Before Eminem ended up signing his major label deal with Dr Dre’s Aftermath/Jimmy Iovine Interscope in 1998 he had been in touch with other labels that ultimately did not sign him. Some of the labels just completely ignored them while others recognized his talent but did not see his marketability. While one of them recognized Eminem’s greatness and felt they would just hold him back from reaching his full potential. The labels Eminem tried landing a deal with were Buckshot’s Duck Down Records, Rawkus Records, Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records, and Fat Joe’s Terror Squad Records. On the track “Don’t Front” off of 2013’s Marshall Mathers 2 at the 2:48 mark states how he almost signed with Duck Down records due to Rawkus Records not putting an offer together. He also shares his disdain for Loud Records for playing games with him. Terror Squad Records was not mentioned on the track.
Eminem -Don’t Front feat. Buckshot
To show he still had love and respect for Duck Down Records Eminem sampled Black Moon’s I Got Cha Opin (album version) and had Buckshot himself recorded the hook. In an interview Buckshot goes on to say how Dru Ha and him marveled at Eminem’s talent and wanted to sign him. Buckshot and Dru Ha knew in their hearts though they knew that Eminem’s best option was to have the backing of Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Check the video at the 6:13 mark where Buckshot explains how the song happened and the relationship Eminem had with Duck Down records.
Vlad TV – Interview with Buckshot Almost Signing Eminem
Another song that linked Eminem to Duck Down Records was the track “Any Man”. It was produced by Da Beatminerz who did a great a deal of production for the artists of Duck Down Records, collectively known as Boot Camp Clik. Da Beatminerz consisted of Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee. Evil Dee himself was also part of the group Black Moon along with Buckshot and 5ft. “Any Man” was a standout off the compilation Soundbombing II which was actually through Rawkus Records.
Eminem – Any Man (prod. by Da Beatminerz)
Eminem would go on to record with other artists on Rawkus records including Shabeem Sahdeeq and Dj Spinna on songs like “5 Star General” and “Old World Disorder”. Based on the material being put out and the relationships being forged with the label’s roster Eminem thought Rawkus would not offer him a deal. To his surprise though nothing ever came into fruition.
Shabaam Sahdeeq – 5 Star Generals feat. Eminem, A.L, & Skam
Skam2 & Shawowman – Old World Disorder feat. Eminem
As mentioned earlier, Eminem shared his disdain for Loud Records, home at one time for acts such as Wu Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Xzibit. Now this went all the way back to 1995 prior to Eminem putting out his indie projects, 1996’s Infinite and 1997’s Slim Shady EP. The way Steve Rifkind frames it is that he had just sold half his company Loud to RCA, a subsidiary of Sony. The deal was so significant that at that point any artists Steve would bring on board had to have mainstream appeal in order to generate revenue. He listened to some of his demo work but did not see the marketability of a young Eminem. Steve felt Eminem had a good flow and rhymes but nothing else beyond that. There seems to be some key details being left out. It does not make sense that Eminem would hold a grudge against Loud Records based on the information provided.
Vlad TV – Steve Rifkind Passing on Eminem
The last significant record label to mention that Eminem pursued prior to Aftermath was Fat Joe’s Terror Squad Records. Fat Joe has admitted on several occasions that not signing Eminem was his biggest regret. Eminem over the course of time approached Fat Joe with his demo 6 times. Each and every time Fat Joe would give him the cold shoulder and completely ignore him. Triple Seis, a former Terror Squad member recalled in detail one of those occurrences. He could totally see the potential in Eminem and surprised that Fat Joe had no interest in signing him.
Vlad TV – Fat Joe Overlooking Eminem
Triple Seis Interview – Fat Joe Rejecting Eminem
Years later Fat Joe recruited Eminem to join him Lil Jon and Mase years later for the “Lean Back” remix. At this point in time is the biggest track of Fat Joe’s discography. Eminem signing with Aftermath was the best case scenario best for his career. It would be interesting though to speculate the direction Eminem would have taken had he ended up signing to another label.
Fat Joe – Lean Back (remix) feat. Lil Jon, Mase, Eminem,& Remy Martin
It would be interesting to see what Eminem’s career trajectory would have been had he signed with a different label other than Aftermath/Interscope. All these labels mentioned, Duck Down Records, Rawkus Records, Loud Records, and Terror Squad Records made a significant impact on hip hop culture. Obviously the signing with Aftermath/Interscope worked out the best for Eminem. However it would of been interesting to see what would of happened had Eminem signed with Duck Down Records. Early on they were able to see that he was a great talent and knew it was only right that he was on the largest platform possible.