Whether you love him or think his music is corny, you can't deny Eminem's had quite the year. Slim Shady started off 2022 performing in the Super Bowl Halftime Show alongside several rap and R&B legends. From there, he hit 50 million subscribers on YouTube, was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, released a song with Snoop Dogg, dropped another greatest hits collection, and recently put out a sequel album to his hit record Curtain Call.
But Eminem (real name: Marshall Mathers) hasn't always had things easy. He had to deal with an absent father, a nomadic lifestyle, and constant bullying from school children. He even suffered a violent injury to his head during an assault from a bully, and Mathers' mother tried to sue. However, the case was dismissed, as a Macomb County, Michigan judge said the schools were immune from lawsuits.
So what did Eminem do? He started writing about his troubles through an aggressive, crazy persona. He started participating in rap battles, and eventually was appreciated by the underground hip-hop scene. After the release of his debut album Infinite (1996) and the extended play Slim Shady EP (1997), Eminem signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and subsequently achieved mainstream popularity in 1999 with The Slim Shady LP.
Now, Eminem is credited with popularizing hip-hop in middle America and he is lauded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. His global success and acclaimed works are widely regarded as having broken racial barriers for the acceptance of white rappers in popular music. Eminem has so many astounding works...but which tracks are his smoothest? His hardest? His most epic? That's what we're about to find out in the Top 10 list below!
10. "The Way I Am"
"The Way I Am" was released as the second single from Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP and was also featured on his 2005 album Curtain Call: The Hits. In the tradition of most of Eminem’s sophomore singles, “The Way I Am” features a much darker and brooding sound than the album’s lead single, “The Real Slim Shady.” However, “The Way I Am” was actually recorded before “The Real Slim Shady,” as a direct result of Em's record company putting pressure on him to create a poppy, radio-ready first single for the album.
We feel like "The Way I Am" features some of Eminem's tightest bars. The song is pretty emo, but it also shows off Slim Shady's determination to be the best rapper of all time. The chorus also takes some inspiration from Rakim's 1987 song “As the Rhyme Goes On.”
9. "Cleanin' Out My Closet"
This song has something of a campy reputation (especially with the music video of Slim Shady digging those graves), but it's still one of the standouts on Eminem's hit 2002 album, The Eminem Show. On the track, Em raps about his father abandoning him as a child, his turbulent affair with his ex-wife Kim, and his irreparably damaged relationship with his mother, Debbie. It's all sad stuff...but man, if that guitar melody isn't smooth as hell!
Speaking of that melody, D12 member Kuniva stated in 2015 that this track instrumental was originally going to be used for D12’s debut studio album Devil’s Night. In 2020, Eminem revealed he made the beat in the studio with D12 member Bizarre, with the intention of Bizarre using it. Through their recollections, it appears Bizarre wanted to go in an extreme direction with the song, and when he received pushback from his D12 crew, he abandoned it, leaving it available for Eminem to play with.
8. "Role Model"
"Role Model" was one of the first songs Eminem created with his frequent collaborator, Dr. Dre. Unlike the title's suggestion, this sarcastic track is all about how you shouldn't be looking up to Eminem as a role model. Y'know, because he's the kind of guy who would rip Hillary Clinton's tonsils out and feed her sherbert? Yeah: this song's got some pretty crazy rhymes.
In his book Angry Blonde, Eminem explained how the kooky song was created:
"Dre and I were in the studio at his house, and he had made the track first," he said. "I had started a rhyme the night before and I hadn’t finished it yet. When I heard the track, I said 'Yo Dre, I got a rhyme that goes with that' I finished the rhyme and started writing the song in the studio. I finished the first verse, knocked out the second verse, and then I wrote a hook. Then Mel-Man thought of the part that goes “Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me?” I said “Yo that’s perfect”, ‘cause I was talking about the same s--t. You know, smoke weed, take pills, drop out of school and all that s--t, So he had that part of the hook and I filled in all the blanks."
7. "Guilty Conscience"
The best team-up between Eminem and Dr. Dre we're ever going to get. This classic off The Slim Shady LP tells three engrossing stories through the plot device of an angel and devil on characters' shoulders.
Eminem and Dr. Dre play the Evil and Good conscience respectively of three separate people who are about to commit violent or sexual crimes. Dre wins the first battle while Eminem wins the second. In the third story, the two rappers agree the bad thing to do is actually the “morally right” thing to do. It's some of the best storytelling ever formatted into a track.
In Angry Blonde, Eminem wrote how he came up with the idea for this song. "Dre and I were in the gym one day, and we was talkin' about song concepts and s--t. Dre said that we should do a song together called “Night ‘n’ Day”, where everything he was sayin', I was sayin' the complete opposite. So I thought about it, went home that same night, and wrote it."
6. "My Name Is"
"My Name Is" is another track off The Slim Shady LP that catapulted Eminem to national success. While Slim Shady bagged a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 42nd Grammy Awards in 2000, the song wasn’t without lots of controversy. Some of the lyrics, specifically: “99 percent of my life I was lied to / I just found out my mom does more dope than I do," were the reason Debbie Mathers (Eminem’s mother) infamously sued him for $10 million dollars in 1999.
“My Name Is” samples the 1975 song “I Got The…” by British musician Labi Siffre. There's another controversy surrounding Em getting permission to use that sample. (It's pretty dark, so we'll let you do the research on that one!) Fortunately, “My Name Is” has still remained an iconic part of Eminem's catalogue after all these years, and was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA on February 28, 2018.
5. "'Till I Collapse"
A bop through and through, "'Till I Collapse" is the kind of song that gets played before basketball games so the players can feel the energy and get pumped up. The opening features some simple keys, a motivational message, and some military cadence. Then, it explodes into pounding drums and claps, Em's loud and ambitious bars, and an earwormy chorus from Nate Dogg.
You may not notice it at first, but the drum beat is taken almost directly from Queen’s anthem “We Will Rock You.” It blends into the mix so seamlessly! Although "'Till I Collapse" was never released as a single, it has charted on a few occasions when other Eminem albums have been released. Seems like the reputation of "'Till I Collapse" will never, well...collapse.
4. "Stan (ft. Dido)"
A fan favorite...literally! You know that term "stan" people use on the internet these days? Y'know, to mean they are a stalker/fan of a celebrity they love? This is the song that birthed that word.
In "Stan," Eminem corresponds with a crazed fan who becomes increasingly unhinged as the story progresses. He intended for the song to be a message to fans who had written him disturbing letters indicating they had taken The Slim Shady LP’s violent lyrics seriously. (Yikes!) Another reason Em wrote this was to “make the critics who were saying things about [him] feel stupid.” His aim was to disprove those who felt he lacked talent and purely relied on shock value.
Musically, "Stan" features a cool sample from Dido’s 1999 track “Thank You." The track managed to rise up in the charts again after "Stan" came out. In recent years, this song has managed to make a comeback. Like, remember that time SNL created a sketch about "Stan" with Pete Davidson playing his own version of Slim Shady? It's something we'll never forget.
3. "The Real Slim Shady"
The quintessential early Eminem song. "The Real Slim Shady" is a wonderful mix of funny and serious. It's also got some campy, wild rhyme schemes that will make you go, "wait, what did he just say?" Our personal favorite is, "Sometimes I wanna get on TV and just let loose / But can't, but it's cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose." Totally filthy, but hey...that's Slim Shady's sense of humor!
For this bop, Eminem was influenced by the little known 1990 track "Real Solo Please Stand Up" by K-Solo. "The Real Slim Shady" was only created because Eminem's label requested a good opener to his Marshall Mathers LP. Em was frustrated because he felt he couldn't just create another "My Name Is" on the spot. So he enlisted Dr. Dre's help and they swiftly created this banger. With its anthemic chorus, iconic key-and-bass-heavy melody, and Em's charisma, "The Real Slim Shady" will always make us stand up. And dance!
2. "Without Me"
Speaking of dancing, we believe this is the most dance-able Eminem song ever created. Oh how fun it is to listen to the snazzy and epic "Without Me" on full blast! "Without Me" was released as the first single from The Eminem Show, which seems appropriate given this track is pretty show-stopping.
There are so many quotable lines on this song, it's not even funny. Our faves are "So the FCC won't let me be / Or let me be me, so let me see / They tried to shut me down on MTV / But it feels so empty without me," as well as the astounding chorus. Sure – this thing is very poppy. But take a closer look at the lyrics, and you'll find it's also one of the densest raps Eminem's penned.
"Without Me" was a huge success for Eminem, charting as a top 5 hit in 20 countries and reaching #1 in thirteen of them – including Australia, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland. It was later featured on the soundtrack album for the 2016 film Suicide Squad.
1. "Lose Yourself"
Last but not least...the song that won Eminem an Oscar. And made "mom's spaghetti" a popular phrase.
“Lose Yourself” is the theme song from Eminem’s semi-biographical 2002 movie 8 Mile. Eminem is narrating the life of the film’s protagonist, Jimmy, up until the third verse, where Jimmy and Eminem’s journey converge. Eminem stated in his 2008 autobiography, The Way I Am, he wrote the song “in-between shooting scenes [for 8 Mile] and taking care of [his] kids.”
Commercially, “Lose Yourself” was a blazing success. It reached #1 in 20 countries, including the U.S. It marked Eminem’s first U.S. #1, and held the top position for 12 weeks straight, becoming the third-longest chart-topper from a movie soundtrack. As of 2022, it is 13x multi-platinum in the U.S.
And of course, the song was lauded critically. It won two Grammys (Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song) and became the first rap song to win the Best Original Song Oscar. Eminem didn’t attend the ceremony as he didn’t think he’d win, meaning he didn’t even get to perform the track live! Fortunately, this mistake in movie and music history was corrected when he performed the song during the 2020 Oscars.
"Lose Yourself" has also had a huge cultural impact. Apple used the song for two commercials in the mid-2000s to promote iTunes and the iPod, with Eminem featuring in the latter video. Chrysler used the instrumental and Eminem for their 2011 “Born of Fire” Super Bowl commercial. There's "Weird Al" Yankovic's hilarious parody, "Couch Potato." And of course, we can't forget that fan-made meme song all about Eminem and pasta. But the best cultural impact this track has had? In 2021, Eminem opened up a restaurant in Detroit called “Mom’s Spaghetti.” Sounds so delicious, it's making our palms sweaty.
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