Despite not being as wealthy, Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) is one of the few artists in hip-hop who have sold more records than Kanye West, which is no easy feat. Although Eminem is factually the highest-selling rapper of all time, he had many tribulations trying to get his foot in the door of the music industry.
As many hip-hop fans will know, upon hearing Eminem’s Slim Shady EP in the late 1990s, Mathers signed a contract with Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s Aftermath Entertainment label. This record deal did wonders for the Detroit rapper’s career, and within two years, Mathers was a megastar. However, another big name had the opportunity to sign Em before his big break but rejected him.
In 1997, following the release of his Slim Shady EP and epic performance at the Battle Rap Olympics, every record label wanted Mathers, and execs were speedily drafting contracts. With so many people scrambling, Dr Dre almost gave up on signing him. He knew Mathers’ name but had yet to hear any music. That was until the Slim Shady EP ended up on his desk.
During an appearance on Mike Tyson’s Hotboxin With Mike Tyson podcast, Mathers explained how his CD ended up in the hands of Dr Dre. Reminiscing about that day in 1997, Eminem recalled, “Dean Geistlinger walks up to me, he’s like ‘Yo man, you got one of those CDs?’ and I was like, ‘yeah’, and I kinda just tossed it to him. I didn’t think nothing of it. I didn’t know that Dean worked with Jimmy Iovine. So he gave it to Jimmy, Jimmy gave it to Dre, and I get the call, and I’m like ‘oh sh*t!'”
However, an individual who had Eminem’s music long before Dre did was Fat Joe. Mathers was on his radar, but he was so devoted to Big Pun and Remy Ma that he never really listened to the Detroit musician’s demo, even though he had it. In an interview with Big Boy TV, the Terror Squad founder admits that he was ignorant then and even disclosed that Mathers once reminded him how he brutally rejected him.
Elaborating on his missed opportunity, the Bronx artist (real name José Cartagena) admitted, “I was just immature, I was crazy, I keep tryna tell y’all! I was wild for the night and for the day. So I was just in these places, Revolt summit, people would just give me their demos. So I was just tryna get myself in the game, and Eminem apparently gave me his demo.” The ‘Lean Back’ rapper continued, “So years later, we had dinner, me, Em and B-Real from Cypress Hill. Em was like, ‘Yo Joe, Imma tell you something,’ I was like what, he was like I gave you my demo like six times. I was like nooooo… Jesus Christ.”
Cartagena acknowledged that Eminem being on Aftermath greatly influenced his career and allowed him to reach unfathomable heights. However, he still believes that Mathers would have been just as successful, or even more, if he had signed him. In the video below, you can watch the Fat Joe interview in which he recalls his conversation with Eminem about the Detroit act’s demo.