Dressed in a black tracksuit and white tennis shoes, Eminem bobbed his head back and forth as a recording of his song “Rap God” echoed through the open, empty space of the Detroit warehouse.
Working in front of one stationary camera and a production crew of a couple dozen people, the Detroit rapper was hard at work on the upcoming video for the song — a boisterous, six-minute verbal fusillade that both drops respect for past hip-hop stars and declares Eminem as the man of the moment.
Inside the Russell Industrial Center complex just north of downtown, the production crew had created an ominous mood — minimal lighting, the air filled with smoke. Among those watching were Eminem’s longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, and music video director Rich Lee, who had also helmed the videos for “Lighters” and “Not Afraid.”
Eminem, like a prizefighter about to step into the ring, moved from one corner of the designated floor space to the other corner. Then he’d jump in front of the camera, performing a full, six-minute take. After almost every shot, Eminem would go immediately to one of the video monitors looking for things he liked — and didn’t. He’d huddle with his cohorts, take some water and get right back out in front of the camera. This scene repeated itself for hours during the Free Press visit, which was just a small chunk of the two-day shoot.
It was a rare look behind the scenes of Eminem’s famously tight-lipped and closely held world, just a week before his first new album in more than three years was to be released. As is usual, a new Eminem disc is cause for speculation, big headlines and high-profile appearances, including Billboard and Rolling Stone covers hitting newsstands this week and a scheduled performance on “Saturday Night Live.”
“While recording the album, people who would hear a song would say it reminded them of the first time they heard me. The more I listened to it, the more it made sense to call it that.”