Billboard caught up with Oscar-winning producer/songwriter Jeff Bass, a Detroit native who helped Slim Shady pen the prolific song, just in time for this year’s ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 26. Read on to learn about Bass’ creative relationship with Em, what he remembers about the moment he won his Oscar and the song’s undying legacy:
How did you first meet Eminem?
He was already sending people his mixtapes and work, always ready to work and had a passion for it. When we first started out, my brother and I worked with artists who were really serious about the narratives that we were doing. He’d come in and we gave it a shot. We took him in as one of our own and we started grooming him. Eminem’s work ethic was always impeccable. The kid could work 20 hours a day easily. Me and my brother strived for that and we worked many, many hours. A lot of people couldn’t hang with us because we were always constantly working, but Em was a trooper. He was that hungry, so he hung with us the whole time.
When did you realize that the two of you could have a really strong creative relationship?
The first project that we did was the Infinite album, and me and my brother were pretty much executive producers on it, we oversaw the project. It wasn’t until the Slim Shady EP that we started to actually put our hands in on the music end of things. Then, for the Slim Shady LP, we were full-fledged writers with Eminem. We used to joke around a lot. He was a jokester and we were jokesters, so we got along really well. I was like the older brother to him.
About how long did it take to record “Lose Yourself”?
We started “Lose Yourself” in September of ’01, and it came out in ’02. So it took about a year, back-and-forth, to complete. A lot of the music was completed but the vocals and the words weren’t 100 percent completed by that time. I’d say it took about a year to really develop that song.
What type of creative would you say that Eminem is? Does he ask for collaborative help on the spot, or does he come up with something and then ask for approval on it later?
How we would do things is that, a lot of the time, I would do the music and track. I’d have it all ready and I would show him it, and he’d either like it or not like it. Other times, we’d sit down together raw — no music at all — and just start building something. I couldn’t explain to him in musical terms at that time what we were gonna write, but he seemed to understand me when I said that we would be doing a happy song or a sad song or an angry song. He can understand those emotions, so that’s how he was able to communicate with me on musical terms.
You were not actually at the Oscar ceremony, so where were you on the night of your Oscar win?
I was actually watching at my house because my wife just had a baby and I wanted to be with my baby. Hopefully one day he’ll appreciate that. [Laughs.]
How does it feel to look back at the success of the song and see what it did for the rap game as a whole?
It’s pretty amazing, especially since it came from this white kid rapper and these two white producers. [Laughs.] Just to break a color barrier because the culture of hip-hop is known to be a black culture. I think that artists like Eminem, myself and my brother being able to work with him helped break the color barrier.
It also helps to sway the conversation about race in the rap game as well.
Right. I’ve never heard anything negative about Eminem’s skills as far as his authenticity in the hip-hop game. He is hip-hop, if you want to put it in a culture like that. He was hip-hop, we were all hip-hop. That’s how we lived. It didn’t matter what color you were.
How has knowing and working with Eminem changed you as a musician and a person?
I’ve learned how artists are with producers. Him and I had set this bar that was just so high. He had that gift — that artist’s gift of creating. You see all of these people who are trying to make it in the business, and you never get past a certain plateau. He is the top. So now every artist that I’ve worked with, the bar is high. They have to actually know who they are and what they want to do, as far as the artist that they want to be. The only thing that’s changed for me is that I get to see that now.
So it’s opened up my eyes for a better vision of what to look for when I’m searching for an artist who is trying to come up, and is willing to listen. That was the thing with Eminem — he was willing to follow my path and my brother’s path musically. Obviously he wrote his lyrics, but we collaborated on a lot of that stuff too. I have a clear vision of what it takes to be a successful recording artist. I can see if you’re gonna go down the right path that I’m gonna show you, or you’re not. You could be good at what you’re doing, but you need to be outstanding at what you do. Your competition is an Eminem or a Kendrick Lamar. If you can’t keep up with those guys, you’re not going to do it. The new artists coming out, the bar is so high for them.
READ FULL INTERVIEW ON BILLBOARD
Bass Brothers were recently featured in Eminem’s “Infinite” documentary that includes unseen footage of them being in the studio.