Jay-Z’s “Renegade” off The Blueprint is one of the most legendary rap collaborations ever, and features one of the best guest verses of all time, but the track actually started out as an Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ collaboration.
Back in 1997, the two up-and-coming Detroit rappers were still relatively unknown and looking to get their big break into the music industry. Royce was still coming up in the local scene while Em had only just released The Slim Shady EP, via an independent record label, Web Entertainment, run by the Bass Brothers.
They met each other at an Usher concert – Royce was opening up for the R&B superstar, while Em just so happened to have a booth set up at the venue selling copies of his newly released EP.
“Royce and I met in 1997,” Em recalled in an interview with Complex. “He was opening up for Usher at the Palladium. He was kind of coming up on the scene. I had been around for a minute and had started to get a buzz, but he, at that time, didn’t really have a buzz yet. I wasn’t signed yet so at this show I had my own little booth set up, and I was selling my tapes — The Slim Shady EP. I heard him rhyme on stage that night, and was like, ‘Who the fuck is this dude?’ I met his manager first, and then we kicked it.”
The two rappers linked up to form a rap duo, Bad Meets Evil, and collaborated on several tracks, as well as appearing on the legendary Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show together. It wasn’t long before Em attracted the attention of Dr. Dre and was signed to Aftermath Entertainment.
On Eminem’s major-label debut studio album, The Slim Shady LP, Royce is one of only two rappers to feature on the project – he appeared on “Bad Meets Evil” and Dr. Dre was on “Guilty Conscience.” Shortly afterwards, while working on Royce’s debut album, Rock City, which Em was executive producing, they created “Renegade,” but this was around the same time Jay-Z was working on The Blueprint, and he wanted Eminem to be the sole rapper feature on it.
Royce da 5’9″: Jay-Z was at a deadline and he had been asking Em to get on something. Em didn’t want to miss Jay’s deadline because obviously he respects him. I don’t think he had time to go in and do a whole new joint, so he called me and asked if I was cool with just giving Jay that one and we’ll just do something else. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ Why would I feel regret if that’s one of Em’s signature songs? That’s a great thing for him and I don’t think the song would’ve reached the potential it reached with him and Jay-Z if it was me and him because Interscope wouldn’t even clear him for that song anyways.Royce Da 5′9″ Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex