Eminem’s Top 10 Tracks
It’s impossible to create something called the White Guy’s Rap Guide and not talk about Eminem. He was the introduction to rap music for so many fans, predominantly white and suburban, and his cultural impact is significant. In the White Guy’s Rap Guide we’ll dive into what Slim Shady meant to rap, but here’s a sneak peek at his top 10 tracks of all time.
10. Forgot About Dre: From a verse perspective this track should be higher, but it’s not his song so it can’t be any higher than 10th. An easy test to judge whether or not someone is a rap fan between the ages of 26–36 is to put Forgot About Dre on and see if they know every word to Em’s verse. If they don’t… FOH!
9. Kill You: Originally I had “Who Knew” in this spot and then ultimately started moving it up. “Kill You” is full blown angry Eminem that maintains a lyricism that made Em one of the greatest emcees of all time. Here’s proof complete with insanely perfect voice inflections:
I don’t even believe in breathin’ I’m leavin’ air in your lungs/ Just to hear you keep screamin’ for me to seep it/ Okay, I’m ready to go play/ I go the machete from O.J./ I’m ready to make everyone’s throat ache/ You faggots keep eggin’ me on/ Til I have you at knife point, then you beg me to stop?/ Shut up! Give me your hands and feet/ I said shut up when I’m talkin’ to you You hear me? Answer me!
What makes “Kill You” the full Eminem Experience is that he ends it with, “ha ha ha, I’m just playin’ ladies you know I love you.” TF is wrong with him?
8. Rock Bottom: This track was one of the earliest indicators that Eminem could get there when he wanted to. From the opening line’s imagery, “I feel like I’m walkin’ a tight rope without a circus net/ Poppin’ Percocet, I’m a nervous wreck,” to the ultimate dichotomy of life, “Holding 2 Glocks, hope your doors got new locks on em/ My daughter’s feet ain’t got no shoes or socks on em,” to the rock bottom hook, “Cause you mad enough to scream but you’re sad enough to tear,” Rock Bottom is lyrically perfect. Listening back it sounds a little 90s (it is), but the poetic verses hold up incredibly well and Em shows off his introspective for the first time on The Slim Shady LP.
7. Cleanin’ Out My Closet: I touched on this earlier but let’s make one thing perfectly clear: angry Eminem is the best version of Eminem and you have my permission to slap anybody that disagrees. Eminem was often at his angriest when he was talking about his family, and in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” the target of his venom is his mother. Unless you’re listening closely… “Now I would never diss my own momma just to get recognition/ Take a second to listen for who you think this record is dissing.” Go ahead and stop reading this to take the full 4:59 to appreciate what “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is really about.
6. If I Had: The structure of this track is different from his usual setup; instead of smashing as many syllables as possible into each bar, he’s much more methodical and thoughtful in his approach. And guess what, it works. Ultimately, the beauty of “If I Had” is that by the end you’re rooting for Eminem to make it. That he’s able to do that is a powerful thing.
5. Lose Yourself: That intro tho. Everyone knows where they were the first time they heard “Lose Yourself.” Hell, I saw 8 Mile 3 freakin’ times in the theater just because of this track (and the rap battles, obviously). The first two verses are really good, but everything that happens in this track is setting Em up for his last verse: “No more games, I’m a change what you call rage/ Tear this motherfuckin’ roof off like two dogs caged/ I was playin’ in the beginnin’, the mood all changed/ I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage.”
From anger to determination to frustration to rage to motivation in the span of 3 verses. This is Eminem’s best single at the peak of his powers.
4. Who Knew: This is low-key an incredible beat and probably the best version of the Eminem/Slim Shady mash-up. He vacillates between funny/ridiculous and angry/poignant like Dom Toretto weaves through rush hour traffic. “Who Knew” is an oddity of a track where Eminem showcases an aloof self-awareness. His lyrics can show that better than I can explain:
I’m like, “Guidance, ain’t they got the same moms and dads/ Who got mad when I asked if they liked violence?”/ And told me that my tape taught ’em to swear/ What about the makeup you allow your 12 year old daughter to wear?/ So tell me that your son doesn’t know any cuss words/ When his bus driver’s screamin’ at him, fuckin’ him up worse/ And fuck was the first word I ever learned/ Up in the third grade, flippin’ the gym teacher the bird (Look!)
Apparently you CAN do a lot of damage with a pen.
3. Renegade: There’s a urban legend that Jay Z was compelled to go back and rewrite his verses after hearing Eminem’s. I don’t blame him. He invited the hottest emcee in the world at the time on his hottest album and got murdered on his own shit. I mean…
“Now who’s these king of these rude ludicrous lucrative lyrics/ Who could inherit the title, put the youth in hysterics/ usin his music to steer it sharin his views in his marriage/ But there’s a huge interference — they’re sayin you shouldn’t hear it.”
This is the closest I’ll ever come to having one of those Evangelical out of body experiences.
2. Till I Collapse: Drop the beat, let Marshall Mathers ease into it, and enjoy. If we lived in some weird Hunger Games-esque society and I was forced to fight a bunch of lunatics from the other districts for my life, I’d throw this track on and my chances would increase by 5%. They’d only be at 6% up from 1%, but still…
1. Stan: The dude wrote 3 letters to himself as a crazed fan, each one getting more aggressive and then writes a letter back that he never sends. Damn, man, that’s real shit. The entire concept of this track has be executed flawlessly or it doesn’t work. There’s been letters written as rap songs before, sure, but nothing like this. Nothing with a character like Stan.
The first time you hear it and the girl starts screaming it feels real. Like, “oh shit, I need to help her,” which is what makes Eminem’s response to beautiful and heartbreaking. You know it’s too late. Eventually you come to your senses, remind yourself it’s just a song, and move on with your life, but for those 7 minutes… Damn.