How Eminem Got Signed to Bass Brothers, Hit Rock Bottom and Bounced Back to Fame

It is widely known that the team of Jeff and Mark Bass worked with Eminem way before he came to prominence and later produced some of his signature hits, such as “Without Me” and “Lose Yourself”. Here is the story of how they all came to work together.

 

It was Jake Bass, the son and the nephew of a famous tandem. He continues the family music business and is touring with D12 right now. On a circuit, when D12 played in Amsterdam with Ice Cube, Jeff gave this interview to a local hip hop enthusiast. For Jake Bass, this story is part of his family history, and he tells it with complete immersion as if he remembers things he cannot remember because of his age. Yet still, it is a fascinating tale that starts with his uncle listening to a Detroit radio station that is now acquired by a Christian broadcasting network but was very different in the 1990s.

Eminem and Jake Bass in 2000Eminem and Jake Bass in 2000

My uncle had heard Marshall on the radio, on a local station, WDRQ 93.1, in the middle of the night. They were doing an open mic night basically. He was freestyling out there. And he sounded like a rap god. We all know that: really fast spitting but actually was saying something. My uncle had called up the radio station. Like, “Who the fuck was that?! That was amazing. I’ve got this recording studio. I want you to come by and record”. [Eminem] showed up shortly after. He wasn’t thinking he was coming right away, but Eminem and everybody else did. Everybody was blown away. And everyone was blown away that he was white. At that time, it was just unheard of to have an elite MC like that be white. Vanilla Ice was hot, and that was a big fucking thing in the hip hop community for him to be taken seriously. Once he started recording, they realised that there was something really special there. The first record that he put out that was recorded at our studio was Soul Intent — “Backsrabber”. It was recorded by our engineer Mike Wilder. At this point, it was like, okay, we gotta sign him. My dad and uncle were like, yeah, he’s a diamond in the rough. So, they signed him in 1995, and a year later put out the “Infinite” record. And everybody was super, super fucking excited about it. It was such a unique different thing coming out of hip hop and coming out of Detroit. And it didn’t work. Nobody fucked with it. I remember everybody feeling disheartened about it because they put a lot into it. They pressed up records, they pressed up cassette tapes, and they pressed up posters. My uncle handled the record label like a major label. It’d be one thing for people not to like the record. It’s another thing for people to think it was impossible just because of his skin colour. Yeah, he was discovering his voice, he was still figuring out what type of artist he was going to be. Not saying it was the most incredible shit in the world at the time. It was. But then he proved everybody wrong the following year when he gave it another chance and came up with the Slim Shady persona.

Eminem - Opening For House of Krazees at Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit (1997)

Jake Bass in the studio in 2023

Jake Bass in the studio in 2023

This new development made the Bass team return to work with renewed hope.

At that point, it was like, alright, let’s give it another chance. Because he’s got this new persona, it’s a new direction. Let’s give it our all again because everyone still believes in it. And the same thing — pressed up CDs, pressed up vinyl, pressed up posters, did the whole push again. At that time, it started to get a little bit more buzz because he was saying things that nobody else was saying. People might have been thinking it, but they weren’t saying it. So, when he had that not giving a fuck attitude, that’s when he figured it out. This was working. But still, it wasn’t selling crazy, it wasn’t paying the bills yet. But it was at that time when they put that out he got the opportunity to go to the Rap Olympics in December of 1997. He had a tap everywhere on the consignment, and he took the tape with him. Actually, he and my uncle put together more of a snippet tape of the four best cuts, and he took that out there with him. We all know that he lost. But he had a tape on him, and he gave it to Evan Bogart who was working at Interscope Records, who was a kid at the time, and slipped it to Jimmy [Iovine]. I kid you not, that was December of 1997, February of 1998 my uncle got a call from Dre. ‘Cause on the tape it was my uncle’s phone number, and it was my Grandma’s old address. So they were like, I guess this is who we have to contact. And it was my uncle. And I was like, what?! Fucking Dr. Dre is on the phone? When he told Em, it was like, there’s no possible way this is happening. It was truly rock bottom for everybody. That next weekend, Em and my uncle went out there, and my dad went out there afterwards, and did the deal. And it all began. After that, they worked on the album for three months and finished it. And [the label] were like, what? That’s it? It’s all done? And they were like, yeah, we’ve been doing this. Just put us in a studio, and we got it. So, those tracks that were on that snippet tape were from the 8 Mile studio that they put on the first album. They obviously remixed it. My dad re-produced some things and played more instruments on it. But the vocals were unchanged. The vocals were from the 8 Mile studio in the shitty vocal booth that is all boomy and woody. It has that sound. But that’s what made it so raw.
Watch the video below:

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