Eminem has resonated so much through life and entertainment that one top ten list is not enough to encapsulate his impact on the world. As such, I have created a second list, A Perfect 10 by Eminem: Side B, just as Eminem has done with his latest album, Music to be Murdered By. As was done with Side A, preceding the list will be three bonus tracks. Each of the following three songs missed the main list but were tracks I wanted to appreciate and talk about briefly.
Bonus Track 1: “Guilty Conscience (Featuring Dr. Dre)” The Slim Shady LP, 1999
I’m going to be honest with you upfront: “Guilty Conscience” should have been in the top ten for me. I love this song, the storytelling, and the performances. The concept is unique, Em and Dre work well together, and everything meshes as it should. “Guilty Conscience” doesn’t make the top ten because it does not follow the rule I put in place on Side A. Eminem has to have more than 50% ownership—with him and Dre sharing time. Due to this, “Guilty Conscience” finds itself in the Bonus Track area. It’s still a great song and, if you haven’t heard it, I advise you to check it out immediately.
Bonus Track 2: “Cocaine (Featuring Jazmine Sullivan)” Unofficially Released (Leaked), 2010
After the release of 2004’s Encore, Eminem began a downward spiral that included his addiction to pills and the death of his best friend, Proof. Taking a five-year hiatus, as he coped and fought his demons, Eminem continued to make music. Many songs during this period found their way onto the internet in finished and unfinished forms. One of these unfinished songs came in the form of “Cocaine” featuring Jazmine Sullivan. Eminem dons a morose tone with Jazmine Sullivan’s powerful vocals in the background and on the hook. As if aware of the dark period he is in/was in (depending on when he wrote the lyrics), Eminem states that his “train is derailing.” The dark tone continues into the second and final verse as he gets more personal about his wife and unable to have a normal relationship for the rest of his life. Wallowing within himself, Eminem opens up and allows the listener to understand that his wife was arguing with him because she discovered Vicodin in his pants pockets. It’s painfully honest and provides insight into what happened to Marshall during his hiatus.
Bonus Track 3: “Chloraseptic Remix (Featuring 2 Chainz and Phresher)” Non-Album Single, 2018
Oh, Revival. Eminem and the word flop had never come together prior to this 2017 album. From questionable vocals, underwhelming singles, and a disappointing tracklist, the odds were not in Revival’s favor. After the album dropped, a majority of listeners came away with a sense of disappointment. Reviewers piled on, complaining about everything including, the beat choices, Em’s rapping technique, and features. For someone of Eminen’s stature, a failure of this magnitude is a rarity. How does one respond to overwhelming dislike for your artistry? If you’re Eminem, you come out guns blazing.
On the remix to “Chloraseptic,” the guns don’t come out until the end. 2 Chainz shows up first with some hot bars and clever wordplay before Phresher takes charge of the hook, identical to the original version. What differs, though, is Phresher gets his chance with the second verse. Coming out sounding a bit too excited, he manages to hold his own and provides unexpected heat. 2 Chainz and Phresher only provide the warm-up as Eminem unleashes a two-plus minute tirade that tears the pre and post-Revival reactions. The “Chloraseptic Remix” is a wonder to behold and shows that no one can compete with Eminem, especially if he feels like the odds are against him.
Track 1: “Lose Yourself” 8 Mile Soundtrack, 2002
The Oscar-winning track from the film 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself,” was the final and most prestigious jewel in Eminem’s crown for 2002. Closing out an impressive year with Eminem topping the charts with The Eminem Show in the first half of the year and the 8 Mile Soundtrack, headlined by “Lose Yourself,” in the second half. Finding Eminem in pristine, motivational form, he raps a point of view from Jimmy “B Rabbit” Smith, his 8 Mile character. Eminem’s lyrics tell a cliff notes version of the film of Jimmy’s life. From struggling through life in Detroit to choking during local rap battles, Eminem uses his failures as a reason to keep fighting. Em’s songs of late have leaned on motivational lyrics, but in 2002, “Lose Yourself” was an epiphany on the ears. It may not hold the power it did in 2002, but it is a milestone within his discography. If you are creating A Perfect 10 by Eminem, it’s impossible not to have “Lose Yourself” on the list.
Track 2: “Our House (Featuring Fred Durst)” Unofficially Released (Leaked), 2000
I have already talked at length about this song, but it still makes my list of ten. Never officially released, and what did leak was severely unfinished, “Our House” finds Eminem weaving a tale about a boy in an abusive household. The song harkens back to the old days when Eminem, Marshall Mathers, and Slim Shady were different parts to one complicated person. Painting a vivid picture of a house and family in ruins, the kid in Em’s song struggles to get along with his mother. Filled with angry line deliveries and verbal abuse, one would hope that “Our House” is only an artistic description and not based on reality. From what we know about Eminem’s life, though, this may be one house that Em knows all too well.
Track 3: “Castle” Revival, 2017
I can say in no uncertain terms that “Castle” is the best song on Revival. Considered an all-around disappointment, I remember listening to the album as it neared its conclusion and thinking to myself: “There hasn’t been one great song.” All that changed on the penultimate track with “Castle.” Aided by an eerie chorus courtesy of Liz Rodrigues, Eminem finds himself in storytelling mode. Throughout the three verses, Eminem writes letters to his daughter Hailie detailing the early years in Eminem’s career. From the excitement at the prospect of being a father to struggling with addictions and success, Em lays it all out for Hailie to read. For those who say Eminem is washed, “Castle” showcases that, when he has something to say, no one can beat Em. My main gripe with this song stems from the fact it is on such a bad album. “Castle” is a prime example of why Eminem has been relevant for as long as he has been.
Jumping back in time slightly, does anyone remember the track “Bad Guy” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2? Spoilers, for those who haven’t heard the song. “Bad Guy” is the sequel to “Stan,” which follows Stan’s brother, Matthew, as he hunts down Eminem for ruining his life. I feel that “Bad Guy” is a bad song. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but the storytelling feels forced, and you do not get wrapped up in the details like you did in “Stan.” Unlike “Bad Guy,” “Castle” is a well-told story in the vein of “Stan” and should be in consideration as one of Eminem’s best songs in the last 15 years. And speaking of “Stan.”
Track 4: “Stan (Featuring Dido)” The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000
Is there anything else that needs to be said? If there was a Mount Rushmore of best Eminem songs, “Stan” and “Lose Yourself” would make everyone’s mountain. Packed with immense storytelling, top-notch lyricism, and an iconic hook by Dido, “Stan” deserves every ounce of praise thrown its way. It’s a classic song that propelled Eminem from a great rapper to a great lyricist. There’s nothing else that needs to be said.
Track 5: “Rabbit Run” 8 Mile Soundtrack, 2002
The 8 Mile Soundtrack gets a lot of respect for including “Lose Yourself” and 50 Cent’s “Wanksta,” but a small masterpiece lies at the very end of the album. “Rabbit Run” is a three-minute slice of perfection with Em laying down one long stream-of-conscious verse with no hook. Eminem places himself in the shoes of his 8 Mile character, Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, as he struggles with writer’s block. Struggling to find the right words, matched by a dramatically increasing beat, you feel the struggle right along with Eminem. Mirroring the film’s structure, as the song comes to a close, Eminem finds the right words and sends the listener off on a high note. “Rabbit Run” is a masterwork in every sense.
Track 6: “Fall” Kamikaze, 2018
Surprisingly, we now make our way to one of Eminem’s most controversial songs ever. After Revival’s failure, Eminem took things personally and released a follow-up, Kamikaze, nine months later. Angry about the perception of his previous album, Kamikaze found Eminem bitter and angry. No one was spared from Em’s venom (pun intended) as he used every tool in his toolbox to dismantle all that would challenge him. Against a tense track by Mike Will Made It, many feel the brunt of Eminem’s anger including Joe Budden, Lord Jamar, and Tyler the Creator.
The controversy I had mentioned earlier came about the mentioning of Tyler The Creator. During his skewering of artists, Eminem spits one line calling Tyler a “f*****.” Granted, on the album, this particular line is backmasked, but the fallout had already begun. Justin Vernon, who handles the hook, went uncredited for his vocal work. In the aftermath, Vernon retained his writing credit on the song while Eminem publically apologized for the slur.
Now that the controversy is out of the way, the song itself is a solid diss track. Em and the beat work nicely together as he hammers home his feelings and attitudes towards those who challenge him. Flowing against a relentless pace, pausing only for Vernon’s chorus, “Fall” stands as the best example of what Kamikaze represents and why it exists.
Track 7: “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” The Slim Shady LP, 1999
I know I sound like a broken record, but Eminem is at his best when he gets into storytelling mode. Unlike other songs I’ve touched upon this list, Eminem takes a light and gentle approach to the delivery on “’97 Bonnie & Clyde.” The choice of taking a cutesie-style approach to the lyrics adds to the level of menace within the track.
Told in a first-person narrative, Eminem decides to take his infant daughter to the beach. Through the lyrics, Eminem hints to Hailie that he killed his ex-wife due to her being “real, real bad” and not wanting Hailie to have a stepdad and stepbrother. Now, with his ex-wife in “timeout,” he asks his daughter to help with the disposal of her body. Once the mess has been taken care of, Eminem and Hailie are free and able to be happy together.
“’97 Bonnie & Clyde” is the epitome of what made Eminem a juggernaut in the first place. Hip-hop and murder are not rare topics, but Eminem stands from the pack by taking a tried-and-true formula and flipping it on its head. From the cheerful tone to the inclusion of his daughter’s voice, “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” is iconic and a hell of a story.
Track 8: “Kim” The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000
So, you thought “’97 Bonnie & Clyde,” told an entire story? Little did we know, Eminem had only provided half of the story. On The Marshall Mathers LP, we get the first half of the story with “Kim.” In a song that I would call Eminem’s magnum opus, he raps as both himself and his ex-wife Kim. Eminem and Kim fight about her relationship with another man. Unable to cope with this, Eminem takes Kim on a hellish ride screaming at her about past discretions. The anger and rage culminate with Eminem slitting Kim’s throat while screaming for her to bleed. As the song closes, the music fades, giving way to the sound of a body dragged across the ground.
Eminem has made better songs than “Kim,” but the lyrics, intensity, and portrayal of two characters in one track is unmatched. “Kim” is a rollercoaster of emotions and nightmares—a haunting and emotional mess of physical and mental trauma.
Track 9: “Murder, Murder (Original)” Slim Shady EP, 1997
Going way back in time, one year after his debut album, Infinite, and two years before The Slim Shady LP, Eminem dropped the Slim Shady EP in 1997. One of the tracks, “Murder, Murder” is an absolute goldmine from early-era Eminem. Say it with me, Eminem showcases the best of his lyrical ability when painting a story. For this song, Eminem struggles with making it in the rough-and-tumble streets of Detroit.
Starting the track off, Eminem goes to great lengths to portray himself as an armed robber and murderer. Right away, he dispatches a police officer before turning his attention to bystanders. Stating that the bystander’s life is now in his hands, and the money he gets from them is worth twice that. What seems like a par-for-the-course track becomes more meaningful as we learn that Em is committing these felonies to provide for his daughter. Depending on who you ask, committing a crime is inherently vile—though others may say it’s a necessity to survive. “Murder, Murder,” though depicting dark and evil actions, works to justify the need to make it to tomorrow. Maybe the message Em is trying to convey rings false. For many people, though, this story hits closer to home more than one may think.
There are a few different versions of this song, the difference being the beat. The officially released version on the Next Friday Soundtrack sounds too polished and doesn’t play as well as the original version. The lyrics remain the same between the two, but the Slim Shady EP version works better on my ears.
Track 10: “Nail in the Coffin” Shady Times: Invasion Vol. 1, 2003
When I started typing this up, I had Eminem’s diss track to Everlast “I Remember” in this spot. In terms of enjoyment value, I vibe to “I Remember” much more than I do “Nail in the Coffin.” As I worked my way down the list, it became clear that this article needed to wrap up with a punch, and not just any old punch, but a knockout punch. Even the title: “Nail in the Coffin” sounds like the end-all-be-all of diss tracks. And he does not disappoint.
Jumping back to 2003 when “Nail in the Coffin” came out, Eminem found himself embroiled in multiple beefs including Ja Rule, Everlast, Limp Bizkit, and Benzino. Single-handily taking care of each adversary in his way, Em saved the best for last. Eminem goes HAM on Benzino in a one-verse massacre that jumps from hilarious to venomous. Eminem lays down a laugh-out-loud chorus about Benzino’s age before digging in and going to work. Taking cues from his role in 8 Mile, Eminem opens himself up and spills out his life to prevent Benzino from calling him out. From there, nothing is off-limits. Em calls out Benzino for his lack of credibility in the streets, being half-white, and the viability of The Source magazine. It’s just so mean.
So, there you have it. A Perfect 10 by Eminem. Ten Eminem tracks that would make essential listening, plus three bonus tracks. What are your thoughts? Eminem has made many songs over the years. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Side A for more Eminem content.
You’re still here? Since you’ve made it this far, I’ll send you off with my hidden track. Enjoy!
Hidden Track: “Discombobulated” Music to be Murdered by – Side B, 2020
First and foremost, there is a reason why this is a hidden track. “Discombobulated” did not make A Perfect 10 by Eminem because it is not one of his best songs. Instead, the song gives me a glimmer of hope for a return to Eminem of the past. I find both sides of Music to be Murdered by some of Eminem’s most forgettable albums. Eminem continues to show his skill as a rapper, but the fun and zany persona we grew up on seems to have taken a back seat. “Discombobulated” closes Side B in style and offers listeners a chance to jump back in time and listen to a rapper who does not come off like he’s trying too hard. Instead of showcasing his lyrical-miracle flow, Em plays around on Dr. Dre’s funky beat and has a ball. And if he is having a ball, so are we.
And with that, we have reached the end of my A Perfect 10 by Eminem. What makes your list?