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Billboard

Eminem And Paul Rosenberg Cover 'Billboard' Magazine

Billboard took a trip out to Detroit for their new cover story. 

Perched in the lofted second floor of a photo studio, Eminem leans over the balustrade to address his longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, who’s down below, trying out his best angles while having his portrait taken. “Yo, Paul! Can you sign a CD for me when you’re done?” he calls out, face obscured under a baseball cap. “You’ve got the streets on fire right now!”

The room ripples with laughter, and Em disappears back into the loft. It’s January in Detroit -- no one’s idea of paradise -- but for the 45-year-old MC born Marshall Mathers, the city is home and hideaway: both the place his myth was born, and a shield against the glare of publicity that comes with being one of the most famous rappers on the planet. It was in Detroit where Marshall, as everyone knows him here, met Paul Rosenberg in 1996, when he was an aspiring rapper on the brink of giving up and Rosenberg was a law student with an eye on the music biz. They started working together the following year, and now, over two decades on, they’re back in Detroit with entirely different titles attached to their names: Eminem, top five dead or alive, 15-time Grammy winner and almost certainly the best-selling rapper of all time (47.7 million albums sold in the United States, according to Nielsen Music); Rosenberg, elite music manager, label owner and, as of Jan. 1, the newly-appointed chairman/CEO of Def Jam Recordings.

Three weeks prior, Eminem released his first album in four years, Revival, a mix of self-reflection, schadenfreude and lyrical dexterity that made him the only artist in history to debut eight straight albums at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It also ended his longest break between releases since a prescription pill addiction forced him to take a five-year hiatus at the height of his career, a period that included a 2007 methadone overdose (recounted in the Revival track “Arose”) that nearly killed him. Since his return with 2009’s Relapse and 2010’s Recovery, Eminem has largely chosen to avoid the spotlight, content to be a hip-hop J.D. Salinger penning songs for Holden Caulfield’s Spotify playlist.

That downtime gave Rosenberg, 46, the chance to assess his own career. A bear of a man at 6 feet 6 inches tall, with a calm disposition, he’s a natural storyteller and unassumingly funny, not to mention a scholar of classic hip-hop, punctuating conversations with anecdotes about Duck Down Records and asides on the best Slick Rick song (For Rosenberg, it’s “La Di Da Di” or “Mona Lisa”; Eminem offers “Lick the Balls” or “Children’s Story”). Eminem’s partner in Shady Records, a joint venture with Interscope, Rosenberg began thinking “four or five years ago” about starting a separate label to work with artists who didn't fit with the Shady brand. He approached Universal Music Group with the idea, but chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge eventually countered with a different one: handing Rosenberg the reins of Def Jam. (Steve Bartels, Def Jam’s CEO since its split with Island in April 2014, stepped down in December 2017.)

“To me, this is an opportunity to do something great in the music that I grew up loving, that I've been passionate about since I was 10 years old, and in a lot of ways it's a dream come true,” says Rosenberg. That dream, he says, will hinge on returning the label to what he sees as its four founding pillars: “originality, authenticity, cutting-edge artists” and “rapper as rock star” branding. “Def Jam is the greatest hip-hop label that has ever existed -- I don’t think there’s much argument against that,” he says. “I don’t want anybody to think I want to make it an old-school hip-hop label, because I don’t. I want to follow that blueprint into the future with the kind of artist that exists now.”

Before Rosenberg could focus on his new gig, however, he was back in Detroit to roll out the Eminem album. Revival was greeted on Dec. 15 with familiar criticism of the MC over the strains of misogyny and sexism (or, for some, his political incorrectness) that remain in his lyrics, and equally polarized responses to the scathing attacks -- kicked off in October with his explosive BET Hip-Hop Awards freestyle, “The Storm” -- on Donald Trump, whose base overlaps with Eminem’s. In response, a number of die hard fans began to turn on the MC, which he addressed in a new verse on Revival track "Chloraseptic" after the album's release: "Then I took a stand / Went at tan face and practically cut my motherfuckin' fan base in half / And still outsold you."

“I know I say a lot of fucked-up shit,” admits Eminem in an earnest moment, sunk into a leather couch with Rosenberg after the photo shoot. “But a lot of shit is said in jest, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and it has always been that way through my whole career -- saying shit to get a reaction out of people. It’s my artistic license to express myself. Last time I checked, Trump isn't an artist and doesn't have an artistic license. I'm not the fuckin' president.”

Preoccupied as he may be with Trump, Eminem is eager to give Rosenberg his shine. Sitting down for this interview, he interrupts his manager during a characteristic rumination on the lyricism of KRS-One: “Hey, let me know when you guys want to do an interview. I know it’s your show, but I just want to have your back when we start...”

How would you describe your dynamic?
Paul Rosenberg: I officially started working with him in ’97, so this is the 20th year. It’s 20 years of being in business with each other and being friends.
Eminem: Twenty years of hell. [Laughs.]
Rosenberg: There are moments when it’s extremely serious and intense, and there are other moments where it’s very lighthearted and, dare I say, juvenile.
Eminem: You dare say.

How did you meet?
Rosenberg: When I was in law school in Detroit, I used to go to this place called the Hip-Hop Shop, which was on 7 Mile Road. It was a clothing store that turned into an open-mic, freestyle-battle place on Saturdays. One day [Eminem’s close friend, the late Detroit rapper] Proof pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I want you to stay after open mic today so you can check out my man.” Proof wanted me to check him out because he knew that my goal in law school was to become a music lawyer, and he looked at me as somebody who might be able to help artists in the local community be able to make connections after I had graduated and started a career. So I stayed and he cleared everybody out, and in comes this guy --
Eminem: I had stopped rapping for probably six, seven months. It just felt like it wasn't really going anywhere. We were living in the attic at Kim’s mom’s house that we had turned into a room. Now, I hadn't heard from Proof in like three months at this time. I knew he was still doing his thing; I didn't know to the extreme, that it was to the level it was at. But Proof called me and he was like, “Yo, write something, come here tomorrow and say it, and if you don’t like it you don’t ever have to do it again.” It was like 10 or 15 people. I don’t remember meeting you that day.
Rosenberg: I remember you showed up with Kim [Mathers, now Scott, Eminem’s ex-wife]. You were wearing this white sweatsuit.
Eminem: Yeah, that I always wore. [Laughs.] I rapped and I got a good reaction, and from that point I just started writing again.
Rosenberg: Then a few months later, you put out [independent debut] Infinite, which I bought from you for, like, six bucks on cassette. And that's how we met.

What led to you guys working together?
Rosenberg: I thought he was really talented, but at that point he hadn't figured out who he was yet as an artist. He was trying to sound like other people, like Nas --
Eminem: I wasn't trying to sound like other people -- I just kinda did. [Laughs.] I was a cross between AZ, Nas, Souls of Mischief, Redman, all the great hip-hop that was out at the time.
Rosenberg: I moved to New York and started studying for the bar [exam] and stayed in touch with everybody from the music scene in Detroit. At one point, [a friend] hit me up and said, “You got to check out the new stuff Eminem’s doing.” So I got his number, called him up and [asked him to] send it to me. I got the cassette, listened to it and I was really blown away. I realized that he had found his voice; he stopped being so self-aware and self-conscious about what he was saying and how he was saying it and just sounded like somebody, for lack of a better description, who didn't give a fuck. And it really came across in the music. So I called him up and [asked] if I could represent him. That's how it started; I was his music attorney.
Eminem: And then I would make trips back and forth with friends to New York.
Rosenberg: Yeah, and that's how the friendship started to grow. Neither of us had any money, so he would literally sleep on my couch and we just figured it out. And when you say we pounded the pavement, we literally pounded the pavement, because again, you couldn't send stuff electronically. I had to literally go to clubs with an armful of records and hand them to DJs and get in front of Stretch Armstrong and Tony Touch and Clark Kent like, "Hey, I'm Paul, I want you to check out Eminem." And to this day, I've got relationships with these guys, and I met them from handing them records. I don't want to sound like the old guy reminiscing and being nostalgic, but that face time, that human connection, it's difficult to replace. And I think there's value in that, and we miss that today.

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Dreamville/Roc Nation

Back Like He Never Left: J. Cole Drops New Song "Middle Child"

After posting pictures of famous middle children throughout media history (like Michael Jordan, Britney Spears and Lisa Simpson to name a few), J. Cole dropped his latest song "Middle Child" on streaming services on Wednesday (Jan. 23).

The over three-minute song was produced by T-Minus, who previously linked up with the KOD rapper on the songs "Kevin's Heart" and 6LACK's "Pretty Little Fears." Those who attended the high-profile Dreamville Sessions got to hear the new song before the public, including producer Illmind, who wrote "U know what? I don’t even have words...I’ll just leave this here," with the mind-blown emoji to end off his tweet.

Heard “MIDDLE CHILD” at the Dreamville sessions and trust when I say..........

U know what? I don’t even have words...

I’ll just leave this here -> 🤯

— !llmindPutTheLoopOn (@illmindPRODUCER) January 22, 2019

The track features trumpets in the production, and features the North Carolinian spitting lessons to the younger set of MCs as well as some choice words for the older rappers in the game. While he may not be the middle child in his family, the term "middle child" here appears to be a metaphor.

"To act like two legends cannot coexist, But I never beef with a ni**a for nothin'," he raps. "...If I smoke a rapper, it's gon' be legit, It won't be for clout, it won't be for fame..."

What do you think about the new track? Let us know in the comments after listening to the song below.

pic.twitter.com/fmDiHYC2ff

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

🐐 MIDDLE pic.twitter.com/8GNUDbQJZE

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

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10s, 10s, 10s: Teyana Taylor Gives Us Life In Her "WTP" Visual

Teyana Taylor’s long-awaited video for “WTP” has finally been released.

The video, which features inspiration from the cult-classic documentary Paris Is Burning and ballroom culture as a whole, follows members of different Houses headed out to a ball. Teyana, who is from the “House Of Petunia,” appears to be in distress as she tries to figure out why she’s not invited to get 10s across the board with the other Vogue houses. However, thanks to her “fairy c**t motha" and some serious Cinderella vibes, Teyana is whisked away to to the ball, where she performs for the crowd. The video features appearances by Lena Waithe as well as Taylor’s husband, basketball player Iman Shumpert.

The eight-minute long visual was directed by Taylor, Gregory Jones, and was produced by The Auntie Production. On Twitter earlier this week, Taylor wrote of her issues with her label Def Jam delaying the release of the visuals. Originally, the video was slated to drop on Jan. 19.

“My [Instagram] page is gone because I’m upset at @defjam for not dropping my damn “WTP” video on time, per usual,” she wrote.

We’re glad the video is finally out, and fans of the KTSE musician are singing the video's praises on social media. What do you think? Check out the video above and let us know.

I’ll tell you why you’re GAGGING.💅🏾 WTP MINI MOVIE 3PM #WheredSheGo pic.twitter.com/uZclYhed1c

— TEYANA M.J. SHUMPERT (@TEYANATAYLOR) January 23, 2019

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Courtesy of Project Girls Club

D. Woods And Shanell Share Details Behind Project Girls Club: Exclusive

There's power in numbers, especially when it comes to black women. YMCMB songstress Shanell, former Danity Kane star D. Woods, Princess of Crime Mob and platinum-selling songwriter Mika Means have merged their talents together to form Project Girls Club, a group that not only boasts big female energy but also a sisterhood like no other.

The ladies' first single "Run Up" is all about the girl power while playing with boastful 808s. The video does the same with the ladies turning up industrial style as their colorful personalities bursts out on every verse.

The group's origins were planted in Atlanta over a decade ago with the women acting as supportive cheerleaders as they moved in their previous groups. After moving on to solo endeavors, the ladies decided to add a music component to the group which also includes mentorship of young girls.

Speaking to VIBE Tuesday (Jan. 22), Shanell and D.Woods, the sisters of the group, shared the creative process behind the first single.

"We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first."

The ladies know a little something about girl groups. At the start of their careers, three of them were apart of the biggest groups in hip-hop and R&B. Shanell was the sole female vocalist in Lil Wayne's Young Money group comprised of Nicki Minaj and Drake, D. Woods was famously in the platinum-selling girl group Danity Kane while as a teenager, Princess was apart of Atlanta's Crime Mob.

The ladies plan to hit the ground running with more new music and their upcoming album this year.

Check out the rest of the interview below.

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I love the fact that "Run Up" is a confident track as opposed to a love song. Was that a conscientious decision to make the first single more braggy than a love ballad?

D Woods: I think that is just how we are as people. We didn't really have to think about it or make any type of strategic decision of what kind of subject matter. It just came out of how we really talk in every day in conversation.

Shanell: We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first.

If you could label each woman as a superhero who would be what?

Shanel: I can kind of give you the personalities of each one of us. Like Minka is the party girl, myself, I am like more of like, "Here is the plan," D keeps everybody organized and on task. Princess is our hood spiritual advisor. She's gonna give us a crystal and try and throw you a shot of jack at the same time.

So how did this group come together?

Shanel: We created Project Girls Club years ago with myself D, and Mika. We were all doing shows and mobs of guys would be on stage and there wasn't enough feminine energy.

So we were like, "Let's band together and do all of our shows together. So when you have a show we are gonna come out on stage; if I have a show you're gonna come and support me," so we kind of built it like that.

Then everybody got their deal and started getting pulled away from doing stuff together so much, me signing to Young Money, D being with Danity Kane and Mika doing her solo project, it was hard for us to keep doing stuff together but now, we're wiser and we're experienced

What would you say is the biggest difference between this and other girl groups?

D Woods: For me personally, these are people that I've chosen to work with instead of being put together with that I didn't know. That's the biggest difference. Shanel of course, is my blood sister and Meeka we've known each other since high school, and Princess, we know we cross paths so many different times in the Atlanta music industry so this is like we're coming together because we want to (laughs). That's the difference between me and anyone else's group experience. I was put in a group with people I didn't know and had nothing in common with before–

Shanel: And they were pitted against each other.

D Woods: We were pitted against each other and then put into a group to act like we're all on the same page. Even during the time I was in Danity Kane, there was Project Girls Club. I wanted to include my group into that but we weren't on the same page.

This is a lot being on the same page because we want to be on the same page and seeing the benefits of being on the same page. A lot of times in groups, people are competing against each other and are pushing out one leader and everyone else has to be background singers or just the backup to that person's vision. With this group, we have a hard time explaining that because we see groups, especially those with females, it's like "Who's the leader? What's the look?"

Everyone in Project Girls Group has their own vibe and we don't make anyone else have to be on everyone else's vibe. We celebrate each other's vibe (laughs). I'm not going to make my dream be your dream. Let's figure how to coexist these dreams and push them to the next level.

Shanell: For me, being a part of Young Money it was mostly men. I had Nikki [Minaj] for a while but then she went and did her own thing. It was a lot of creative things I wanted to but there was no female energy. I felt like I was the black sheep. Everyone was super rap and I was doing rock and R&B so I just want to build a place where all of those parts of me can shine. We've all thrived, we've all seen success and we all get it. This is like a more comfortable, a better space for me to tap into every stream of talent I have.

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming album?

Shanel: That's our timeline so we have to set our set dates so that we work toward those dates the project is going to have our plan is to feature as many female artists as we can and leave enough room for us to be on the records.

Shawna reached out and was like, "I want to be a part of this." Sharaya J who was on The Four wants to be a part. We are going to feature a lot of black women in the game and some new girls and just make it a party, make it fun.

D. Woods: Right now we just see black women fighting on TV and talking about taking each other's men and bend it over, pop it open, buss it open for these real ni**as like okay well we are going to be that other thing, that fun thing.

Do you think that because all four of you have these massive hits in your catalogs already that you will revamp those to fit within the group that you are doing now?

D Woods: I mean, that's an idea. I mean we still perform some of those songs for the audience for the audience that is there that is like can we hear something from Young Money and Danity Kane and Crime Mob, like we tap in and give them a little bit of where we came from but right now my focus is in creating this new sound, this new feel, this new vibe, this new culture of women who aren't afraid of each other, who uplift each other, who congratulate each other. What we are hearing and seeing now.

Lastly, what have learned about each other and the process of Project Girls Club?

Shanel: That is a special thing. Of course, we are positive thinkers, we move positively but being that we are all from different walks of life, different experiences, just learning each other's strengths and weaknesses.

When you say women working together it's easier said than done, just people working together is easier said than done so we have to constantly know that that is what we stand for so when we are challenged.

We argue, we bicker and get upset about certain things but it's like okay so we are learning ourselves how sometimes you just gotta figure out how to make it work and understand somebody else's point of view or show them something they don't know and learn something they can teach you. There has been crying, there has been fighting there have been happy days of celebration but it's all apart of this journey.

D. Woods: I joke and say I know everything because she is my sister but you know when you are around people and have known people for as long as we have known each other you tend to generalize people because you are too close to them you can't see the trees through the forest.

In this new stage of Project Girls Club and us having come back together after we have gone out into the world and fought our own battles, we have relearned each other's passions again and then relearned each other's talents and seeing each other's hearts.

We are here to support each other's vision and execute it together so we are learning each other's hearts again and making each other's dreams come true.

Check out the video above and stream "Run Up" by Project Girls Club below.

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