Eminem Has Put in His 10,000 Hours

Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the "10,000 Hour Rule": roughly, that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become really, really good at something.

In this recent, interesting article on the rapper Emimem's career, it's clear he has not only put in his 10,000 hours, but like most other geniuses he is obsessed with his work and can do nothing else. Excerpt:

It is a little-known fact that the only book Eminem read as a child was the dictionary. He pored over it, searching for words that rhymed with each other that could later be pulled out of the bag during the freestyle rap "battles" that provided his education in hip-hop.

The years spent studying the English language lie at the core of his technical brilliance. They turned him into the greatest rapper of his time. But they did so at a personal cost: for Eminem could be uncharitably described as an anorak. His life starts and ends with music. He writes constantly, scrawling lines on sheets of notepaper in a crabby handwriting. When he's not composing new verse, or messing around in a studio, he'll be listening to hip-hop. "The guy's a studio rat," says producer Terry Simaan, the owner of Oh Trey 9, one of the Detroit's most influential hip-hop labels. "If he feels like it, he'll spend 12, 15 hours a day in a studio."

As a result – and this is critical when considering the potential impact of Relapse – Eminem's so-called "missing years" have actually been surprisingly productive. "He's never stopped recording. Ever," adds Simaan. "I hear they've got over 300 songs in the can from what he's produced in the last three years. I've seen him write. He's a fast worker. He'll write one line, then three lines, then four lines, in all separate parts of the page. Then he'll come back to it, and say this is a sweet line, or that's working for him, and just pull everything together almost instantly. The guy's a total genius."

In other words, Eminem now has a vast catalogue of material from which to cherry-pick the dozen-odd tracks that will make up Relapse. Like a mad genius, inside his Detroit mansion, he has been stockpiling an extraordinary collection of unreleased music. It is now being polished by Dr Dre, a notorious perfectionist.

"Eminem had a career break. But I wouldn't say it was a rest," says Mark Hicks, the former manager of D-12, and an occasional acquaintance. "He's a lover of music and making music, so despite what everyone said, he never stopped working, or quit rap. He was in the studio every day. He just didn't want to go on tour, or have to do everything that comes with selling an album."

(hat tip: Jon Bischke)

14 comments on “Eminem Has Put in His 10,000 Hours
  • Looking forward to this one, I’ve been missing his energy, brilliance, vitality- nothing else like it.

    It’s normal in artistic learning curves to need large chunks of time out for growth when nothing much finished gets done. Artists and record companies need to respect this. Creative longevity is better than burning out at 21.

  • The Silicon Valley effect: The idea of spending 12 – 15 hours at work seems like a standard day.

    But yeah, what Alice said. I’m sort of fascinated with this guy (but then I am pretty intrigued by all addicts who also happen to be maybe-geniuses).

  • These days this will soon be the most natural thing to do, when most companies lay off people and there’s pretty much nowhere to go.

    Happy vacation – only if you’ve saved up that nest egg to survive as you get back:-)

  • Re: Outliers. The 10,000 hour thing is too glibly documented by Gladwell. One of his key examples is the Beatles and the long sets they played in Germany. That’s all well and good, and no doubt aided their development as a band, but how about countless other successful musical groups/bands (like, say, the Rolling Stones) who definitely did not have that many hours of practice?

    Like most of Gladwell’s conclusions in Outliers, I think he makes an excellent point, but an incomplete one.

  • You gotta be kidding me.

    Marshall Mathers and his kind are a cancer on the body of society. God, how I wish Malcolm X would rise from the grave and stomp his wigga ass.

    “Tortured genius”? How about arrogant low-life badly in need of a comeuppance?

    This ten-cent douchebag has got away with criminal assault that would have sent any ordinary Joe who can’t afford his high-priced lawyers to prison, more than once.

    To call this eternal adolescent’s laughably puerile lyrics ‘art’ is akin to calling sewage haute cuisine.

    His cheesy, moronic one-syllable rhymes are an insult to the intelligence of anyone with more than a fifth-grade education, and that whiny wiggafied teenage voice of his grates on the ears.

    I have to believe ‘Sir’ Elton has been chomping on his carrot. How else to explain his friendship with a shameless queer-bashing misogynistic murder-inciting pasty-faced whore who pathetically simulates sex with mannequins?

    Once again, corporate honky white man co-opts black culture.

    A pox on Eminem.

  • Wow, you’re insane. Eminem is talented–maybe not the stuff you hear on the radio, but his mix tapes are some of the best I’ve heard in the last five years (obviously, there are other greats out there like Nas, Mos Def). Maybe you don’t like his views. OK. That doesn’t detract from his raw talent.

  • But far more likely, Vince, is that he’s never heard of you, and never will. Because while you’re busy typing paragraphs of vitriol, he’s working on things that people actually care about.

  • Decent tracks but Eminem is the kind of artist who’s whole catalogue is pretty much first-class except a few tracks on the last two albums partciularly encore

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