It’s not every day a songwriter is given the opportunity to work with one of hip-hop’s living legends. Working with a rapper of that stature and one of—if not the biggest—singers in modern history on the same record is a rarity only a handful of artists can check off their bucket list. Skylar Grey, co-writer and co-producer of Eminem’s new single “Walk on Water” with Beyoncé, is one of them.
Upon finding out Marshall Mathers was in the studio preparing to release a new album, Grey sent him the hook to what is now “Walk on Water.” Though she’s helped pen hits like Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” and Em’s Rihanna-assisted single “Love the Way You Lie”—the 2007 song marks one of the earliest collabos between her and the Detroit MC—it’s their latest work together that Grey puts on the highest pedestal. “I was so happy when I found out he wrote to it, and when I heard Beyoncé cut the vocals, as she is a god-like figure in this world also,” she tells XXL. “It all came together perfectly.”
Music industry legend Rick Rubin worked with Skylar on the production, which showcases her stellar piano-playing skills. When the track was released on Nov. 10, the songwriter tweeted, “This is the song I’ve been trying to write since age 6. Every time I wrote a song I hoped it would be this good. I am truly proud of everything I’ve created, but this is the one.”
She explains what sparked her to share the sentiment. “What I meant by that is, with ‘Walk on Water’ I feel like I finally reached the mark I have been aiming for as a songwriter my whole life. Whether or not it’s a big hit, it’s my proudest work to date,” Skylar shares.
Two days later, the pair went on to perform the track at the 2017 MTV Europe Music Awards in London, with the singer stepping in to replace Bey.
After working with rap superstars from Em to Diddy and Nicki Minaj, Skylar could’ve been cocky, but when speaking to XXL, the Mazomanie, Wisc. native is more humble than ever—shy even. “There was a point where I was so shy that it came across that I was cold or hard to work with earlier on in my career,” she admits. “And then, as I worked with people like Eminem [and] Dr. Dre, I noticed how warm they were in the studio. I realized I had to get better in that department [laughs].”
When asked about her performance of “Walk on Water”—along with “Stan” and “Love the Way You Lie”—on Saturday Night Live recently, she’s ecstatic. “It was such an honor to be able to perform ‘Walk on Water’ with Eminem,” the 31-year-old reveals. “You know I can’t compete with Bey at all [laughs], but she sounds amazing on the record, and I am so stoked that she cut it.”
This month may have been the busiest of Skylar Grey’s career to date. The morning after appearing on SNL, the “Coming Home” singer-songwriter took the first flight out of New York to Los Angeles, where she performed “Glorious” with Macklemore at the American Music Awards on Sunday night (Nov. 19).
Skylar was approached to work with Macklemore this past spring. After hopping in the studio with him and hearing the word “glorious” on the second verse, she knew that needed to be the name of their collab. “And ‘Glorious’ really reflects where I’m at in my life; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, I’m in love and I’ve had the best year as far as my career goes, for songwriting—the best year of my life, I think,” Skylar adds. “And so, everything’s pretty glorious right now.”
These days, Skylar Grey is focused on her next solo project, scheduled to drop sometime in 2018. As far as hip-hop is concerned, she has a goal to get in the studio with a certain West Coast rapper. “I’ve always said Kendrick Lamar is at the top of my list of rappers I want to work with,” she admits.
As for any details regarding other tracks on Eminem’s forthcoming Revival album, her lips are sealed. Surely this will not be the last of Skylar Grey when it comes to hip-hop. With Revival expected to drop Dec. 15, stay tuned for more possible features from the talented songstress.