Inside Eminem and LL Cool J’s Friendship
Grammy-winning rapper Eminem has been a looming figure in hip-hop for two decades. The Detroit-bred emcee performed at the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show alongside other hip-hop greats and has solidified his spot among the genre’s most prolific artists. Needless to say the rapper has come a long way since he first burst onto the scene in the 1990s — and a lot of it can be credited to rapper LL Cool J.
LL Cool J inspired Eminem to rap
As a kid, Eminem dreamt of being a rapper and began writing rhymes in high school. Eminem’s path became clear to him after he saw the music video for LL Cool J‘s 1987 song “I’m Bad.”
“When I saw the ‘Bad’ video, I was like, ‘the f***?!’ He had the whole package — the look, the swag, the chain, everything! You know, you just wanted to be LL Cool J,” he said of the rapper in a 2021 episode of MTV’s Behind the Music series. “He was like the first rockstar of rap. I’m like, ‘Yo, I wanted that.’ That is what actually made me want to rap.”
Eminem was particularly attracted to the fact that LL Cool J never married himself to one particular style; he dabbled in all types of sounds in his music. Not only that, but LL Cool J eventually expanded his footprint beyond the world of music at a time when rappers generally didn’t do many things outside of the music industry.
Eminem read LL Cool J’s book in the 1990s
In the late 1990s, Eminem was an independent rapper looking to make his big break into the industry. In 1997, LL Cool J released his memoir, I Make My Own Rules, which was a seminal moment for Eminem.
At the time, Eminem was an avid reader of comic books, and had been a fan of reading comics since he was a child. But up until that point, he’d never read a book consisting of just text from cover to cover before. According to The Things, Eminem himself has revealed that I Make My Own Rules was the first book Eminem read in full.
Eventually, Eminem would go on to release his own memoir, The Way I Am, in 2008.
Eminem has looked up to LL Cool J for years
LL Cool J has played a big role throughout Eminem’s life. Em was a fan of the “Mama Said Knock You Out” rapper back when he was in high school, and even met his future wife, Kim Scott, when he was rapping LL’s song “I’m Bad.”
Eminem met LL Cool J in 1998 on the set of his own music video “Just Don’t Give a F***.” He recounted the experience of meeting the rapper he’d looked up to for so many years in an interview on LL’s own SiriusXM radio show Rock the Bells in 2018.
“I’m like, ‘Yo, he’s in here by himself.’ I was buggin’ the f*** out,” Eminem recalled. “You quoted a lyric back to me. You said, ‘Yo, how can I be white / I don’t even exist.’ You quoting that lyric back to me, was like, I think I s*** myself.”
LL Cool J gifted Eminem his chains from the ‘I’m Bad’ video
Obviously LL’s song “I’m Bad” is what changed Eminem’s life and set him on his journey of becoming a rapper. LL knew how much the song meant to him, and decided to give Eminem a piece of the song: jewelry from the music video.
Eminem opened up about him trying to find out where LL got his chains from the “I’m Bad” video on Behind the Music.
“Since I was a little kid, I always wanted a chain,” he admitted. “I was recording with Rick Rubin, and I was like, ‘Yo, can you ask LL where he got his chains from?’ So he had these made and sent them to me. In the ‘[I’m] Bad’ video, these are the same two chains he’s wearing in that video.”
Eminem fulfilled his childhood dreams
Earning the respect and admiration of LL Cool J was a fulfilling moment in Eminem’s life and career. On his 2009 album Relapse, Eminem spoke openly about some of his darkest struggles in one of his most personal albums.
For Em, getting the approval from LL Cool J on the project was a full-circle moment. In an interview with KXNG Crooked, the “Lose Yourself” rapper recounted when he drove around with LL Cool J playing the Relapse album for him, and knowing that LL loved it.
“I was sitting there thinking ‘I don’t even know what to say.’ Before we got into the track I was ‘I just wanna say what you mean to me, man. I’m a stan of you,'” Eminem said. “Just for 15, 16 years old Marshall to think that that can actually happen one day, LL Cool J is sitting in the car with me listening to my album.”