Eminem is a true lyricist and has always paid homage to his heroes. The Detroit emcee has cited LL Cool J and Run-DMC as some of his inspirations. However, in an interview with The New York Times last year, the musician (real name Marshall Mathers) spoke about the impact one particular album had on him.
In the newspaper’s ’50 Rappers, 50 Stories’ series in honour of Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary last year, Mathers opened up about the impact Nas’ debut album Illmatic had on him growing up.
The Encore musician unveiled it made him want to hone his craft as a lyricist, stating, “I remember The Source gave Illmatic five mics. 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.'”
Mathers then proceeded to detail the shock he had when he heard Illmatic for the first time, continuing, “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.”
Unsurprisingly, his interview with The New York Times wasn’t the first time Mathers had praised Nas (real name Nasir Jones). In 2020, during an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Mathers detailed the lessons he learnt from Illmatic, explaining, “Everybody knows that is a classic, essential album. I don’t know where you place that in Hip Hop, but it’s got to be at the top. It’s got to be up at the top.”
He continued, “It taught me different flow patterns, different schemes you can do, and then when you start finding your own that you feel like haven’t been done yet, that’s when it becomes fun.”
The Slim Shady LP creator finished by giving his reasoning for picking ‘Halftime’ as one of the greatest rap songs ever, detailing, “One of the reasons that I picked ‘Halftime’ is because there’s some rhyme schemes on there that most rappers to this day probably can’t do. And that’s one of the things that has made Nas so great over his career.”
You can listen to ‘Halftime’ below.