Name a more shocking way to begin your first mainstream single than with these lyrics: "Hi kids! Do you like violence? / Wanna see me stick Nine Inch Nails through each one of my eyelids? / Wanna copy me and do exactly like I did? / Try 'cid and get fucked up worse that my life is?" Eminem's "My Name Is" was the first introduction to his music for many of his fans, and the GRAMMY award-winning tune still hasn't gotten old almost two decades later.
The premise of this song is just plain brilliant: Eminem and Dr. Dre play the devil and angel on the listener's shoulder as they try to make the best decisions about robbing a liquor store, statutory rape and reacting to finding out your wife is cheating on you. Hearing the two rappers and friends trade bars is always fun.
Eminem quickly gained a lot of controversy early on in his career, thanks to songs like The Slim Shady LP's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde." The rapper has been close to his daughter Hailie since her birth, but this song takes their bond a little too far. Eminem raps about him and his then-infant child dumping his ex-wife Kim in a lake after he killed her. Hearing the lullaby-inspired tone in Em's voice makes this track all the more haunting.
Naysayers of the rapper were quickly shut up once Eminem released "Stan," one of his most impressive songs to date. The moody tune tells a haunting story of an overtly obsessed fan who writes a letter to the rapper professing his love to him. Once the letter and Stan's actions become violent and manic, Eminem responds and is concerned about his mental state. But it proves to be too late once the rapper realizes the news story he saw about a man driving off a bridge was actually about Stan. The historical legacy of "Stan" carried on beyond the song and the unforgettable music video, as Eminem later performed the song with Elton John at the 2001 GRAMMYs.
Noted as one of his most intense songs to date, "The Way I Am" details Eminem's rapid trajectory to fame and how he began to crumble under the pressure of the record executives who wanted him to clean up his musical act. The attention of being famous proved to be too overwhelming for him, and he fueled all of that anger into this The Marshall Mathers LP fan favorite.
"The Real Slim Shady" is one of the early singles from Eminem's catalogue that showed just how silly the rapper can get. Along with critiquing the mainstream pop world, he also got heat for degrading Christina Aguilera and making fun of *NSYNC. The catchy tune went on to win multiple awards, including a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Best known as being one of his most controversial songs, "Kim" finds Eminem showing how terrifying and violent his mind can go. The emotionally unstable track is one of a few that is about his ex-wife Kim Mathers where he raps about torturing and killing her. Eminem literally screams, shouts and weeps throughout the entire song while also playing two voices roles of himself and Kim. It is brutal, intense and often hard to listen to. "Kim" serves as a prequel to "'97 Bonnie & Clyde," which tells the story of Marshall and his daughter Hailie burying Kim's dead body. It is brilliant as much as it is twisted, and remains one of Em's best songs.
"White America" shows another side of Eminem, where he targets his critics in a more direct way than songs like "The Way I Am." He reflects on how he has a upper hand in hip-hop compared to other rappers because he's white, the political mishaps of freedom of speech and his controversial impact on white teenagers. "Let's do the math: if I was black, I woulda sold halfI ain't have to graduate from Lincoln High School to know that," Em raps.
This track takes a personal dive into Eminem's upbringing while also taking shots at his then-estranged mother Debbie Mathers. He details how much his parents argued, the amount of pills his mom allegedly used and also tells Debbie that his daughter will never go to her funeral. Eminem later apologized to Debbie in The Marshall Mathers LP 2's "Headlights" and later explained he regrets making "Cleaning Out My Closet."
When you think of Eminem, "Without Me" is one of the first songs that immediately comes to mind. Along with being one of his most successful singles ever (it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100), the video itself is iconic! In typical silly Slim Shady fashion, he transforms into Robin-inspired superhero Rap Boy as he tries to save a little boy from buying the explicit version of his The Eminem Show album.
"Sing For The Moment" is a song that proves that he can actually rap. Sampling Aerosmith's "Dream On," it finds the rapper reflecting on his positive influence on younger fans and the ways critics have continuously misunderstood his message up until this point in his career. He raps,
"That's why these prosecutors wanna convict me / Strictly just to get me off of these streets quickly / But all their kids been listening to me religiously / So I'm signing CD's while police fingerprint me / They're for the judge's daughter but his grudge is against me / If I'm such a fucking menace this shit doesn't make sense, B / It's all political, if my music is literal / And I'm a criminal, how the fuck can I raise a little girl?"
Marshall isn't the most romantic guy, but he attempted to give us a (twisted) lovesong with "Superman." The Eminem Show deep cut is half-predatory, half-endearing and oddly mesmerizing. And the song gave us this gem of a lyric: "Put anthrax on a Tampax / And slap you 'til you can't stand." That Eminem, always keeping it classy!
I'll admit it: the 12-year-old me definitely cried the first time I heard "Hailie's Song." It's a rare occasion to hear the rapper sound so compassionate, and that feeling seems to only surface when he's speaking about the love of his life: his daughter Hailie. Aside from the predictable raunchy quips, the song is quite tender. "I act like shit don't faze me / Inside it drives me crazy / My insecurities could eat me alive / But then I see my baby / Suddenly I'm not crazy / It all makes sense when I look into her eyes, oh no," he sings.
Eminem's "Till I Collapse" is a total stomper, from the Queen "We Will Rock You" sample to the opening soldier chants. The rapper shows off his monsterous flow while spitting that he isn't planning on quitting rap anytime soon. And having Nate Dogg completely own the defiant hook just took the song to the next level.
You already know "Lose Yourself" was going to be on this list! The theme song from 8 Mile is not just one of Eminem's signature songs (which is a whopping 5x Platinum), it's also a testament to just how talented he is. It wasn't a surprise when "Lose Yourself" took home the wins for Best Original Song at the 2003 Oscars (the first rap song to do so), as well as Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance at the 2004 GRAMMYs.
"Toy Soldiers," found on Em's fifth album Encore, is one of his most gripping songs to date. It is a grim tale of how hip-hop beef can quickly escalate to violence and even death. The rapper details his own spats with fellow artists like Ja Rule and Benzino, as well as Dr. Dre's feud with Suge Knight and legendary rappers we've lost due to petty gun violence.
Eminem became more vocal about politics during the Encore era, which began with "Mosh." He blatantly discredits George W. Bush as president and urged fans to push him out of office. The rapper states: "Someone's tryin' to tell us somethin', maybe this is God just / Sayin' we're responsible for this monster / This coward that we have empowered / This is Bin Laden, look at his head noddin' / How could we allow somethin' like this without pumpin' our fists? / Now this is our final hour."
Em has just as many wacky-as-hell songs as he does serious ones, and Encore's "Just Lose It" is one of those weird tracks that make you wonder WTF was going through his head when he was recording! Both the song and video is filled with controversial parody after parody: Pee-wee Herman, Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, Bad Santa, 8 Mile and more.
"Ass Like That," also found on Encore, was yet another song that was equal parts annoying and weirdly catchy. Eminem was in a strange phase in both his personal and professional life, and tunes like this portrayed that. But you have to give it to him for rapping the entire song in a thick Triumph The Insult Comic Dog accent!
This is another rare tearjerker from Eminem, as he assures things will be okay for his daughters Hailie and Alaina. He raps: "I can see it in your eyes, deep inside you wanna cry / 'Cause you're scared, I ain't there / Daddy's with you in your prayers / No more crying, wipe them tears / Daddy's here, no more nightmares / We gon' pull together through it, we gon' do it."
"We Made You" was another addition to Em's expansive arsenal of goofy songs where he puts his original spin on pop culture commentary. The video elevates it even more as he parodies VH1's Rock of Love and a handful of female celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Sarah Palin and Jessica Simpson.
"Crack a Bottle," the first single from 2009's Relapse, shows Eminem focusing on his melodic side. From his rhyme scheme to the lyricism, the song is more of a showcase of his artistry. It later won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group the following year.
Eminem's literal Recovery era was led by "Not Afraid," which showed the rapper drifting away from his well-known goofiness or aggressive nature with a more uplifting tune. You either loved or hated the single (which is certified 10x Platinum by RIAA), but you can't deny its anthemic tone.
You couldn't turn on the radio in 2010 without hearing "Love The Way You Lie" rip through the speakers. Eminem's first collaboration with Rihanna was a fitting one, as it sheds light on domestic violence and toxic relationships—things both artists have dealt with in the past. Relapse isn't one of Em's best albums, but mature songs like this helped to save it from drowning.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was a return to Slim Shady's true form and "Rap God" was one of the album's brilliant highlights. Em goes into full-on cocky mode as he rapidly spits about just how dope he thinks he is. The track is yet another indicator of just how insanely talented the rapper is.
"The Monster" was the second collaboration for Eminem and Rihanna. While it doesn't hold the same emotional grip as "Love The Way You Lie," it still has a great balance of mainstream pop catchiness and rugged lyrics that reflect Eminem trying to juggle all of the monstrous battles inside his head.
This six-minute song is an ode to Eminem's hometown, and he calls upon his fellow Detroit rappers to pay homage to their city. Em, Royce da 5'9", Big Sean, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf and Trick-Trick all wax poetic about their memories over a beat that is almost just as gritty as the Motor City.
This lengthy track finds Eminem completely obliterating Donald Trump's life in just under eight minutes. Along with shading Trump and his supporters, the rapper also explicitly draws out his revenge plans against police officer/Eric Garner murderer Daniel Pantaleo and Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman, mass murderer of Charleston, S.C.'s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Dylann Roof and more. Em raps over a minimal beat, "And send Dylann Roof through the windshield of the Benz / Until he spins like a pinwheel and begins feeling / Like a windmill with a thin bill while his skin's peeling / And skids till he hits a cement pillar."
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