After appearing alongside each other in a 2009 BET Award Cypher with Mos Def, Eminem, and The Roots’ frontman Black Thought have frequently been mentioned in the same conversation together as two of the best MCs of all time. Since that standout moment, both Em’ and Black Thought have continued on their separate pathways to success without recording a single track together, though they remain two truly legendary Rap contemporaries.
Today (January 17), however, Eminem’s new surprise-album, Music To Be Murdered By, released with a whopping 20 songs and boasts features by Q-Tip, Young M.A., the late Juice WRLD, and even a Joe Budden-less Slaughterhouse. But the most surprising standout album appearance may be by Black Thought himself, on the song “Yah Yah,” featuring Q-Tip, D12 member Denaun Porter, and Royce Da 5’9.
The two linking up for a single track together has been well over a decade in the making. The Roots have previously backed Eminem as a band for his 2003 Grammy performance of “Lose Yourself.” Eminem’s also performed “Won’t Back Down,” off of his 2010 album, Recovery, with The Roots, while Black Thought and Marshall joined together in 2009 to rap LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells” in tribute to his honoring at VH1’s Hip-Hop Honor Awards. Perhaps most notably, Em, Tariq, and Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) shared a cypher at the 2009 BET Hip Hop Awards show (embedded below). Like many, that cypher featured Gang Starr’s DJ Premier behind the turntables. It arrived the same year that Em came back with Relapse, Mos dropped The Ecstatic, and The Roots were fresh off of Rising Down.
The two now have a song that solidifies their legendary statuses alongside each other, while also paying homage to Hip-Hop has a whole.
On “Yah Yah,” Nickel, Tariq and Marshall take turns quoting their favorite rappers, lyrics, and callbacks, with Busta Rhymes’ “Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check” being the song’s source of inspiration. Royce kicks a Das EFX flow on the song’s first verse, paying tribute to the fast-flowing twosome of the ’90s as well as the duo-days of Brand Nubian: “Bumstickitty, bumstickitty, bum huh / I got that old rump-pum-pum-pum / A punk’ll jump up to get him a beat down / At least sound, I sound like these clowns, like he sound.” After Royce’s short verse, Q-Tip starts a hook that praises his generation: “Man, here we go / I said the beat left in the land of criminals / My era, my era, my era so original / Uh-uh, I survived it and that’s a miracle.” This is before 5’9 picks up the ball and finishes the hook: “‘Cause I’m from Slaughterhouse, check yourself / Like Ice Cube said, ‘Before you wreck yourself’ / Like Wu-Tang said, ‘You should protect yourself’ /
I got ’em goin’.”
After the song’s hook, Black Thought takes the reigns with a fiery verse. “Yo, snappin’ necks plus I’m live, in effect / I’m in the Slick Rick eye-patch, but I got it from Hex / Rappers avoid eye contact, that’s outta respect / For the garden of flesh, the ominous Indominus Rex / They be like, ‘You put the Thought on? Yikes’ / If I told y’all once, I told y’all twice, that motherf*cker is nice / I’m the king of the bloodsport, all mice / I’m from an era, you had beef? You pro’lly fist fought on sight.” Slick Rick and Hex Murda mentions aside, Thought goes on to make clever Hip-Hop and Black culture nods with references to Public Enemy, The Black Panther Party, and J Dilla.
Black Thought curves his bars with wit throughout his verse on “Yah Yah,” before Eminem steps up to the plate and delivers the song’s mean third verse: “Better hope an ambulance is en route / Papers are hand grenades soon as I pull the pin out / I understand and say Mandalay and Orlando and Colorado and Columbine / All combine into one, I don’t walk a line, b*tch, I run / ‘Cause we don’t got no time to waste, so come on Denaun / They call me five-to-nine, and thought duh-dun, duh-dun / Then like a shotgun I’m ready to cock it on ’em / Leave these p*ssies stretched out, like the octo-mom.” He goes onto deliver a supersonic flow, before taking shots at 2018 opponent MGK that reignite things. “I’m a sight to see, but you can see from the ring I’m wearing / Me and this game, we got married already / Had the prenup ready, f*ck daughter, should’ve seen her belly / She barely was three months pregnant / B*tch had to give me a baby, we named it Machine Gun Kelly.”
Em’ ends his verse by shouting out some of the greatest rappers to ever do it, naming a few of his personal influences like LL Cool J, Big L, Eazy-E, The Notorious B.I.G. and former Aftermath Entertainment label-mate King T. It is an homage to Hip-Hop by some of its biggest stars.
Also making an appearance on Eminem’s eleventh studio album are Alchemist, Anderson .Paak, and, in surprising news, Dr. Dre. “Yah Yah” marks the first time Em and Black Thought have linked up in the studio, but hopefully, it won’t be their last.
At AFH TV, there is a 1999 interview with Eminem as well as a conversation with Black Thought about J Dilla. We are currently offering free 7-day trials. New music by Black Thought is presently on the official AFH Playlist.
#BonusBeat: 2009’s BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher featuring Black Thought, Eminem, and Mos Def: