The Monster
by Eminem (featuring Rihanna)

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
Charted: 1 1
  • This song finds Eminem reuniting with Rihanna. The Bajan superstar previously collaborated with Marshall Mathers when she sung the hook on his hit single "Love The Way You Lie" and its sequel, "Love The Way You Lie (Part II)." The pair also worked together on Rihanna's Unapologetic track, "Numb."
  • We hear Eminem attacking his internal demons on his verses whilst Rihanna embraces her inner monster on the hook. The song was written by the Detroit rapper with:

    Visionary Music Group artist/producer Jon Bellion whose other credits include Jason DeRulo's Tattoos track, "Trumpets."

    Staten Island native Bebe Rexha, whose first exposure in the music business came when she was chosen to be vocalist for Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz's project, Black Cards. Her other writing credits include "Like A Champion," a track on Selena Gomez's Stars Dance album and Nikki Williams' #3 Dance Club Songs hit "Glowing."
  • One of the co-writers, Bebe Rexha, spoke to Mike Veerman of the Mike on Much podcast about the process of creating this song and her desire to sing the hook of it herself. "It was after I got dropped from my first record deal," she said. "I was like, 'Ahh, it's over. I'm never going to get a chance again.' In the music business, if you're usually signed and dropped, you've been touched already so you're not new and exciting.

    So I went in and I had a quote that I found off the internet that made me feel really good because I was kind of fighting my depression and my anxiety. It got to me. I couldn't understand it. I found a quote that said, 'We stop looking for the monsters under our beds when we realize they're inside of us.' So that really spoke to me. I was like, Maybe I'm the one that's stopping myself? Maybe I just need to accept who I am and what I'm going through and accept the emotions and the pain instead of running away from the anxiety and the depression. It was very, very bad and I have no idea what it was so I was just trying to understand these feelings.

    I went to the studio with my friends and I told Jon Bellion, he's an incredible writer and artist. I said, 'Jon, there's this quote that I really love and I want to make it like, 'This is who I am,' type of record.' He came up with the melody [sings melody of opening line of chorus], I was like, 'Oh my god, that's genius.' He put the [singing], 'I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed,' and then we started going back-and-forth with rhymes and then it just came together. And then they handed me the mic and I did the [sings yodels], that little yodel part that's my signature thing and then we finished the song. An A&R had heard it and sent it to Eminem and then Lupe Fiasco's people wanted it.

    It was tough at the time because I really wanted to be featured on the song so bad just because I felt like it was the first song that I have ever been a part of or I've written that felt so right. I just knew it was something about the energy in the song. When I walked back to the train, because I would go all the way up to Harlem at 125th street, and that's very far from where my parents live. It's about an hour and 45 minute to two hour commute. It's a train to another train to a train to a ferry to a train and then walk to my parents' house. That whole commute, I felt like I was walking on clouds. I knew I had something. I felt so high. I felt so good.

    I started feeling really scared and insecure because the second Eminem wanted it and they wanted the vocals, I was like, 'No, no, no, no! They can't. I don't want them to have my vocals unless they okay that I'm on this song,' just because I knew the [yodels] was such an interesting thing. Unless they get Florence and the Machine or somebody who really sings in that register, I don't want to give my vocals away because I don't want them to be used as background vocals, kind of what happens with Sia a lot. But at one point I got kind of bullied, not by Eminem, but by somebody on the team. They were like, 'If you don't give this to us, we'll blackmail you.' They told my manager that. Isn't that crazy? So I had no choice because here I am, a new artist, no hit, nothing. There are a lot of rules. You've got to give your publishing away to some of the artists even though they haven't written anything. You've got to kind of get f-ed up."

    She continued to express her disappointment on not being featured on this track. "In the beginning, they asked for my vocals," she said. "They were like, 'Well, because we might want to keep you on it.' I was like, 'Oh my god, that would be so cool!' Maybe it'll be a moment like when he did that song with Dido. I was like, 'Yes! This could be my moment!' It would have been such an incredible moment for me. Imagine your first feature being on an Eminem song? It was such a dream of mine. I literally couldn't sleep every night for a year because we didn't know and I was so excited. There was silence for a year. But then it came out with Rihanna and I was kind of bittersweet about it. I felt bummed because I found out when it came out. Nobody even told me. I just heard it on the radio. Literally, my mom texted me and I saw the track listing.

    But that was supposed to be what that was, and it's Rihanna and Eminem. That's a blessing. Now I see that that song also put me in a position where people in the music business started knowing who I was and started respecting me, which led to me being able to work with David Guetta and Nicki Minaj and doing 'Hey Mama.' And then working with G-Eazy and then doing 'Me, Myself & I' and then doing 'Take Me Home.' So that led to all these other hits that I have under my belt and being able to work with so many incredible people."
  • The folk-flavored, EDM-amplified production was supplied by New York-born DJ and producer Frequency who has also supplied beats for the likes of Snoop Dogg ("Think About It") and B.O.B. ("Chandelier").
  • Eminem starts off his first verse with a reference to his cover on the October 2000 edition of Newsweek magazine. "I wanted the fame but not the cover of Newsweek. Oh well, guess beggers can't be choosy," Slim Shady raps.
  • The song came out of a session with Frequency, another producer Alias, Bebe Rexha and Bellion. The latter started coming up with a song for Rexha to record. "Fast forward dude plays keys, hopped on the keys, started playing chords and I'm literally like, 'I'm friends with the monster,'" Bellion recalled to MTV News singing the words that Rihanna would eventually sing. "I just mumbled it."

    The quartet continued writing and recording the song with Rexha in mind. "It was like a nice rhyme, so simple, so graspable. Fast forward 45 minutes she hopped in the booth, cut the hook that I wrote. She added some weird yodels on top of it," Bellion explained. "It was a full-blown song, it was like a Shakira four-to-the-floor type of record. The production was totally different."

    Once the song was recorded Frequency, who had previously produced for Slaughterhouse, suggested that they offer the track up to their label, Eminem's Shady Records. "We were all like, 'Yeah that'll be crazy. That will be so dope if that happened,'" Bellion recalled. "I come back four days later to the studio and he's like, 'Yo, Atlantic wants the record, Shady wants the record, everybody wants the joint.'"
  • Rihanna originally referenced the song on Twitter in September 2013 saying she had just recorded, "A #monster hook for one of her favorite artists."
  • This song debuted at #1 on the UK singles chart, meaning that Rihanna became only the third artist following Elvis and The Beatles to top the listing seven times over seven years.
  • Running 4:11 at 110 beats per minute, this song starts with the chorus, then follows with three repetitions of verse-chorus-vocal break (Rihanna's "whaoa"s). There is no intro, bridge or pre-chorus in the song, which is common in Hip-Hop but not Pop.
  • Eminem said that it wasn't just Rihanna's vocal gifts that persuaded him to link up with her again. "The perception of the record, what it's saying, I thought it would be a good idea to have her on it because I think people look at us like we're both a little nuts," he told MTV News' Sway. "That's one of the things that I was telling her in making the record: I think that people look at us a little crazy."

    "As soon as I got the beat I just heard her on it," he added. "I wanted to make sure that I had it finished first to be able to present to her, but once I had the rhymes done, I sent it to her."

    "I had to send it to her because schedules were conflicting and s--t like that. Plus, the record it was kinda pulled together at the last minute," Em continued. "I sent it to her, she laid the hook, sent it back. She smashed it like she does always. It's pretty incredible."
  • The song focuses on Eminem's ongoing struggles with fame, and his desire to live a normal life. "It was this thing where I want this attention for this music, but then I want to be able to go in public, and I want to be able to eat a f---ing sandwich and be left alone," Em admitted during an interview with BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. "I've never been an attention seeker, and [rap] seems like a hell of a career choice [for me], but ... that's not why I do it, just to get attention. I don't like to go in public and walk around and be like 'Here I am.' It's not what I want."

    "My dream was for, like, to be able, like to hear rappers that I looked up to on the radio and be like 'Yo, what if Jay Z, whoever, what if they heard of me? What if they thought I was dope?'" he continued. "That was where my mentality always was, so when it all went crazy, it was really hard to wrap my head around."
  • The song's music video was directed by Rich Lee, who also worked with Eminem on "Not Afraid" and "Rap God." The clip kicks off with Rihanna as Eminem's shrink, a role that is in keeping with the mental illness related subject matter of the song's lyric. Doctor Rih-Rih observes the Detroit rapper as he travels back in time, revisiting famous moments from his career.
  • This won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammy Awards in 2015. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 also took the award for Best Rap Album.


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