Since bursting into the music scene via MTV during the late 1990’s , Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers has had no shortage of hit songs, while confidently using his lyrical style to fit into every facet of both hip hop and pop culture. His tracks are often biting, critical indictments on the importance of celebrity self worship, mixed with tongue in cheek lyrical content. Doing this has cost him no shortage of publicity and drama, yet after over twenty years in the game, there are still more than enough people getting owned by betting against the Michigan innovator. With that, here are the top ten songs by Eminem.
10 RAP GOD: MARSHALL MATHERS LP 2
Over the course of this scorching, six minute track, Mathers intersects blink and you’ll miss it lyrical jabs, while accompanying those lines with his trademark style of hard to squeeze in words and content that both elevates the rap world while giving props to the MC’s who came before. The beat is simple enough to catch the listeners attention in service to the song, which is as controversial in moments as anything in his discography, but if you’re still tuning in at this point you shouldn’t be surprised by anything being presented during an Eminem record.
9 WITHOUT ME: THE EMINEM SHOW
By this point in his career, Mathers had become the biggest name in music, a few times over. On this, his third record, all bets were off, but still the record and this list wouldn’t be complete without this satirical fuck you, pointed at everyone not named Eminem. During the roughly four minute track, shade is appropriately thrown at Dick Cheney, the mother of Eminem, and plenty more celebrities prominent during that time. The lyrics are intense and ready for aggression, but the jolly feeling of the instrumentation make it almost too easy to sing alone to all incendiary lyrics being tossed at exceptional pacing.
8 LIKE TOY SOLDIERS: ENCORE
Written as a sort of call to action to squash the rampant violence of rap feuds far and wide, “Like Toy Soldiers” also offers an insight into Marshall the man, not Eminem the star. Lyrically it’s heartfelt and strong, but the rarely shown vulnerability surrounding the song is an eye opener. The usage of samples is just as expertly executed as the lyrics, and the song is infinitely better because of that flawless execution. For instance, Mathers rarely mentioned personal events and family members (other than his mom) in tracks, which makes this one all the more important and musically relevant. It’s totally underrated in his discography, and we'll say that's just not cool, especially when you see how far Mathers went lyrically on this track.
7 CLEANIN OUT MY CLOSET: THE EMINEM SHOW
Another one that’s emotionally poignant, “Cleanin out my Closet” speaks to me like a teenager's irrational fantasy about leaving a turbulent past while also opening up about why he’s leaving. The narrative is filled with terrible moments for any child to go through, but it paints a clear picture of the abuse Mathers suffered at the hands of his parentage. The strength to bring these things to the forefront is a strength few people have when it comes to parental abuse. Beyond that, the track was a huge hit and a real moment of reflection to many in the music world who just assumed ‘Em had only a dark macabre sense of rumor, with very little emotional weight behind him.
6 KILL YOU: MARSHALL MATHERS LP
At what point does a listener of music start to brush off violent images and undertones in music? If you want to be an Eminem fan, it should happen as early as possible. Much like the lyrical content in a Gwar song, none of these lines during the first verse of “Kill You,” are serious, but again, that didn’t stop the media from pouncing. For good measure, Mathers never backed away from the sensational lyrics, even going out of his way to make sure everyone knew no danger would come to anyone referenced in the track. Still, it’s a hilariously dark song.
5 WHITE AMERICA: THE EMINEM SHOW
America! Maybe not the best ‘Em song ever, but honestly, when I first heard it I was captivated by the bravado of the opening musical moments. Those moments are only elevated once Em’s vocals come bouncing into the mix. “White America” at its center speaks to me as a sign of acknowledgment of Mathers’ success, and how relatable as a human he is to his millions of fans. You have to remember, during his blossoming dominance during the late 90’s -early aughts, it wasn’t common for white rappers but it was very common for white fans. Because of that, millions of white mothers and fathers were suddenly aware that rap could be just as dangerous for oppression whether it came from one shade of skin or the other. In fact, being a success just made white kids that much more in love with Hip Hop culture than they were before.
4 LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE: RECOVERY
This might not be a great inside look at a successful relationship, but it’s down to earth in a way that makes it even more plausible and honest. With the backing from Rihanna’s powerful vocals, Mathers uses his too close for comfort past as a springboard for a chaotic portrait of a relationship on fire. For the listener it’s likely easy to put yourself in the musicians' shows, which naturally makes it easier to love as a piece of art. The unsureness permeating through the vocals are a reality for myself and many who deeply love a person while still not being sure how to make a peaceful happy life with another broken person. The best songs come from real life moments and emotions, and with “Love the Way You Lie,” Mathers created an honest look, full of difficulties, and that’s what the major takeaway should be, that even mega stars have difficult private and romantic lives.
3 THE WAY I AM: MARSHALL MATHERS LP
When I was making this list I found myself casually rewatching some of these videos, and while it’s not nearly as cool as I remember, the visual of ‘Em falling speaks particularly well to the song itself, as it seems at times like Mathers had nowhere else to go to escape the bullshit controversy that seemed to follow his early years. In truth this song is one of most relatable for me in terms of subject matter. I, like Mathers, struggle with the similarities between myself and my parents, along with having a quick mouth capable of making an entire room pretend they didn’t hear what I just said. “The Way I Am,” in short, is an unapologetic anthem for the loose cannons of the world, who despite their best intentions and efforts, still end up saying scandalous shit from time to time.
2 STAN: MARSHALL MATHERS LP
We all have our ideals, but the rampage of this particular fan stands out as a cautionary tale of disillusionment that stands as one of Eminem’s most powerful songs. It’s two decades old, but the lyrical content still haunts the listener with various what ifs. Also, it works two fold. It’s a powerful song for the listener, but for the musicians who consistently deal with obsessed fans it’s entirely different. You feel for the main character, sure, but I find myself relating more to Mathers here. You can’t please everyone who will ever enjoy your art, but where do you draw the line? How do you deal with unstable people who feel oddly, delusionally connected to you? For the vast majority, you don’t. It's a sad reminder of the dangers of fame, and of a person's inability to separate real life from entertainment.
1 LOSE YOURSELF: 8 MILE
Oh Marshall, here we go. Eminem has skirted controversy gleefully since breaking out in the late 90’s, and plenty of his songs have been called offensive, insensitive and downright filthy. However, he’s at his best when he uses his personal history to build a song that is as thoughtful as it is meaningful. Probably the best part of the film 8 Mile is the ending “Battle” section, where Em obliterates his music adversaries. This song stands as the pinnacle of what he’s able to do lyrically. There’s no clever lyrics dissing celebrities. Instead, it serves as not only the cornerstone for the film itself, but as the best song in his vast, sometimes hit or miss repertoire. This proves his versatility in lyricism, and it’s still an anthem all these years after it’s release. You really can’t not get into the chorus- it's strong, in your face, and a testament to the power of this particular lyricist.
As an young man, I gravitated more to heavier music, in the vein of Slayer, Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, and the like. As I got older though, I discover all different types of sounds, and unless you want to remain stagnant and stuck in one spot, you have to give everything a chance. One of those early albums was the Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” Before this record they had been known more for “ She don’t use Jelly,” but by this point they had changed their sound in favor of a more experimental, dreamy, lush landscape. Before Pink Robots, they had proven themselves to be a band unique to themselves with albums like “ Clouds Taste Metallic,” “Zaireeka,” and the “ the Soft Bulletin,” among others. This is a band that is constantly producing results. Check out “ Race for the Prize” off of Bulletin, it’s one of the best alternative songs of the last thirty years.
The album opens with a type of reverb, almost like giant robots being called into action. I imagine a giant factory of Pink Robots being assembled, and finally, the day for war has come. Some of the lyrics suggest my theory, but when you’re dealing with this band, I find it better just to enjoy the overall chemistry of the song and just let it flow. Much in the same way Muse did back in the day, the band, composed of just three dudes from Oklahoma manage to craft a sound that sounds like it’s at least 2 more members. Wayne Coyne, the leader and head weirdo in this outfit, brilliantly weaves in and out of this first song. The overall album, while not a concept album, has the general feel of a proper concept album.
The whole album has this otherworldly feel to it. Especially on the second track “ One More Robot, Sympathy 3000 – 21.” I picture this happening on some very clean space ship floating through the galaxies, most likely after the destruction of our precious planet, either by Pink Robots or politicians ( Seriously, can’t you imagine the government sending out Pink Robots to control the masses?)
Anyway, the first song that’s pure sing along comes when the third song “ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part I” arrives, but it quickly enters part two amid explosions in the musical sense. It’s very upbeat, immediate, and quite terrifying. This album is fucking visual from start to finish, at least for me. The album is one of the best and most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard, and it’s genius still continues to build. This just isn’t the type of album you come across very often, and that should be celebrated. It’s even more of a feat that while this was going on, band member Steven Drozd was apparently in the slums of a matter Heroin addiction. This of course no one outside of the band's inner circle was even aware of.
One of the best songs of the entire album is without a doubt “ Are you a Hypnotist??” The drum beat, the texture of the background, and the amount of vocals all roll into one to create another mind blowing song. It’s not often that the second half of the album is better than the first, but this is an exception to that rule. If you listen to the track, it’s downtrodden sure, but the struggling vocals by Coyne and the epicness of the last minute of the song really drive the emotion home.
As a rule, you should always play the song “ It’s Summertime” during, you guessed it, the summer. It’s amazing to lay down in a field, and close your eyes. For a moment, all can be right. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to forget your problems and to think of all the beautiful wonders this world offers, even if it’s for a short time. This plays into the next song also. That song is “ Do You Realize?” Now, this song is equal parts hopeful and melancholy. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my life. I found myself playing this song a lot around the time my Grandmother left this world. It’s important to replace those sad,lonely feelings with one more joy filled. I highly doubt people who have died would want their loved ones to only think about how they were in the end. They’d rather you think about them how they were in their prime, not how everyone is near the end.
The album continues in this way of thought with “All We Have is Now.” It’s true. For a fruitful life you have to take everything in stride. Closing out the album is more of a free jam type song, and honestly it works wonders. This can be a heavy album to take in, topic wise, but if you open up your mind and are willing to go for the ride, it has bountiful rewards.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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