During the summer of 1998, a then teen-aged Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex's future editor-in-chief, witnessed the creation of Eminem & Royce Da 5'9"'s underground classic Bad Meets Evil. Nearly 15 years later the trio sat back down to talk about the good old days and where BME goes from here.
Story & Photography by Noah Callahan-Bever (@N_C_B)
“Y'all play ‘Corners’ in New York?”
When he said it, I had no idea what Eminem was talking about. However, I figured it out pretty fucking fast when, immediately afterwards, he threw his forearm into my back, introducing my chest and face quite abruptly to, yes, the corner of the elevator. Never a spoilsport, my 19 year-old self quickly returned the favor, throwing Em into Royce, who was catching his balance having just ‘cornered’ Skam, the elevator’s fourth occupant. Straight out of the WWF playbook the two of them then dove back at me together and all three of us collapsed into the wall, sending the car swinging wildly and bouncing around the sides of the elevator shaft. Instantly an alarm rang and the elevator, now in between the 23rd and 24th floors of this Time Square Double Tree hotel, stopped abruptly.
The four of us looked at each other. We were stuck. Fuck.
Stoned and hungry as hell, all I could think about was how long it was gonna take a repair man to show up at midnight on a Saturday. We’d been on a mission to McDonald’s, after all. Em and Royce? They were more concerned with who had what pills. Skam was kind enough to point out the whole no-bathroom situation. That’s when Em, 26, and Royce, 20, decided that, because I was the youngest (duh!), my corner would, if it came to it, become our make-shift toilet. Of course they did. This is what happens when Bad Meets Evil.
It was during July, 1998 that we spent 120 minutes stuck in that now infamous elevator (Every time I’ve seen Eminem since, the first thing he says is, “What’s up Noah-from-BLAZE? Been stuck in any elevators recently?”). I’d met Em and Royce in Burbank, California about 2 months prior on assignment by BLAZE magazine, after having met his manager Paul Rosenberg in Fat Beats and hearing rough mixes of “My Name Is” and “Guilty Conscience.” For a week I shadowed Em as he mixed The Slim Shady LP. This mostly involved smoking a shitload of weed, trying a Vicodin on Em’s recommendation that did not sit well at all (he and Royce had driven to Tijuana a day before my arrival and were flush, and generous), and loafing around the studio watching the magic happen. And then sitting around their barely furnished and very messy corporate apartment talking about really mature things like how many women we’d slept with (I padded my number to keep it respectable) and vandalizing every corner of the apartment complex with pee.
Only a year into my career as a music journalist, I couldn’t articulate what made Em so compelling. Obviously, his music was strong but there was something else. From the moment we exchanged pounds I knew he had something. For lack of a better term, it was a star-charisma, unlike any other artist I’d interviewed. It’s why I bought a disposable camera and documented the trip (see inset photos). I have never taken a picture of an artist before and I haven’t done it since.
So when I came back to NYC, naturally, I regaled everyone that would listen about how I’d heard the future of rap. One of these people was a new friend and mentor Jonathan Shecter, who had been the founding Editor of The Source and recently launched an indie hip-hop label called Game Recordings. Sitting around his conference room listening to a copy of The Slim Shady EP, I’d burned for him, Jon, very enamored of Em’s talents, started brainstorming how he could work with the already signed rapper. We’d been laughing about how the titling of the “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star” project was kinda pretentious, so I jokingly suggested taking the piss out of it with a “Eminem & R.A. The Rugged Man Are White Trash” collaborative single. We all agreed this was a very funny, very bad idea. But it planted a seed in Jon’s brain.
He and Paul linked shortly thereafter and Paul came by Game’s TriBeCa office and played the album for Jon, myself and Game art director and graff legend Todd “REAS” James (who would later design the original Bad Meets Evil logo). Next thing I know Jon’s telling me that he and Paul made a deal for a Bad Meets Evil single with Eminem and Royce.
A few weeks later Em and Royce came to town with the Lyricist Lounge Tour and performed at the Tunnel. They had time off until their next date, in Boston, so somehow, even though I wasn’t writing about them, I ended up becoming their New York tour guide for a week and a half.