J.U.I.C.E. Speaks On Defeating Eminem & Then Getting Him Signed

Chicago MC J.U.I.C.E. is revered as one of Hip-Hop’s all-time elite freestylers and punchline wordsmiths. During the late 1990s and early 2000s in particular, J.U.I.C.E. commanded the spotlight on Sway & King Tech’s The Wake Up Show, Cincinnati’s Scribble Jam battles, and appearances on Molemen albums. However, J.U.I.C.E. is also recognized for his fascinating history surrounding Eminem. He contends to be the only artist to best Em on the Battle Rap circuit. In a new interview with 247HH, J.U.I.C.E. details a turn of events around Marshall Mathers that changed Hip-Hop history.

“A very special moment for me was…well, it started out in Cincinnati when I battled Eminem. I was fortunate enough to beat him,” shares the victor of the 1997 Scribble Jam battle. “After I beat him, Wendy Day called me and told me she was doing a Rap Olympics competition, and I told her about Eminem. She was like, ‘Who is he?’ I’m like, ‘He’s the coldest rapper I’ve ever heard; we should bring him to L.A.'”

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“She got us a hotel room, me, him, and Thirstin [Howl da 3rd] were basically staying like a room away from each other. So I’m in L.A. for the Rap Olympics—it’s Wendy Day’s event.” J.U.I.C.E. then elaborates on the role of a person who has been instrumental to Cash Money Records’ Universal Records distribution deal, Ras Kass’ break from Priority Records, and more. “Wendy Day is a savant visionary who owns a company called Rap Coalition, and she was the sole engineer of this Rap Olympics competition. So she got Thirstin Howl, Eminem, me, Kwest Tha Madd Lad, [and] Wordsworth. And she got us all hotel rooms in L.A. So we were all staying by each other, cyphering. Thirstin Howl had some girls with their kids there and a hot plate, cookin’ chicken, braiding people’s hair. It was a crazy time. We ended up giving Eminem’s demo tape to a friend of ours named Evan who was producing for Interscope [Records] at the time.” Evan Bogart, son of Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, was a label assistant who passed along the contents. “Evan gave the tape to Jimmy [Iovine]. Apparently, Jimmy had already got the tape from somewhere, and saw it twice. He was like, ‘Wait a minute, I gotta really look at this tape.’ So that’s basically how it happened. Then we all went to The Wake Up Show, ’cause I was gonna go anyway.”

As MCs from Chicago and Detroit, respectively, J.U.I.C.E. had met Eminem in another Midwest city. “In Cincinnati, he was a brash young dude who had never lost a battle—and so was I. He was basically like, ‘If we battle, it’s gonna be ugly.’ We was at the bar. I ordered like three Heinekens, and I gave him two, and he’s like, ‘Why’d you give me two Heinekens?’ I’m like, ‘Well, you’re Eminem; there’s one for both of y’all.’ So the mental game started there. But I knew he was [as] good as me—possibly better. But I felt like I had enough to pull it out if we went head-to-head. I never saw what would happen for him ’cause I never saw him getting a record deal, ’cause what we did was underground; we never did it for that. So I never thought we’d go to L.A. and then Dr. Dre, of all people, would hit him and have Jimmy behind it. And then, with Jimmy behind it, it would blow up [to] a level bigger than anybody else—even Snoop [Dogg], and be the #1 dude in the world…I never could have thought that.” The demo tape ultimately made Eminem a flagship artist at Dr. Dre’s Interscope-distributed label, Aftermath Entertainment. While Dre had released an album from Nas-led super-group The Firm, and signed King T and RBX, Eminem became a homegrown superstar for Aftermath. Shortly after, Em launched his Shady Records, which released hits from 50 Cent,  D12, and others—all through Jimmy Iovine’s parent company.

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“I never thought I was intertwined in that,” J.U.I.C.E. adds. “I have a Rap line where I say, ‘They will never get sick of me / This is hickory-smoked / I wrote the rap just to be soaked / In different histories.‘ I just did it for the history sake of it. I just wanted to be part of the history. But now, I’m actually part of the history. And only now are people starting to understand how I was part of the history, and why. Like, how I was good enough to do that and why—to this day—it’s still that way. So I’m blessed for it.”

Notably, Interscope assistant Evan Bogart went on to write songs for Beyoncé and Rihanna. In 2017, J.U.I.C.E. publicly challenged Eminem to a battle rematch. More recently, Em’ spoke of J.U.I.C.E. on Mike Tyson’s podcast. “I got all the way to the end [of the Scribble Jam battle], and then I lost to this guy named J.U.I.C.E.,” Eminem said. “To this day [J.U.I.C.E.] is still a really good f*cking rapper. He’s so good that it’s okay that I lost to him.”

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#BonusBeat: A recent episode of Ambrosia For HeadsWhat’s The Headline podcast that examines history of Marshall Mathers as an activist: