Eminem's long-time collaborator Luis Resto on working with hip-hop's biggest names

The American musician has worked with the rapper for more than 20 years

Musician Luis Resto has written numerous hits for artists including Eminem, 50 Cent and Jay Z. Photo: LinkedIn
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Luis Resto, a long-time collaborator of Eminem's, says the American rapper's anticipated new album will have him going back to his hard-hitting roots.

Speaking to The National after his performance at Mutek.AE music and design festival last week in Dubai, the American pianist says he has been contributing sporadically to Eminem’s new album since 2021.

Eminem, real name Marshall Mathers, has announced The Death of Slim Shady (Coup De Grace) will be released this year and Resto says seasoned fans will savour the new songs.

“I do have a notion of things judging by what I have seen and heard across the last three years and if I have to give you a forecast, you are going to hear a whole nod back to some of his original creative areas,” Resto, 62, tells The National.

“He is talking about where he came from and where he is now. So it is really a hodgepodge musically of ideas and influences.”

Resto's prediction is in line with the reported theme of the album, which follows the life and demise of Eminem's controversial alter-ego Slim Shady.

Resto's contribution continues his long-standing relationship with the rapper, stemming back to 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP. Although that record had him contributing minimally, it was from 2002's follow up The Eminem Show that Resto scored song-writing credits on each of Eminem's album and associated soundtracks.

The work includes co-writing and producing chart-topping hits such as 2004's Toy Soldiers, 2010's Grammy Award-winning Not Afraid and 2020’s Godzilla.

The track record also includes the wildly successful 2002 track Lose Yourself from 8 Mile, a film that starred Eminem. The song earned the duo, alongside co-producer and writer Jeff Bass, an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2003.

Resto recalls writing the dramatic string section when recording the track in a makeshift studio on the film set in Detroit.

"Marshall led that session and I remember he kept saying how the song felt too rock 'n' roll and he wanted us to really rebuild the song and take it in a different direction," he says. "And this is where I got to use my orchestral chops and added piano, French horns, flutes and strings.”

As someone classically trained and steeped in the jazz world, Resto says his collaboration with hip-hop artists such as Eminem, 50 Cent and Jay Z is his most rewarding.

"I love the hip-hip ethos in general because a lot of it is based on using your ear and feeling your way through songs," he says.

"Now I personally have knowledge of music theory and I am well-versed on how it all works but working with people like Eminem and 50 Cent is a much more open session. It's not based on major or minor chords or what is correct or not. It's based on whether it sounds dope or not."

From working on 50 Cent's blockbuster 2003 debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin' to playing the synth lines on Akon's 2006 hit Smack That, Resto says hip-hop artists often use him as a sounding board for ideas.

"Sometimes we are in the studio and they would look at us and wonder if what they are doing is right," he says. "And from my experience, I would tell them that it depends on what context you are asking me.

"If you are asking me theoretically, then I could say that this is not the right note and then what happens is the minute we change it to the correct note, the song is not as cool as it sounds. We often change it back again because they knew what they wanted in the first place.”

The Mutek.AE performance marks a rare international outing for Resto. If he is not recording with other artists across the US, he can be found in Detroit's Feeder Loft Records, a studio he co-owns with Iranian-American producer Salar Ansari. It is with Ansari's group that Resto made his Dubai debut.

As for touring on the road again as part of Eminem’s live backing band, he says those days are long behind him.

"I went out on the road with him around 2011 and quickly realised that he needed a more youthful culture projected on stage," he says. "I remember at that time I always wore my hair long and I went grey so early in life that I was done dyeing it.

"So when one of the roadies asked me if I was going to dye it, I understood the band really needed to look for somebody different. There was absolutely no offence taken because my relationship with Eminem continued and the work flowed.”

Updated: May 10, 2024, 6:02 PM