Bebe Rexha couldn’t ignore the signs.
Back in November 2012, when the Staten Island singer was holed up at Harlem’s Stadium Red studio working on her debut album, she simply had this feeling. She’d just laid the hook for an emotional record called “The Monster,” and before it was even completed, she mumbled the most absurd thing while standing in the booth. “This is an Eminem record, y’all.”
“I was in a really dark place, a dark head space,” remembers the 24-year-old Warner Bros. artist of writing the track that would become Eminem and Rihanna’s fourth collabo. “Figuring out where you are in life and trying to make shit work for yourself—it gets to you. You get super down on yourself. I was just trying to get out of a depressed phase. That's where [the song] came from.”
Bebe says, cryptically, that the initial inspiration for Eminem’s demon-battling next single all spawned from a quote she read “about the monsters that are around us and that live inside of us.” She'd been discouraged about being dropped from her deal at Island Def Jam but knew this was a special record, one that could define her in both a personal and professional capacity.
The song began its journey onto Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 when Frequency, the producer of the track, was in the studio auditioning records for Riggs Morales, Shady Records VP of A&R. When he played “The Monster” Morales “freaked out,” instantly asking for the verses to be stripped and ProTools sessions to send to Eminem.
“It's such a special song,” says Bebe, currently riding the wave of her dance hit "Take Me Home" with EDM duo Cash Cash. “I know when [Eminem] heard it, it spoke to him.”
And Em spoke back, adding his own verses and tweaking the instrumental, yet leaving the Albanian songbird’s backing vocals on the hook intact. “The way that I sing in it, it can't be duplicated,” she adds. “It's very unique to my artistry.” Several months later, when she read a vague tweet from Rihanna with the hashtag "monster," she had the funniest feeling that the Bajan badass would be the song's pop cherry on top.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) September 11, 2013
Unlike the first Em-Rih merger—the bright-yet-affecting “Love The Way You Lie”—Bebe says their newest track has a moodier aesthetic.
“The record and lyrics feel dark, but it's coming from a really light place,” says Bebe, who hasn’t yet heard Eminem and Rihanna’s final version of her demo (slated to hit radio Oct. 28). “I had a moment where I was like, I'm so tired of waiting for other people to accept me. I'm fucked-up, but that's OK... You get to the point where you're like, I'm just doing me and if people don't like it, then it is what it is.”
It’s clear that Eminem more than likes her contribution to his newest project. The biggest sign, though, that Bebe’s track was meant to be came nearly a year after the initial confirmation from Em’s lawyer.
After 10 months of nervous silence from the Shady camp, Bebe’s mother texted her the newly leaked MMLP2 tracklist earlier this month. She was in the studio recording as she read the name of her song, title intact, as the 12th track on Slim Shady’s anticipated sequel album.
The name of the production team she was working with on that particular night, as she read the final tracklist: The Monsters. —John Kennedy