I CAME TO LIVE IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE WHEN SOME OF MY MOTHER’S

murdered when he was eight]. My aunt Sylvie, she hated me being there.She had been the baby, then suddenly it was me. My grandmother wouldlook at me and there would be a little moment when she wouldn’t sayanything, then she’d say, come on here baby. And I said to Sylvie,do you notice she always pauses and looks at me before she speaks tome? And Sylvie said, yeah. ‘Cause everyone noticed. And I said, I


think she sees my mother’s face on top of mine.

I THINK SHOCK IS THE BEST WAY TO DESCRIBE HOW I FELT WHEN MY MOTHER



DIED. I didn’t understand it. To have a single parent as yourguardian – they’re your whole life. I was eight. I was just like,what do you mean? She had spent a lot of time away from me, she wasalways hustling. She had to be very tough, to be around a lot ofmen… she had to adapt. At that time they didn’t have teen


and my mother wanted to give me what I needed, so she couldn’t relyon welfare.> My mother wanted to give me what I needed, so she couldn’t rely on



> welfare


> welfare

IT SCARED ME HALF TO DEATH WHEN MY GRANDMOTHER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH



CANCER. My aunt would call me with updates all the time and she alwayssaid, don’t worry, she’s fine. I’ve never told anyone this buttwo years ago, the day she called to tell me… It was early in themorning and I was on a treadmill in the gym. I got to the hospital andthe whole family was there. My aunt told me the doctor said she’d


had a stroke and there was nothing they could do. They took me to herand she was the smallest I ever saw her. I said ‘Hello?’ I saw hereyes jump when she heard my voice, like she was trying to see where Iwas at. Everyone else left and I talked to her for a little bit. Thenthey all came back in and her heart rate started to drop. My auntsaid, shit, she was waiting for you. I’ve seen a lot of people passin the neighbourhood, I’ve lost them to motorcycles or altercations


or drugs. But none of them impacted like when my grandmother died. Shewas the love of my life.I FELT I HAD TO DO WHATEVER IT TOOK TO GET BY. The stuff that came outof my mouth when I was outside the house – wow, that kid was crazy.I was the youngest in the pack, everyone else was at least 16. Peopletold my grandmother stuff I’d done and she’d say, nope, not mybaby. We all wanted nice things, nice clothes, because we wanted to


attract girls. So we had to hustle to afford them.

IF I COULD TALK TO MY TEENAGE SELF, I’D TELL HIM TO FOCUS ON MUSIC



WITH A STRONGER INTENSITY. He could still have this career withoutgoing through all the things I went through. And thinking aboutrelationships – I think back to when I was with someone and thatperson could have been the person I was going to be with for the restof my life but I didn’t have the references yet to know there was


something special there. It’s like the clarity I got about mygrandmother after she was gone. Some people have been better at thatthan me. If I look at Jay Z, I’d point out he capitalised on peoplebetter than I did.





RANGE IN ] YOU BECOME AFRAID OF EVERYTHING BECAUSE YOU KNOW





RANGE IN ] YOU BECOME AFRAID OF EVERYTHING BECAUSE YOU KNOW



ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AT ANY TIME. I got shot in the afternoon, broaddaylight. So I got scared, and that made me harder than I was before.The only time I was comfortable was when I didn’t care. So I justsaid – fuck it. When you have the pistol and you’re looking forthem, your attention is shifted. You’re not afraid anymore. You’relike, I hope that is them coming up the block now.I STARTED WRITING LYRICS FULL TIME IN 1997. I met Jam Master Jay fromRun DMC and he had his label, which would take people on and developthem until they were ready to go to a major. Jay taught me how tocount bars – and when the chorus should start and stop. And I keptpractising. Sometimes hard work beats talent. I wrote all the time,and so I got better and better.I THINK JAY LIKED ME ‘CAUSE I LOOKED LIKE THE LYRICS. I had all thejewellery, I looked like a hustler. I’d been on the street so long,people respected me. The honest truth is, at that point, the drugdealers were the leaders of the neighbourhood. They had more moneythan the rappers. The things LL Cool J and Run DMC wanted were thethings guys hustling already had. Now, of course, the artists are wayricher than the dealers, the hip hop culture has grown so much.> I came into music with songwriting intentions ‘cause that’s> where the money was

EMINEM HAD THIS COMPETITIVE ENERGY THAT MADE HIM THE GUY ALL THE OTHER



2002]. From early days, he was this great battle artist. The guys whowere up against him would think of everything you could say about him,then he’d say those things about himself first. So everything theyhad against him, he took it away. He was writing all this personalstuff. I was never anything like that. I came into music withsongwriting intentions ‘cause that’s where the money was.

IF I COULD GO BACK TO ANY TIME, I’D GO BACK TO WHEN THE SALES FIGURE



FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ CAME OUT. I went to sitat the back of the tour bus and just thought, wow. I couldn’tbelieve it. When I got those sales I knew that from now on I didn’thave to wait for someone else to say it was okay, I could say it wasokay myself. But I also knew that feeling, that confirmation, thatfinally you have the momentum – you only feel it once. I knew Iwould never have that feeling again. ‘Cause everything was about tochange.Never miss a trick from The Big Issue with our weekly newsletter.





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