Eminem Says Nas and Naughty By Nature’s Talent Almost Made Him Quit Rap: ‘I’ll Never Be That Good’
In an interview with The New York Times as part of Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary coverage, Slim Shady admitted that Naughty By Nature’s self-titled album in 1991 sent him into a deep bout of writer’s block.
“I was a sponge,” Eminem said of rap in general. “I would gravitate towards the compound-syllable rhyming, like the Juice Crew. Lord Finesse, to Kool G Rap, to Big Daddy Kane, to Masta Ace, Redman, Special Ed. 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.”
He continued, “And then Treach from Naughty By Nature came along and he was doing all that, too–his image and everything. 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.”
“Nas, too. 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,” Em continued. “But I was, like, ‘Five mics, though? Let me see what this is.'”
He added, “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. There was three or four years, maybe, where I kind of dipped out of listening to rap. I was so on the grind in the underground. I didn’t have money to buy any tapes. Every dollar, every dime that I had went to either studio time or to buy Hailie diapers.”
Eminem’s love of Treach is no secret. Back in 2020, the Detroit legend dubbed him one of the “greatest rappers of all time” while shouting him out for his birthday. He also previously cited Naughty By Nature’s “Yoke The Joker” as one of the track’s off that 1991 project that really scared him.
“He was getting on every f*cking song and smoking everybody,” Em said on Crooked’s podcast back in 2015. “When I heard ‘Yoke the Joker,’ my heart sank. My heart sank, ’cause I was like, I’ll never be as good. I might as well quit.“