Jon Bellion, a singer-songwriter, thought he was working on an independent song, but that track ended up being Eminem's most recent single, the Rihanna-assisted "The Monster," off his upcoming The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
Since the single's release, many have become interested in Bellion's work, but of course his journey did not begin with Eminem's selection.
"I've been doing the artist stuff independently for about a year now," Bellion says in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. "We put a free mixtape called Translations Through Speakers and we're in the middle of a roll out plan for this next album were about to drop in December called The Separation. We have three videos out for that right now and thus far it's been good. The general public really digs the sound...I'm glad people really dig that. So to have that branch out while all the writing and all the other stuff is happening, its a blessing to be moving in both directions."
Those directions began to cross paths when Bellion got in the studio with Frequency, "The Monster's" producer and the deejay for Shady Records' Slaughterhouse.
"This dude Calvin Rosecrans over at BMI set me up with a session with this dude, Frequency, who is Slaughterhouse's deejay," Bellion says. "He is also a producer. He's like, 'Yo, you wanna do it at Stadium Red in New York City?' I was like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' So I walked in, it was me, this artist Bebe Rexha [also a co-writer on "The Monster"], and this dude Frequency. Long story short, I played him a bunch of my artist stuff and then this girl, Bebe was like, 'You know what, let's not work for other artists today, let's work on my project.' I was like, 'Alright, cool.' So one of the key players came down, played a couple of chords and I just rewrote the hook in like 45 minutes. Just kind of came to me and she laid it down. It was more of a Shakira, like, Florence And The Machine type record, like Indie-sounding. The production was totally different.
"When we finished the song, it was a totally different song for this girl Bebe," Bellion continues. "Then right before I left, Frequency was like, 'Yo, maybe I'll just take the verses off and send the hook out to Riggs Morales over at Shady.' And we were like, 'Yeah, that would be crazy. Imagine if it goes to Eminem.' And then, basically, four days later I got back in another session with them. I came back to the studio and they were like, 'Yo, Atlantic wants it. Shady wants it. Everybody wants the record.' So we were kind of just deciding who to give it to and we ended up taking the risk with Shady 'cause he didn't really have to explain himself. He didn't really have to tell anybody what his plans are. So we kind of just let go of the record, gave it to Shady and Frequency did a bunch of different versions that Riggs asked him to do so he turned it into more of a Hip Hop record with the hook that I wrote. And then, fast-forwarding, Rihanna cut the joint and Em threw some verses on it and then we found out it was going through. So it was pretty crazy."
The song endured production changes, but Bellion says those didn't negatively impact his chorus.
"I knew the chorus was the smash regardless," Bellion says. "No matter what direction they took the production. It had to be really hard to mess that chorus up. I mean, you know when you do something and you listen back to it and you kind of just know. When we listened through the speakers, everybody in the room just kind of looking at each other like, 'Yo, this could be a life-changer. This is a really big record.' Yeah, basically there was like nine months of just silence. Like, absolute silence. We had no idea what was going on with the record. We didn't know what was happening."
Then Bellion says he received a phone call.
"My lawyer called me out of nowhere and was like, 'I heard through the grapevine that they got Rihanna off tour for a couple of days or something to come cut the chorus,'" Bellion says. "I was like, 'No way.' Then like, two days later, I checked my Twitter and Rihanna tweeted, 'Just recorded a monster hook for one of my favorite artists.' I was like, 'Damn, that could be her.' Then I think five days later, I check the internet, [Eminem] dropped the tracklist and we all saw that it was on the album. We were just like, 'Holy Shit.' And because it's Rihanna, we were like, 'Yo, maybe this can be a single or something.'"
The song did become a single, one that was released without Bellion knowing, making for a surprising cab ride.
"So then, I went to London and then basically got there, worked over in London or whatever and my phone died while I was flying back to New York," Bellion says. "In the air, I guess they dropped the record. I had no idea. I was going through customs. I plug my phone in and my driver was driving me home. Like this dude who picked me up from the airport from car services. I said 'Hey, can I check the radio really quick?' And the first record after I turn the radio on, Flex is dropping bombs on Hot 97. So it was pretty crazy.' I'm freaking out in the car. This dude is 80 years old, this driver. He has no idea who Eminem or Rihanna are. I'm like, 'I wrote this.' I'm freaking the fuck out in the car. He's like, 'You sound like a girl. You have a really singing voice.' I'm like, 'Nah, nah, nah. I wrote it. I didn't sing it. I wrote it.' He's like, 'I don't understand, but congratulations.' I'm like, 'Thanks man.' It was definitely funny."
When asked about the difference between writing a song and being on the track, Bellion says there is no difference at this moment.
"At this point in my career, with the way music is going and how fickle all the labels [can be], I'm just blessed to be working, as long as something goes," he says. "Granted, number one, Eminem and Rihanna is a little bit different than just working 'cause that's life-changing."
It's life-changing for several reasons. One of those reasons lies in his respect for Eminem. During the interview, Bellion refers to Em as his "childhood hero" and his "Rap hero."
"For him to be a part of something that I do or for me to be a part of something that he is doing, it's a blessing," he says. "I don't care if I'm on it. I don't care if I'm off it. As long as I make sure that the product is dope and I'm a part of what's going on, I'm just blessed to be working, like humbled to be in the mix, in the conversation, in the industry."
And though the song has changed since the initial studio session, Bellion says Eminem took the song where it needed to go.
"I wrote the lyric, 'I'm friends with the Monsters that's under my bed' mainly because sometimes you can't necessarily get rid of your demons," Bellion says. "You can't necessarily, completely just not be fearful or not have an addiction or a problem so you kind of have to live with it and learn to like, kind of live with monsters. He's not going to go away. The monster is still there but he's got to learn to live with it and deal with it and kind of co-exist with your demons 'cause demons will never just be gone. You'll never just be happy your entire life. So I think he really hit the nail on the head 'cause he really addressed everything. He addressed the drug problem, he addressed the issues with fame. I think those were his monsters that you can't really get rid of. I think he'll always be relatively addicted. I think he'll always be relatively annoyed by the fame and all that stuff. But it's something he's going to have cope with. I think he literally hit the nail on the head with exactly what I meant."