Rapper Eminem and pop legend Elton John have shared a close friendship since first coming together for a duet of Eminem's song "Stan" at the 2001 Grammys. And a recent conversation between the two musicians published in Interview Magazine shows that their friendship is as strong as ever.
Now for a little backstory: At the time of the duet, Eminem was receiving considerable backlash for a purportedly homophobic lyrics. It was his idea to do the duet with the pop icon. The fact that Elton John, a living legend and gay man, would do this duet with him made a big statement. "I didn’t know he was gay. I didn’t know anything about his personal life. I didn’t really care," Eminem told MTV in a 2004 interview. "But being that he was gay and he had my back, I think it made a statement in itself saying that he understood where I was coming from."
In an interview with Beat's 1 host Zane Lowe earlier this year, John set the record straight, saying he never believed the rapper, known offstage as Marshall Mathers, meant for the lyrics to give that impression. "For me, Eminem was never homophobic," he said in the interview. "I listened to the whole of the Marshall Mathers album when I drove to a show in South Hampton and I was floored by it. And I thought how could anyone think this is…he’s just writing about the way things are. Not how he thinks, but the way things are."
Ever since their unexpected performance, the two have remained friends, mentioning each other a number of times in interviews over the years. Not just casual friends, but actually close friends who take a sincere interest in each other's lives and careers. During the release of his album Encore in 2004 and his subsequent struggle with drug addiction, Eminem found support and advice in speaking with John, who had himself attended rehab in 1990.
"When I first wanted to get sober, I called [Elton] and spoke to him about it," said Eminem to The Guardian in 2009. "He's somebody who's in the business and can identify and relate to the lifestyle and how hectic things can be. He understands...the pressure and any other reasons that you want to come up with for doing drugs. I reached out to him and told him, 'Look, I'm going through a problem and I need your advice.'"
It is clear that their friendship has stood the test of time. Just last year, John referred to Eminem as a "dear friend," praising his talent and artistry, while hosting the Apple Beats 1 show, Rocket Hour. A phone interview between the old friends was published by Interview Magazine, and in it the two catch up and speak about Eminem's forthcoming album, Revival, which the rapper describes as "a reflection of where I'm at now." One highlight of the conversation was John's unwavering support of Eminem's well-being after addiction. "Your sobriety day is in my diary. I'm so proud of you," John shares.
They go on to discuss some of the major moments of Eminem's rise to fame as well as who else is doing great things in the hip-hop genre, but their evident friendship is really the major theme throughout the call. The conversation ends with John saying, "I’m so happy you exist in the world, and I’m just so proud of you. You’ve worked so hard on yourself, and no one deserves this more than you, Marshall, and I love you from a long way away, okay?" To which Eminem responds, "Thank you, Elton. I love you, too."
If that isn't true friendship, I don't know what is.