How Nas almost made Eminem quit rapping
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How Nas almost made Eminem quit rapping

Eminem was a hidden gem and was rapping for years before Aftermath founder Dr Dre finally discovered him. As a potent battle rapper who crafted his skills in venues such as The Shelter and The Hip-Hop Shop, the Detroit emcee (real name Marshall Mathers) wanted to compete with the best.

That said, Eminem nearly quit rapping before fame because of Naughty By Nature and Nas. As a lyricist with his technique and flow, Eminem felt he had mastered manipulating syllables to create punchy lyrics. However, in an interview with The New York Times, Mathers admitted the skills of others intimidated and disheartened him.

During his interview, the Encore emcee spoke about “compound-syllable rhyming”, a particular rap style that packs many syllables into very tight verses with flair. Artists such as Busta Rhymes and Big Pun are examples. However, in the mid-1990s, Eminem listened heavily to Queens rappers such as Juice Crew, LL Cool J and Nas, to name a few.

Speaking about specific flows, Eminem told the publication, “I don’t even think I understood why I liked it. I had a couple of friends that had to point out to me how many syllables someone was rhyming.”

However, the usually confident rhymer admitted that he suffered from writer’s block while trying to build his lyrical arsenal. He cited Treach from Naughty By Nature as one cause, disclosing,  “And then Treach from Naughty By Nature came along, and he was doing all that, too. I wanted to be him. When the first Naughty By Nature album dropped that whole summer, I couldn’t write a rap. ‘I’ll never be that good; I should just quit.’ So I was depressed, but that’s all I played for that summer.”

He admitted that Nas had the same effect on him with his outstanding lyricism. Mathers explained by beginning, “I remember The Source gave Illmatic five mics.” He continued, “I already knew I liked Nas from ‘Live at the Barbeque’ with Main Source, because his verse on that is one of the most classic verses in Hip-Hop of all time. But I was, like, ‘Five mics, though? Let me see what this is.'”

He then revealed he was stunned when he heard the lyrics of ‘N.Y. State Of Mind,’ stating, “And when I put it on, ‘And be prosperous, though we live dangerous/ Cops could just arrest me/ Blamin’ us/ We’re held like hostages.’ He was going in and outside of the rhyme scheme, internal rhymes. That album had me in a slump, too. I know the album front to back.”

Although he got into a bit of a rut, he clearly picked up speed again, as he now has one of the highest-selling rap albums of all time. You can hear Nas’ ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ in the video below.