Then I started rapping and got good at it. After I met Em, I wanted to be a rapper at that point. Once I decided, OK, this is what I'm gonna do, I never thought about anything else.
What do you fear most?
Failing. I fear failure, especially with three kids. I fear something going wrong in my home situation, and my kids looking at me with no respect. I fear that. It all revolves around the role I play in my children's lives. As long as they look up to me, I'm their role model. My biggest fear is for them to look at me like, "Oh, here this motherfucker come..."
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
A very pretty girl. That's pretty cut and dry.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I went to a studio one time in Detroit and met George Clinton. He was in the studio but didn't have no shoes and socks on. As talented as he is, that was a strange encounter. I didn't know what to make of it. He was cool as shit. I went to the studio and met Eric Benet one time, and he had no shoes or socks, too.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson. My favourite people are boxers. Muhammad Ali, I would love to eat some bacon with him, something that goes against his religion. Like, we can let everything go, eat bacon and eggs, and just talk boxing.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She wish I was taking vitamins and eating right instead of not. She's actually on her way right now to bring me some antibiotics for this damn sore throat that I got. She always worries about my health. She wanna come over and check my blood sugar all the time because she's diabetic, so she wanna make sure I'm not.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
I definitely wouldn't want a rap record. Sam Cooke, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Because I love that song. It's sad. It makes everybody cry. You know how people can hold it together at a funeral till the music come on, and then everybody break down? Well, I think Sam Cooke has the perfect record for that. I don't want people celebrating my death; I want them to be sad. I know that sounds selfish, but I don't want to die.