[url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/eminem/artist.jhtml"]Eminem[/url]‘s heart might lie in battle rapping, but one of his earliest breaks came courtesy of a Slim Shady-based freestyle he did on MTV News reporter Sway’s radio show with King Tech.
The Detroit native flew to Los Angeles in 1997 to participate in the Rap Olympics. The event proved to be successful, but it didn’t get as much attention as the promoter, Wendy Day, had hoped. According to Tech, Day asked if she could bring over the standout competitors to rap live on “The Wake Up Show.” Sway and Tech obliged, and Eminem, who finished second in the competition, decided he would come out on top during the cypher.
“Em tried to do the battle-rap thing, and honestly, it wasn’t too hot, so nobody was paying attention to him,” Tech told MTV News of the rap circle that took place that day on the show. “It went to Juice [after Eminem], and he murdered it, looking straight at Craig G. Craig G went next, didn’t look at Juice at all, so everyone was excited for it to go back around again to them dudes, and maybe it could be a battle. And then Em just went into the Em that he became — the battle-rap thing wasn’t really jumping off in the room for him, because of the competitive energy between everyone — so he went into ‘I’m doing drive-bys on Vietnam vets/ In tinted Corvettes’ and would raise the pitch in his voice. Everyone in the room started smiling and saying, ‘That was tight.’ It lightened the mood of the whole room. It just became more exciting coming back to Em. It became the Eminem room.”
Em did what he had to do to stand out. “He injected humor into everything, and after that, we loved him,” Tech said.
Em’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, asked Sway and Tech if his client could have a weekly slot on the show to rap. (Check out vintage video of Eminem rapping on Sway and King Tech’s “Wake Up Show.”)
“I think those sessions were like his training, and he eventually found his voice and who he would become as an artist,” Sway said, recalling the time. “After two to three months, he really became a regular staple of the show.”
Eventually, his rhymes caught the attention of Dr. Dre, and Em inked a deal with Aftermath.