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.
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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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