Em and Lil Wayne were shot for the cover at the 2011 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in June, while the Rolling Stones guitarist was shot separately in New York. In a portfolio consisting of 43 such Gods of Rock, Eminem's story and photographs particularly stand out. In his feature, the 39-year old rhyme icon talked about his downward-spiraling addiction, which began with his 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP and peaked during the recording of his fourth album Encore.
"Five or six songs leaked from the original version of Encore," Em told GQ Senior Editor Will Welch in an interview. "So I had to go in and make new songs to replace them. In my head, I was pissed off: 'Oh well. Songs leaked. F--- it. I'm just going to take a bunch of f---ing pills and go in there and have a party with myself.' I'm sure the more pills I took, the goofier I got."
The multiplatinum rapper now embraces his sobriety and utilizes his natural quirks to fuel his music. "The same way that his brain was wired that gave him problems with substances also sort of makes him a virtuoso," Welch told MTV News.
"I've realized that the way I am helps with the music. Sporadic thoughts will pop into my head and I'll have to go write something down, and the next thing you know, I've written a whole song in an hour," Em said in the magazine. "But sometimes it sucks, and I wish I was wired like a regular person and could go have a f---in' drink. But that's the biggest thing about addiction: When you realize that you cannot — for f---'s sake, you can not — f--- around with nothing ever again."
Em, however, is just one of several survivors GQ spotlights in a special portfolio, which was shot by Mark Seliger. Metallica, Robert Plant, Beck and Erykah Badu also appear. As for the three cover subjects, GQ wanted to pick prime examples of musical perseverance. "We wanted to answer the question: Who are the living legends out there that have survived against all adversity?" Welch explained. "It has to be people who are still incredibly influential. It can't be somebody who has been through hell and back and reached a zenith in their career in 1976 and isn't still relevant and isn't still making music."
GQ's November 2011 issue goes on sale October 25 nationwide.