By Will Robinson
October 08, 2015 at 08:43 PM EDT
Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Modern rappers owe, at the very least, some of their success to the trailblazing done by prior generations, spearheaded by the likes of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. The genre’s all-time top-selling artist, Eminem, is no exception.

The rapper, born Marshall Mathers, reflected on the impact of Tupac Shakur and the late emcee’s influence on his career in the new issue of Paper. He fondly recalls the first time he heard Pac spit bars, when Mathers was shy of 20 years old. It was a verse on the Digital Underground song “I Get Around.”

“I remember thinking, ‘Who is this?’ ” Eminem told the magazine. “He stood out so much. Once I heard that, I got his first album, 2Pacalypse Now. I saw the video for ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ and I remember thinking, ‘Holy s–t.’ “

“His spirit spoke to me because it was like you knew everything that he was going through, especially when he made Me Against the World,” Eminem continued. “You just felt every aspect of his pain, every emotion: when he was happy, when he was sad. His ability to touch people’s lives like that was incredible.”

Shady has a more intimate connection to Tupac’s music. He produced 2004’s Loyal to the Game, a posthumous record featuring remixes of previously unreleased songs. Eminem penned a letter to Shakur’s mother to thank her for the opportunity.

Read the rest of Eminem’s essay on Tupac at Paper.