February 20, 2018 / 12:26 AM

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Eminem, Def Jam CEO Paul Rosenberg: 5 Takeaways From Their Billboard Interview

 

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Eminem and his manager and business partner Paul Rosenberg have been together for two decades, and they're still making waves in hip-hop (and beyond).

Rosenberg, 46, is the newly appointed CEO of legendary hip-hop record label Def Jam Records. With the new gig at a record far larger than the boutique Shady Records label he shares with Eminem, the elite music executive will be able to extend his reach beyond Shady artists.

Meanwhile, Eminem's recently launched an album Revival, his first in four years. While the album is characteristically polarizing, its release makes the rapper the only artist to debut eight straight albums in the Billboard 200.

In an interview and photo shoot with Billboard, the power hip-hop duo opens up about their 20-year relationship, Donald Trump, and their plans for the future. Here are five of the most interesting things from their conversation.

The Early Days And Finding Eminem's Voice

Eminem and Rosenberg met in Detroit where the former grew up and the latter went to law school. The pair has gone through rough days from being broke and Eminem sleeping on his manager's couches.

"You had cockroaches the size of f**king mice," Eminem recalls — to Rosenberg hitting the pavement to hand out CDs of the rapper. In the beginning, the renowned manager remembers Eminem sounding like other hip-hop artists like Nas, until the rapper was able to shed his self-consciousness.

Rosenberg's Plan For Def Jam

Being handed the reins of Def Jam, a label Rosenberg calls the greatest of all time, is a dream come true for the acclaimed executive. As new CEO, he's looking into following the label's blueprint of "originality, authenticity, cutting-edge artists, and rapper as rock star branding" and applying it to the kind of musicians that exist in the present.

Eminem Is More Connected Than You Think

"Yeah right," Eminem laughs at the prospect of a secret Twitter account, but later adds that he's always checking out what everybody is doing. "I would consider myself a lot more in tune that a lot of people think that I am."

Even with his polarizing lyrics and unapologetic music, in many ways, the rapper often shies away from the spotlight. Still, Rosenberg insists Eminem is very much tuned in to the pulse of the industry. The elite music manager says he is always finding out new material and artists from Eminem, who is armed with an iPad nowadays.

'The Storm' And Donald Trump

Eminem isn't a stranger to controversy and his most recent one includes taking on the president. During the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, the rapper launched a scathing acapella freestyle "The Storm" that blasted Donald Trump. With the two sharing some parts of their fan bases and supporters, Eminem knows some of his own supporters turned on him and he acknowledges this in a verse in his Revival track "Chloraseptic." Still, the rapper says, if he does lose some fans, he knows that it's due to him standing up for what's right.

"A lot of shit is said in jest, it's tongue-in-cheek, and it has always been that way through my whole career - saying shit to get a reaction out of people," Eminem explains, saying he's aware of his tendency of saying controversial things. "It's my artistic license to express myself. Last time I checked, Trump isn't an artist and doesn't have an artistic license. I'm not the f**kin' president."

2018 Goals

With Def Jam now on his plate, Rosenberg wants to master balancing his new responsibilities with his role as manager and copresident of Shady Records. The balance is key since he knows he is capable of the actual job, he says.

Eminem is less specific on what he wants to accomplish this year, explaining that he's still in "writer mode" at the moment.

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