Hip-Hop Junkie: How Comedian Chris D’Elia’s Eminem Impression Went Viral
Over the past two decades, Eminem has come to be revered as a true rap god, a lyricist and songwriter worthy of praise and reverence. He's also become an easy target for gags. Enter comedian and actor Chris D'Elia, a Slim Shady fan since 1999's The Slim Shady LP whose hilarious rhyming impressions of Eminem have gone viral.
The 39-year-old Montclair, N.J. native dropped a series of clips dating back to last year that find him impersonating Eminem's choppy flow, gruff voice and silly lyrics to the amusement of fans. Even Eminem and Logic dig his bits—they included audio from one of his videos at the end of "Homicide," their high-stakes rap duet that dropped on Friday (May 3).
Chris D'Elia's first public impersonations of Eminem rapping mumbo jumbo appeared on episode 63 of D'Elia's podcast, Congratulations, back in April 2018, as the funnyman imagined Em rhyming about locker room nudity. Months later, in August, he posted a video to his Instagram account, rapping more gibberish in Eminem's voice. The widely circulated clip led to another one in January, this time of the jokester pacing in a garage and breathing heavily—a spoof of Eminem's a cappella cyphers and freestyles. It earned a nod from Marshall himself, who called the clip "incredible."
Satire aside, D'Elia is a hip-hop head, growing up on Tupac Shakur, Gang Starr and, yes, Eminem. He's tried his hand at rap back in 2013, releasing a Mr. Green-produced parody rap album called Such Is Life as a character named Chank Smith. He's considering a sequel project later this year.
XXL phoned D'Elia, who is gearing up to appear in the second season of Netflix thriller You, to speak about his clip being sampled by Logic for "Homicide," the spot-on Eminem impression and why he wishes Kodak Black would try harder musically.
XXL: When did you find out that your Eminem imitation would be used for Logic's "Homicide"?
Chris D'Elia: I knew about it maybe five or six days ago. My manager hit me up like, "Eminem and Logic want to put the video you did on this song. I'll see what i can get you paid." I was like, "Dude, just give it to him. It's an honor." [Laughs] It's so rare for rappers to poke fun at themselves. They're so serious, you know? When they do, it's extra special. That's what makes Eminem one of the best, he doesn't take himself too seriously.
Have you met or spoken to Eminem or Logic?
The contact with Eminem is when I did the impression and then he retweeted, joking, "At first I thought it was me." Since Logic put me on the track, I've been texting with Logic about it. He reached out to say thank you. I have yet to meet either of them.
Did you ever think that your original impression would spread the way it has?
I mean, no. I've done it before with my friends. I would do it on my Congratulations podcast as well. I just did it in my driveway and I was like, I'm gonna post this, it's funny. Then it went viral. Since the album came out, it kind of added to it. When I put it on Instagram, that really blew up. When I did another one, the third time, I put it on YouTube. That went so viral that Eminem saw it. But it all started on my podcast. My podcast is just me sitting in my studio at my house for like an hour, just bullshitting. I do a lot of dumb silly things that I think are funny; that was one of them.
When did you get the idea to do the impression and realize that it's pretty funny?
I don't know. I don't consider myself—I don't think I'm very good at impressions. I just do them silly. The Eminem one, I originally started doing it on the set of this show called Whitney on NBC, like, nine years ago. And Whitney Cummings, the star of the show with me, she would be like, "You have to do that in your act. Do you not like money?" I don't like doing impressions on stage; I'm not that guy. I'd rather talk about my life. I don't really like to make fun of pop culture on stage. When the podcast came out, I was like, "Ah, this is the perfect place." There are people who do impressions that are actually good at it. But the Eminem one is funny. I'm glad he likes it.
Has the actual impression changed over the years? About 10 years ago was Relapse-era Eminem, where he was rapping with a weird accent.
I don't really know, man. To be honest, I don't do it that much. Years would go by I where wouldn't do it. It wasn't like a thing that I had in my arsenal. I just hear him and do it how I think.
When you did the viral impression, did you actually freestyle that?
Yeah. To me, anything on Instagram, Twitter or whatever app, that shit is all free. People sometimes will complain like, this is stupid. It's like, that's the whole point! You wanna fucking see me do standup, pay for it, asshole. You're upset about free content? I don't really put too much thought into Instagram videos. I think I did it one time—maybe I re-recorded it. But I'm not really saying anything. I'm saying what rhymes. I recorded it and laughed at it because of how dumb it is. My favorite is the Eminem stans that just don't get it. Like, even Eminem gets it. He thinks it's funny. People were like, "Eminem is the G.O.A.T. You can't make fun of him. It doesn't even sound like him!" What do you mean it doesn't sound like him?
People loved the "you're using way too many napkins" line.
To think of him being in a cypher and coming up with that is funny to me.
Do you ever freestyle for fun?
Yeah. I'm a comedian at heart so I'm always thinking about being funny or silly. I put out a funny hip-hop album with producer Mr. Green: Chank Smith. It's a character. He doesn't really rhyme that much but I think it's funny. He's talking about his life: He's from Primm, Nev. He moved out to L.A. to become a rapper. It didn't work out so he's back in Primm, in the kitchen, cooking, working on another project. It's been about seven years since I've done it and I'd never thought I'd do it again. But it's making me laugh again so I might do another project with Mr. Green this year. If I did another one it has a bigger potential to get out there.
Are you a fan of Eminem's music?
Yeah, ever since he came out. Anybody who doesn't say he's one of the greatest rappers of all time is a lunatic. That guy is so talented. And his songs are so good; his freestyling is so good. I've been a huge Eminem fan for a long time.
What's your favorite album of his?
I really liked the last one a lot [Kamikaze]. I would say that second one, The Marshall Mathers LP—I loved that one. And the first one [The Slim Shady LP], because that's what I was introduced to that blew my mind. He's always doing something where it's like, he'll go away for a while and come back like, "I forgot he can do all of this shit." [Laughs]
Did you grow up on hip-hop?
Yeah, it was big in my lifetime. I'm a huge Tupac fan and I have been ever since I was a teenager. I would listen to him the most. And Eminem. Then it grew into, like, I love Tech N9ne. I'm a huge fan of DJ Premier and Guru. Those guys are all my favorites. It's cool that I follow some of these guys on Instagram and they follow me back. The day Eminem tweeted my thing, Tech N9ne posted a video of my comedy on his Instagram. I was like, this is a fucking wild hip-hop day. It was great.
Do you keep up with contemporary hip-hop?
I'm still in my 30s—I'm at the end of it—but I try not to be the old head. It becomes tougher and tougher, though. But there are guys that are still to me holding it down, making real good music. Like Logic. Like Nipsey Hussle. It's a shame what happened to him, but he was doing it. I understand the new way of rapping is to be almost like, "I don't give a fuck about what I'm saying." Almost like, trying too hard is corny. And it's like, dude! Kodak Black to me is like—Jesus Christ—I can't get into that shit. And people will be like, "Oh, you're one of those old heads." But it's like, yeah, I am. And it's like, Kodak Black, fucking try. Try as hard at rapping as what you do with your hair.
With all of the recent attention, do you think you would incorporate anything about Eminem into your future sets?
I don't know. I would shy away from doing impressions on stage. I don't know why, I just don't feel like that's me. If it happens organically, fine.
Do you have any other impression of rappers that the world has not heard yet?
[Laughs] If you asked me this a few years ago, I wouldn't have even said Eminem, so I don't know. To me, the reason why the Eminem one got so big is there's not really guys that do it that much. I like doing Jay-Z but there's other guys that can do Jay-Z to a tee. This Eminem one, it seems like nobody has really done it. I don't know why, he's huge. Maybe it's the white guy thing.
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