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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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Megan Thee Stallion Releases Fiery "Realer" Video

Megan Thee Stallion is truly prepping for a hot girl summer. Following up the highly-anticipated release of Fever, the Houston-bred rapper has officially released the visuals for the project's opening song, "Realer."

Red-headed Meg and her friends brandish toy guns, high karate kicks and body rolls as she talks her sh*t. And, much like her project's artwork, there were flames—both literally and figuratively—to be had all around.

Even some of her celebrity peers have expressed excitement over her video's release.

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥❤️❤️

— TRINA (@TRINArockstarr) May 21, 2019

🐎 🔥 https://t.co/54S59MQ8fx

— Wale (@Wale) May 21, 2019

Watch Hot Girl Meg's spicy "Realer" video up top.

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VIBE Debuts New Podcast On Battle Rap Culture, 'The Chosen' (Hosted By Nunu Nellz)

THE CHOSEN Podcast, hosted by the battle scene's stage Queen, Nunu Nellz, is a show that highlights the artists, entrepreneurs and personalities that shape Hip-Hop battle culture. A lot of success stories may look like they started overnight, yet took many years of hard work and dedication...we will showcase that journey through their stories.

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And for some added flavor, the intro beat to the show is produced by none other than the infamous himself, Havoc of Mobb Deep.

Check the first of many great episodes to come of The Chosen Podcast.

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😢 THANK U to @smackwhite @beasleynyc @urltv for embracing me with nothing but love from the first day I met u guys. Thank you for making NUNU NELLZ a house hold name. From my start on “ battle rap arena “ on 15moferadio to writing my first column “what’s hot what’s not “in battle rap for 100barsmag then taking that same column to a printing magazine ( rydermagazineboss ) where it was sold at train station, online and at the legendary black star, I just been blessed. I been able to travel the world and meet so many great ppl bc of u guys. Thank u for any league that ever book me to host their event . Thank u to my fiancé @mr.guercy for pushing me to be the greatest woman I can be and introducing me to the editor and chief of @vibemagazine, @datwon . Thank u to @datwon for believing in the vision and giving me my very own show on the vibe platform #THECHOSEN. This is so BIG and I’m so excited about this new journey . I love media . I love learning about ppl grinds and how they became successful . It was so important to me to grab that @nickiminaj #vibemagazine cover for my first interview . I won’t allow anyone to give me pickle juice (barbs will catch that 🤣) but thank u to all those saying congrats . When the first interview drop im open to all feed back to be the best I can be for the people 💯 Hair @beautiibyday thank u for always stopping what u doing to get me together . I appreciate u

A post shared by URL Princess (@nunu_nellz) on Mar 28, 2019 at 8:11am PDT

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Bradley Murray

Jamila Woods Resurrects Legends On ‘Legacy! Legacy!’

Three years ago, Jamila Woods entered the scene as a woman grounded in her self-hood on her debut HEAVN. The album is a memoir of her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side and her introspections are comfort food for anyone on a search for their center. She digs up memories such as pride in games she played growing up on “Popsicle (Interlude)” and runs down why she’s worthy of all good things on the healing self-love anthem “Holy.” The sound is dripped deeply in neo-soul and hip-hop, in the family of her Chicago peers Saba, NoName, and Chance the Rapper.

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The result is 13 tracks of her soothing lullaby, free-flowing melodies, and sing-songy raps of gratitude for each of the lessons she learned from these greats.

There is “Betty” dedicated to Betty Davis, an unsung funk musician whose empowered spirit was ahead of her time and caused her to be shunned from the spotlight. Davis was also married to jazz pioneer Miles Davis, who she influenced in the latter part of his career. The marriage ended in a rocky divorce and Jamila considers whether this hindered Betty’s success by flipping her story into a song about guarding her light around toxic masculinity and men who could interrupt her growth. “Let me be, I'm trying to fly, you insist on clipping my wings,” she sings over the piano-led track, produced by Chicago producer OddCouple.

Woods continues to explore relationships on “Frida,” a funky boom-bap number produced by Chicago-based Slot-A, who produces most of the album. The track draws inspiration from the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera. The couple lived in separate homes connected by a bridge while they were together. Woods uses this as a symbol for maintaining your own space to find self, whatever that may look like, even when you’re in a partnership. “Multiply my sides, I need a lot of area/A savior is not what I'm seeking/I'm god enough and you be believing,” she commands.

Although Woods shines on her own tracks, one standout feature is Brooklyn emcee (and current touring mate) Nitty Scott on “Sonia.” The track is inspired by a poem written by Black Arts movement poet Sonia Sanchez in the voice of an enslaved black woman who was finding power in detailing the trauma of her condition. Similarly, Scott lays out all her experiences with toxic relationships on a verse that should be studied by all young woman as a relationship manual. “All the women in me are tired/Listen, ni**a/My abuela ain't survive several trips around the sun/So I could give it to somebody's undeserving son,” Scott quips. Woods also describes finding clarity on relationship issues after talking them out with her mother, grandmother, and cousin. “I knew I could do it 'cause if my blood went through it/I knew I could endure it, I knew that I could heal it,” she croons.

When she’s not breaking down the personal, Woods takes on race politics. On the gritty “Miles” dedicated to the aforementioned Davis, Woods embodies his rebellious attitude toward racism. “You could make me tap dance, shake hands, yes ma'am/ But I'm a free man now,” she flexes on the track’s first verse. The song also tells of a man who took the oppression he faced and poured it into mastering his musicianship. Davis talks about this in a 1962 Playboy interview, where he explained that when he was in high school he knew he was the best trumpeter in music class, but all the white students would win the first prizes in contests. “It made me so mad I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn,” he recalls. “If I hadn't met that prejudice, I probably wouldn't have had as much drive in my work.” Davis went on to become one of the most influential jazz artists in the world. Woods calls on that pride he had in his genius, as she references Davis’s 1950 album Birth of Cool on several lines, including, “You can't fake the cool/I could do it in my sleep.”

The spacey-electronic “Octavia” echoes the late science fiction author’s notable ability to manifest her success through journaling. Butler was one of the most prominent black women to write in a mostly white and male-dominated genre, publishing dozens of books, and was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, among other awards. During Butler’s rise, she wrote out her goals in a series of affirmations that were put on display in an exhibit called “Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California in 2017. One of the notes read, “My books will be read by millions of people! I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood!” On the chorus, Jamila borrows one stunning line from her notes: “I write it down, it happens next/So be it, see to it.”

Woods talks candidly to white Americans about their privilege and how it blinds them from reality on “Baldwin” in the same way James Baldwin did in his writings. Baldwin once wrote in a 1962 essay in The New Yorker: “Now, there is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure. And it is clear that white Americans are not simply unwilling to effect these changes; they are, in the main, so slothful have they become, unable even to envision them.” Woods keeps the same energy when grieving about gentrification — which is now a fabric of life in most American cities — and the stress it can bring black natives of big cities. “You could change a hood just by showing your face / Condo climbing high, now the block is erased / (You don't get it, get it),” she spits.

On Legacy! Legacy!, Woods took her ability to paint her rage with social conditions and complex emotions within intimate relationships to the next level, solidifying her as a modern day griot. Yes, this album on the surface is inspired by historical figures but, as promised, the songs aren’t simply biographies about their accomplishments. Woods studied what made each of these individuals human and transformed those insights into a cohesive oral history that connects the past to the present. It’s not an album to be digested in one sitting. She is inviting us to join her in remembering these legends more deeply beyond social media posts that dilute their legacies to soundbites, photos and quote posts on their birthdays. The eras from which these icons rose to prominence passed, but the lessons they offer are timeless. Count on Woods to keep them alive and make sure they’re told.

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