Our all-time favourite angry rap god and outright master of the English dictionary Marshall Mathers, has been known to throw down some incredible lines of craft in his songs. Zero-in on the lyrical genius behind your favourite Eminem tracks and you’ll notice those soundbites that stand out so courageously in a world where words are always so beautifully filtered.
Eminem’s not one of those artists you just listen to cause it’s vibey. (Nothing against that kind of genre – I certainly don’t mind the songs on my playlist which are lucky to even attain even one lyric). Eminem is a beyond talented poet with a talent to cut through the mediocre with a chainsaw. He’s a writer, a wordsmith and a visionary – always searching for the perfect arrangement of the alphabet that gets across his innermost thoughts, past experiences and pain.
Let’s take a further look at 5 of Eminem’s best lyrics.
Just note, there is no way I’ve labelled these in a sequential order, or rate them top over all of his pieces. I’m a diehard Eminem fan you see, and that would be a process that would take a rather extended minute.
1. ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ (2002)
“Witnessing your momma popping prescription pills in the kitchen / B- that someone’s always going through her purse and s-’s missing / Going through public housing systems, victim of Munchhausen’s Syndrome / My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t”
And we’re straight into it. That’s Eminem for you. His 2002 hit ‘Cleanin out my closet’ Gets very quickly extremely violent towards his mother, referencing actual names and instances throughout the piece. We hear of Eminem’s mother’s heavy substance abuse and neglect, and how much anger Eminem has for the trauma he went through as a kid. Beyond the stunning technical skill Em uses in the song, there isn’t a word in any verse that just hangs there for aesthetic reasons. Literary devices and quick staccato are used to draw out his hurt, and the way his flow goes from high to low to enunciate certain phrases is next to none. Eminem’s story is not a pretty one, and he’s not afraid to leave it that way, which makes his music drive home in a way that’s utterly heartbreaking.
2. ‘8 Mile’ (2003)
“Sometimes I just feel like, quitting I still might / Why do I put up this fight, why do I still write / Sometimes it’s hard enough just dealing with real life”
Ain’t no flashing lights and make-up here folks. What you get is raw, real, Marshal Mathers. The music industry, let alone celebrity life, can be hugely polarising and pressureful for any person. Knowing Eminem has been through what he’s been through, and most likely still deals with, must add a whole ‘nother layer of complication and challenges to daily life. There’s a certain ‘image’ you’ve got to attain, people you got to please, shows you’ve got to go away for and events to perform at. If you have pressing personal issues, or children for that matter, you’d think they’d naturally take the back seat whilst music called the majority of your attention. I feel an exceptional connection to Marshall with these lyrics, empathising with his human side, the one that deals with ‘normal life’ challenges; and I love that he split the two out. ‘Real life, and the music one’.
3. ‘Lose Yourself’ (2002)
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy / There’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti / He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready / To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting / What he wrote down”
Well well well. If it isn’t Slim Shady, Marshall’s alter ego that has no sense of regret, shame, or moral boundaries. He’s there to be savage, and spit lyrics that serve only his own truth at the expense of anyone that caused him pain.
“I’m like a head trip to listen to, ’cause I’m only givin’ you / Things you joke about with your friends inside your livin’ room / The only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of y’all. /And I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoat it at all” – Eminem’s own words in ‘The Real Slim Shady’ (2000).
In this instance of lyric, Slim Shady gets heavy on the truth of standing up and being brave with a sense of urgency to take the plunge and not look back – you might not get a second shot. It was written for the movie ‘8 Mile’, based heavily on Eminem’s own journey to fame. For a very long time, Biggie’s hit “Juicy” was the primary rap song most kids first learned word for word. That all changed in 2002, when “Lose Yourself” exploded, becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It’s no surprise “Lose Yourself” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Grammy Award for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance.
4. ‘Beautiful’ (2009)
“In my shoes, just to see / What it’s be like, to be me/I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes / Just to see what I’d be like to/Feel your pain, you feel mine/Go inside each other’s minds”
Did you need to feel even more connected to Eminem? Well here you go. ‘Beautiful’ is a song that should strictly be played on a higher volume. It serves an absolute purpose in life whereby as a kinder human, you should always empathise with another in pain in an attempt to look at their truth from their perspective. These lines feel like they’re being directly sung straight to us as his group of listeners, whatever we’re going through – he knows it’s tough and he’s there to listen. The rest of the lyrics in this song are certainly smoldering and dark as per Eminem’s usual mood, but the way they describe the pain Eminem feels and how he’s openly struggling with this current slump he can’t get over is so ridiculously real. There’s no shying away from feelings and this encourages us to be okay with not being okay. We don’t have to be so damn smiley and put together all the time – that doesn’t have to make us successful.
5. ‘Rap God’ (2013)
“Uh, summa-lumma, dooma-lumma, you assumin’ I’m a human. What I gotta do to get it through to you I’m superhuman? Innovative and I’m made of rubber so that anything you say is ricochetin’ off of me and it’ll glue to you and, I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating. How to give a motherf-‘ audience a feeling like it’s levitating. Never fading, and I know the haters are forever waiting. For the day that they can say I fell off, they’ll be celebrating. ‘Cause I know the way to get ’em motivated. I make elevating music, you make elevator music”
Not particularly inspirational or moving, but once you understand this one verse is sung in just 14 short seconds, you might just change your mind.