East Hills Middle School eighth-grader Annie Reed had her questions ready. The rap music, which she had cranked way up, was now muted as she waited anxiously for the 6 p.m. phone call a week ago Thursday.
While she sat in a chair in her Troy living room, holding her breath, the 14-year-old practiced some different ways to try to make her voice sound deeper, older. It was time. The phone rang.
In an instant, she was talking to Eminem, the Detroit superstar who's up for 10 Grammy Awards on Sunday and sold more albums than any other artist in 2010.
Ten minutes later, she had a scoop that major newspapers and music magazines would have fist-fought over and the reclusive rapper's first one-on-one interview since talking with Rolling Stone in October.
Her first journalistic effort is to run this month in her school's paper, the Cavalier Corner.
After talking to Eminem, Annie said she cried, laughed and ran around her house, uncontrollably excited.
Annie said that Eminem sounded "just like he does on his records," and was humorous, engaging and genuine.
Annie said Eminem gave "really good, in-depth answers. I thought it was really cool how much he still loves Detroit."
Teen's tenacity earns Eminem interview
The story of how she landed the Eminem interview begins with Annie starting a seven-week newspaper academic-extension class at the beginning of 2011.
"He grew up in Detroit, he's one of the greatest rappers of all time, and I thought it'd be fun to write about him," Annie said.
Kenny Gechter, Annie's newspaper instructor, agreed to the assignment, but with a catch: He told her instead of writing a biography about the "8 Mile" star, she had to chase an interview.
"She asked if I had any suggestions, and I told her to look for e-mails and telephone numbers," said Gechter, 38, who is also an English and American history teacher. A week later, she had contact info for Eminem's management. "Then, it just took on a life of its own," he added.
Annie has all of Eminem's albums. Because of that, she knew he records on the Universal/Interscope record label. She tracked down Eminem's spokesman, Dennis Dennehy, and sent him an e-mail on Jan. 13. Hungry for a scoop she didn't think she'd get "in a million years," she said she followed up the next day.
"I just thought, 'Wow, here's a middle school girl from Detroit who has some guts,' " Dennehy said, adding that if the circumstances and timing were different, the interview probably wouldn't have happened.
"She said this would be the coolest thing to ever happen for her school," Dennehy said, laughing about one of her e-mails. "We thought Em would really enjoy doing it, too."
On Feb. 3 -- a couple of days before Eminem's commercial for Chrysler became a Super Bowl sensation -- Annie got the call from Dennehy, who then put Eminem on the phone.
"I was sitting down; I might have passed out if I was standing up," she said. "The first thing (Eminem) said was, 'Hey, Annie, how you doing?' "
The young fan and Marshall Mathers chatted about a wide variety of subjects over the next 10 minutes.
She asked Eminem about how growing up in metro Detroit shaped him as a person and artist. Annie said she wondered what he listened to when he was her age (Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J) and how he started rapping (he was about 15 when he became serious about it). He asked her about writing for the Cavalier Corner.
"He said that was really cool and that I should stay with it," Annie said. "He was really funny, too. Mr. Mathers said an education is very important and that he's 'just a big dummy.' "
Then she caught the 38-year-old chart-topper by surprise. She asked him what his favorite song was to perform live. He said that was the first time he had been asked that question.
The two share a love for "Lose Yourself," the 2002 song that appeared in the Super Bowl ad and won an Oscar for its use in "8 Mile." Eminem told her he enjoys the energy of performing the hit live, she said.
"I think I was like 5 or 6 when I first heard Eminem," Annie said. "It was my first swim meet, and I found out that Michael Phelps listened to him to get pumped up for his swim meets. So we listened to 'Lose Yourself,' and that's how I got pumped up for my swim meets."
Annie said she was nervous and flustered at first, but that once she settled down, the experience was enlightening.
"It was interesting to hear how he learned from his mistakes," she said. "He told me that he dropped out of school when he was my age, and I thought about what that would be like for me if I did that right now. Then I thought, 'I like school!' "
Annie also said that the subject of past mistakes came up, and that Eminem was candid with her about the dangers of his drug use.
"He said he didn't want to make the interview too dark for middle school kids, but that his doctor told him that if he didn't stop taking drugs he was going to die," she said. "I learned he's been clean for over 18 months, which is cool."
The exact date that the latest edition of Cavalier Corner will arrive at the school isn't clear, but Gechter said that there will be about 500 copies available before Feb. 22. They are free to the students at East Hills.
Annie's story evolved from a biographical piece about Eminem to the behind-the-scenes journey on how she landed the big interview. Gechter said it is "definitely front-page material."
"I'm so proud of Annie," he added. "As an educator, this kind of experience is something you dream about. A lot of people would have been intimidated, but she shot for the stars and got one."
Annie said she's happy the paper is coming out soon because "everyone keeps asking her what Eminem says" and she "can't tell the story 1,000 times."
As for her next big-scoop target? "Michael Phelps. I love him, too."