“Renegade” is the only song that features both Eminem and JAY-Z, two GOAT-level rappers in their prime at the time. Not only is the record featured on Jay's classic Blueprint album, but it was also immortalized by Nas on “Ether,” when he rapped, “Eminem murdered you on your own shit.” It can be argued whether or not JAY-Z was murdered by Em—he did—and the song may be on Jay's album, but it was not originally his own shit.
To most hardcore rap fans this won’t come as a surprise. Since I can remember, there’s been a version floating around online of “Renegade” with Eminem and Royce Da 5’9. Described as the "original," it wasn’t until Royce's interview on The Breakfast Club that I heard the full story of how the song ended up in JAY-Z’s hands.
Last month, Royce revealed how he turned down signing with Dr. Dre and his unlimited beats, and instead took Tommy Boy’s money and then ending up with Columbia for his major-label debut album. Even though he and Eminem were partners-in-rhyme as Bad Meets Evil at the time, Interscope would only allow Royce to have one Eminem feature for his album. He was forced to choose between the title song, “Rock City,” or “Renegade. "Rock City" was the pick and it became his single while “Renegade” was put on ice.
At the same time, JAY-Z wanted to get Eminem on something and because he knew the song would not be released, Em asked Royce if he could give the song to Jay. Royce agreed, his vocals were removed, Eminem's verse is tweaked slightly (he only replaces the original "Royce is the king of Detroit" line), Jay laid down his verses and the rest is history.
Let's recap. “Renegade” was originally Royce’s song but was blocked by the label, later gifted to JAY-Z by Eminem, and then would be used as fuel by Nas in hip-hop's most high-profile beef. It also means that if Jay did indeed get beat by Eminem, he got beat by a verse Em recorded not even knowing it would ever appear next to Jay's.
It's insane how much can be contained in the story of one song. In this business, you never know what's happening behind-the-scenes, but that's where all the best stories are hidden.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Da 5'11", aka @Yoh31.