Tune in and turn up

Today marks the release of Eminem’s eighth studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Having entered cultural notoriety 14-years-ago amidst a haze of confusion and controversy – and with production from none other than Dr. Dre – the years that have passed in between The Slim Shady LP and his current release have produced a legacy of hits and misses. Forever toeing the line between what’s decent and what’s cultural criticism, the Detroit native has forever changed the hip-hop landscape – both from his ability to shift as if a boom-bap chameleon into a bona fide hitmaker, to being able to bring new fans to a genre often guarded by gatekeepers protecting cultural jewels. His catalog is illustrious. His knack for being infectious is proven. His accents…weren’t some of his best choices. From hundreds of songs to choose from, here are what we think are his 25 best.

*note, all songs are Eminem songs. No features by Eminem. All “Renegade” enthusiasts be forewarned.

25. “Amityville” featuring Bizarre

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

The Marshall Mathers LP is undoubtedly when Eminem found his zone as an artist. Combining the playful material that proved infectious when he first hit like a candy rush to the bloodstream, with some of the more offensive and shocking traits that made him Public Enemy #1 amongst soccer moms, “Amityville” proved to be a bout of social commentary about Detroit in a way that only Eminem could execute.

Best Line: “We don’t do drive-bys, we park in front of houses and shoot/And when the police come we fucking shoot it out with them too.”

24. “Hailie’s Song”

Album: The Eminem Show

When those with special talents in one arena decide to try their hand at singing, there’s always the chance that the ghost of Carl Lewis’ national anthem will emerge and kill everyone within ear shot with a lightning quick sonic boom. What’s particularly poignant about “Hailie’s Song” is that there’s no pretension or gimmick to it. Eminem had a track record of speaking to his daughter, and we we’re fortunate enough that his transparency made for a revealing look at life as a father in the spotlight.

Best Line: “Now you probably get this picture from my public persona, that I’mma pistol packing drug addict who bags on his mama/ But I wanna just take this time out to be perfectly honest, cause there’s a lotta shit I keep bottled that hurts deep inside of my soul.”

23. “Just Don’t Give a Fuck”

Album: The Slim Shady LP

There’s something to be said for the production on “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” by the Bass Brothers, who had the foresight to let the track breathe – proving the perfect opening compliment to a set of lyrics that immediately entrap the listener in a web of popular culture missiles before the beat drops. For every non-religious ’90s kids, this put Marshall at the pulpit delivering the gospel in 16-bar increments.

Best Line: “You wacker than the motherfucker you bit your style from/You ain’t gonna sell two copies if you press a double album.”

22. “Bitch Please II” featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit & Nate Dogg

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

The quintessential posse cut featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop, Xzibit and Nate Dogg might not prove to be the most substantial amount of lyrical content from Em, but the supporting cast and his playful callback to the original version of “Bitch Please” makes the reincarnation impossible to turn off.

Best Lines: “I just want you all to notice me and people to see, that somewhere deep down there’s a decent human being in me/It just can’t be found, so the reason you’ve been seeing this me, is cause this is me now, the recent dude who’s being this mean.”

21. “Deja Vu”

Album: Relapse

The aural journey into the life of a pill popping, insomniac, dabbling in the bottle is hard to swallow. Eminem’s signature delivery and cadence serves as the perfect delivery system for a “voice” that beckons for one to ravage their body even when they’re coherent enough to know that they’re making a terrible choice.

Best Line: “And maybe if I just drink half I’ll be half buzzed for half of the time, who’s the mastermind behind that little line/With that kind of rationale man I got half a mind, to have another half of glass of wine, sound asinine.”

20. “Sing for the Moment”

Album: The Eminem Show

Sampling Aerosmith’s “Dream On” for the infectious, yet apropos chorus, “Sing for the Moment” outlines the dichotomy between wanting to create music that inspires people, yet not being utterly responsible for all the atrocities that happen in the world.

Best Line: “Entertainment is changing, intertwining with gangsters/In the land of the killers a sinner’s mind is a sanctum.”

19. “White America”

Album: The Eminem Show

As diverse an emcee as Eminem has proven to be, there are certain instances when he seems like he’s delivering a State of the Union as opposed to merely dropping a record. “White America” was his most political record to date and touched on the ironic nature of having the power to speak to a subsection of people usually immune to hip-hop’s reach, but feeling backlash from that very same group.

Best Line: “Let’s do the math: if I was black I woulda sold half/I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln High School to know that.”

18. “Beautiful”

Album: Relapse

Sampling Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers as lead vocalist for Queen thirteen years after the death of Freddie Mercury, Jeff Bass lays out the perfect landscape for Detroit’s finest to define the various obstacles that contributed to his four year absence from music.

Best Line: “But I already told you my whole life story not just based on my description/ Cause where you see it from where you’re sittin’ is probably 110% different.”

17. “Hellbound” featuring Masta Ace & J-Black

Album: Game Over

Despite admitting that his early style was directly influenced by Masta Ace, this was the only project that would have both emcees sharing top billing. Recorded as part of a project that revolved around video game samples (Hellbound samples SoulCalibur on Sega Dreamcast), it’s hard not to be blown away at Eminem’s subject matter and ability to construct intricate internal rhyme structures.

Best Line: “I’ll puke, eat it, and freak you, battle, I’m too weeded to speak to, the only key that I see to defeat you/Would be for me to remove these two Adidas and beat you,
and force feed you ’em both, and on each feet is a cleat shoe.”

16. “Marshall Mathers”

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

Transparency is a hallmark of Eminem’s music. Thus, subliminal and not so subliminal shots were taken at him at the height of his success. One to never hold back, “Marshall Mathers” serves as a whiff of his dirty laundry.

Best Line: “Double barrel 12-gauge bigger than Chris Wallace, pissed off cause Biggie and Pac just missed all this/Watching all these cheap imitations get rich off them, and get dollars that should’ve been theirs like they switched wallets.”

15. “Any Man”

Album: Soundbombing II

In the same way that “My Name Is” immediately captured the listener with his distinct voice and his conversational “hi” opener, “Any Man” was an itch for those who heard it who didn’t know if they should scratch it or let the new sensation linger a little longer.

Best Line: “A brainiac, with a cranium packed, full of more uranium than a maniac Saudi Arabian.”

14. “Role Model”

Album: The Slim Shady LP

The idea of being an orator with influence was the subject of many a songs for Mr. Mathers, but even on his earliest album, it was an issue that he’d explore. Showing his verbal dexterity with a mixture of ’90s pop culture, his tongue-and-cheek demeanor is why Rolling Stone said of The Slim Shady LP, “If Eminem has a white-rap precedent, it’s Rodney Dangerfield.”

Best Line: “You beef with me, I’mma even the score equally/Take you on Jerry Springer and beat your ass legally.”

13. “Stimulate”

Album: 8 Mile Soundtrack

Eminem has two distinct eras of music creation: pre and post addiction. “Stimulate” seems to exist in a state of aural purgatory – teetering on the edge of what it means to have created a pop-culture monster and the idea that he’d have to life with that proverbial monkey on his back for the rest of his life.

Best Line: “Constantly movin’, constantly usin’/The Constitution as a form of restitution.”

12. “Criminal”

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

There aren’t many other artists who have relied on being “tongue-and-cheek” more than Slim Shady. On one hand, he invites controversy by saying things that have the ability to offend each and every marginally chastised group of people, on the other it seems that he relishes in the rise he can get out of those same individuals more than he enjoys exercising his First Amendment right.

Best Line: “The mother did drugs, hard liquor, cigarettes and speed, the baby came out, disfigured ligaments indeed/It was a seed who would grow up just as crazy as she, don’t dare make fun of that baby cause that baby was me.”

11. “My Name Is”

Album: The Slim Shady LP

When it comes to making first impressions, “My Name Is” is like getting hit in the face with a fist made out of whipped cream. There’s a disorienting sensation. You’re not sure what’s really happening or if the person who purported the assault is actually the one you’re seeing and hearing. Marshall’s breakout hit served two purposes – it was both a sly reference to being an unknown with a huge (Dr. Dre) co-sign, and a pop song that appeased the MTV generation and had lyrical content that intrigued even the most staunch backpack-rap fans.

Best Line: “Well since age twelve I felt like I’m someone else/Cause I hung my original self from the top bunk with a belt.”

10. “’97 Bonnie and Clyde”

Album: The Slim Shady LP

One part Slick Rick’s “Children Story” and equal parts a diabolical outline of a murdered woman, “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” was particularly brilliant because of the tone that Eminem took. Rather than approach it aggressively, his easy demeanor and calm delivery made every listener literally feel like there was a toddler riding in the car seat during the whole song.

Best Line: “See honey there’s a place called “heaven” and a place called “hell,” a place called “prison” and a place called “jail”/And da-da’s probably on his way to all of em except one, cause mama’s got a new husband and a stepson.”

9. “Till I Collapse” featuring Nate Dogg

Album: The Eminem Show

Back in 2002, lists weren’t as vital to pop culture importance/relevance as they are now. Yet, when Eminem decided to share his who’s who when it came to his favorite lyricists, you couldn’t help but wonder if the emcees mentioned (Redman, Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie, Andre 3000, Jadakiss, Kurupt and Nas) were all vital inspirations for what would ultimately become The Eminem Show?

Best Line: “The criminal cop-killing hip-hop villain/A minimal swap to cop millions of Pac listeners.”

8. “Brain Damage”

Album: The Slim Shady LP

The brilliance of his early material is personified by his ability to convince the listener that what they are hearing isn’t quite real, but definitely far away from being completely fictitious. Pulled from an album with numerous inventive narratives, “Brain Damage” is a bout of childhood trauma mixed with the ever present strange relationship with his mother and authority figures in general.

Best Line: “Then I got up and ran to the janitor’s storage booth, kicked the door hinge loose and ripped out the four inch screws/Grabbed some sharp objects, brooms and foreign tools, this is for every time you took my orange juice.”

7. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”

Album: The Eminem Show

“Cleanin’ Out My Closet” boasts some shocking revelations that transcend “rap realities” and really get to the core of Eminem’s screwed up childhood. Music is supposedly therapy for the person who makes it, but this track seems to insinuate that old wounds and new insights ultimately don’t erase all the pain.

Best Line: “But put yourself in my position; just try to envision, witnessin’ your momma poppin’ prescription pills in the kitchen/Bitchin’ that someone’s always goin’ through her purse and shit’s missin’, goin’ through public housing systems, victim of Munchausen’s Syndrome.”

6. “Mockingbird”

Seemingly an extension of “Hailie’s Song,” the Grammy-nominated song from Encore once again touches on the female-centric issues that paint Marshall Mathers as both a devoted father and failed husband.

Best Line: “I remember back one year when daddy had no money, Mommy wrapped the Christmas presents up and stuck ’em under the tree/And said some of ’em were from me, cause daddy couldn’t buy ’em/I’ll never forget that Christmas I sat up the whole night cryin.”

5. “Lose Yourself”

Album: 8 Mile Soundtrack

Arguably the song that put an already famous emcee into a whole new stratosphere of attention and recognition thanks to his Academy-Award-winning anthem, the track has become ubiquitous with the notion of aspiring to do something great despite having the odds stacked against you. “Lose Yourself” is a song for a generation, right up there with Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” and PE’s “Fight the Power.”

Best Line: “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy/There’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti.”

4. “The Way I Am”

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

Using a subtle homage to Eric B & Rakim’s “As The Rhyme Goes On” as a source of inspiration for the chorus on “The Way I Am,” the song is absent of any gimmicks and relies on a staggering amount of self-awareness in the wake of the tragedy that occurred at Columbine.

Best Line: “And it seems like the media immediately points a finger at me, So I point one back at ’em, but not the index or pinkie/Or the ring or the thumb, it’s the one you put up
when you don’t give a fuck, when you won’t just put up/With the bullshit they pull, cause they full of shit too,when a dude’s getting bullied and shoots up his school.”

3. “Guilty Conscience” featuring Dr. Dre

Album: The Slim Shady LP

The back-and-forth dynamic between protege and mentor is brilliant. Why mince words? “Guilty Conscience” is a visceral choose your own adventure book where left brain and right brain converge into musical perfection.

Best Line: “While you at work she’s with some dude trying to get off/Fuck slitting her throat, cut this bitch’s head off.”

2. “Infinite”

Album: Infinite

Infinite is a trip down memory lane that reveals an Eminem still looking for a delivery that would sell millions of records around the world. One part Masta Ace and equal parts Nas circa his Illmatic days, the title record is a glimpse at an emcee and an artist who could have existed if “My Name Is” never blew up.

Best Line: “My coiled hands around this microphone are lethal/One thought in my cerebral is deeper then a Jeep full of people.”

1. “Stan” featuring Dido

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

“Stan” is Eminem’s legacy. Forget the controversy. Forget talk of him falling off. Forget the “accents.” This is his genius. The dual narrative never fails to be tragic even when you’ve listened to it hundreds of times over the years. That’s the power of good art. Even when you know the climax, it still knocks the wind out of you.

Best Line: “I’m sorry I didn’t see you at the show, I musta missed you, don’t think I did that shit intentionally just to diss you/But what’s this shit you said about you like to cut your wrists too, I say that shit just clowning dog, come on, how fucked up is you?”

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