Fifteen years ago, the American public was introduced to Marshall Mathers, Eminem, and Slim Shady, a triptych of manic personalities whose interests included raising hell, making enemies, and sticking nine-inch nails through each one of their eyelids. To commemorate Shady being set loose upon the world, we’ve decided to rank every single song Em has released to date.
But first, allow us to qualify our countdown with a few rules of eligibility: We only included songs that were given an official retail release — that means tracks featured on studio albums, EPs, and compilations, plus guest verses; we didn’t consult mixtapes or unofficial freestyles, so we offer our deepest apologies to “Nail in the Coffin,” “Til Hell Freezes Over,” and other noteworthy rarities. Skits weren’t considered, either (condolences to all the Ken Kaniff and Steve Berman die-hards out there). Obviously, we only considered D12 tracks that featured a verse or hook from Eminem. And, finally, if there were multiple versions of a track, we opted to include the rendition we thought superior, so don’t expect to see the live Grammy performance of “Stan” or The Slim Shady EP’s “Just the Two of Us.” And with that, we begin the Eminem show…
289. “C’mon Let Me Ride” (Skylar Grey feat. Eminem, Don’t Look Down, 2013)
288. “Here Comes the Weekend” (Pink feat. Eminem, The Truth About Love, 2012)
287. “F–k Off” (Kid Rock feat. Eminem, Devil Without a Cause, 1998)
286. “Off to Tijuana” (Hush feat. Eminem, Kuniva, and Swifty McVay, Bulletproof, 2005)
285. “Fack” (Curtain Call: The Hits, 2005)
284. “Desperation” feat. Jamie N Commons (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
283. “It Has Been Said” (The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Diddy, Eminem, and Obie Trice, Duets: The Final Chapter, 2005)
282. “Bitch” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
281. “Echo” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel [Deluxe Edition], 2011)
280. “Twerk Dat Pop That” (Trick Trick feat. Eminem and Royce da 5’9″, “Twerk Dat Pop That” Single, 2014)
279. “I Need a Doctor” (Dr. Dre feat. Eminem and Skylar Grey, “I Need a Doctor” Single, 2011)
No, this track needs a mercy kill. K.M.
278. “The Reunion” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
277. “Open Mic” (Infinite, 1996)
276. “Hustlers & Hardcore” (Domingo feat. Eminem, Behind the Doors of the 13th Floor, 1999)
275. “Jealousy Woes II” (Infinite, 1996)
274. “No More to Say” (Trick Trick feat. Proof and Eminem, The People vs., 2005)
273. “Who Want It” (Trick Trick feat. Eminem, The Villain, 2008)
272. “Insane” (Relapse, 2009)
In a 2009 interview promoting his then-just-released Relapse album, Eminem described “Insane” — a stomach-turning, fictional tale of child molestation — as “a prime example of how a rhyme goes bad.” He wasn’t wrong. K.M.
271. “Our House” (Slaughterhouse feat. Eminem and Skylar Grey, welcome to: OUR HOUSE, 2012)
270. “Ass Like That” (Encore, 2004)
269. “Stronger Than I Was” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
268. “Big Weenie” (Encore, 2004)
267. “My 1st Single” (Encore, 2004)
266. “My Life” (50 Cent feat. Eminem and Adam Levine, “My Life” Single, 2012)
265. “Asshole” feat. Skylar Grey (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
264. “Beautiful Pain” feat. Sia (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
263. “Drama Setter” (Tony Yayo feat. Eminem and Obie Trice, Thoughts of a Predicate Felon, 2005)
262. “Chemical Warfare” (The Alchemist feat. Eminem, Chemical Warfare, 2009)
261. “My Ballz” (D12, The Longest Yard [Original Soundtrack], 2005)
260. “Green and Gold” (The Anonymous feat. Eminem, Green and Gold, 1998)
259. “Throw That” (Slaughterhouse feat. Eminem, welcome to: OUR HOUSE, 2012)
258. “Hip Hop” (Bizarre feat. Eminem, Hannicap Circus, 2005)
257. “Baby” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
256. “Backstabber” (Infinite, 1996)
255. “Black Cotton” (2Pac feat. Eminem, Kastro, and Young Noble, Loyal to the Game, 2004)
254. “Puke” (Encore, 2004)
253. “Pimp Like Me” (D12 feat. Dina Rae, Devil’s Night, 2001)
252. “Above the Law” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
251. “Taking My Ball” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
Things Eminem should avoid doing on future records: opening a track with a line about tucking his teeny weenie between his thighs; using the phrase “poop chute”; and signing off that same track by adopting a little boy’s voice. K.M.
250. “Maxine” (Infinite, 1996)
249. “Asylum” (Slaughterhouse feat. Eminem, welcome to: OUR HOUSE [Deluxe Version], 2012)
248. “A Kiss” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
247. “Pimplikeness” (Proof feat. D12, Searching for Jerry Garcia, 2005)
246. “The Re-Up” feat. 50 Cent (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
245. “Peep Show” (50 Cent feat. Eminem, Curtis, 2007)
244. “40 Oz.” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
243. “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)” (Rihanna feat. Eminem, Loud, 2010)
242. “When I’m Gone” (Curtain Call: The Hits, 2005)
241. “Medicine Ball” (Relapse, 2009)
240. “Space Bound” (Recovery, 2010)
239. “There They Go” (Obie Trice feat. Eminem, Big Herk, and Trick Trick, Second Round’s On Me, 2006)
238. “We Ain’t” (The Game feat. Eminem, The Documentary, 2005)
237. “Buffalo Bill” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
236. “Evil Twin” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
235. “Where I’m At” (Lloyd Banks feat. Eminem, H.F.M. 2 (The Hunger For More 2) [Deluxe Version], 2010)
234. “Almost Famous” (Recovery, 2010)
There’s probably a reason you haven’t heard this Recovery cut in years, and it might very well be because this one kicks off with a Ben Roethlisberger rape joke, or maybe because Eminem brags about his “giant scrotum.” B.C.
233. “Leave Dat Boy Alone” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
232. “We’re Back” feat. Obie Trice, Stat Quo, Cashis, and Bobby Creekwater (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
231. “American Psycho II” (D12 feat. B-Real, D12 World, 2004)
230. “Rain Man” (Encore, 2004)
229. “Throw It Up” (Yelawolf feat. Eminem and Gangsta Boo, Radioactive, 2011)
228. “Searchin’” (Infinite, 1996)
227. “Untitled” [a.k.a. “Here We Go”] (Recovery, 2010)
226. “Drop the Bomb On ‘Em” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
225. “Brainless” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
224. “Touchdown” (T.I. feat. Eminem, T.I. vs. T.I.P., 2007)
223. “Get Back” (Tony Touch feat. D12, The Piece Maker, 2000)
222. “911” (Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. feat. Eminem and B-Real, West Koasta Nostra, 2003)
221. “Take From Me” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
220. “It’s OK” (Infinite, 1996)
219. “Guts Over Fear” feat. Sia (Shady XV, 2014)
218. “Symphony in H” (Tony Touch feat. Eminem, The Piece Maker: Return of the 50 MC’s, 2013)
217. “Lighters” feat. Bruno Mars (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
216. “6 in the Morning” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
215. “Love the Way You Lie” feat. Rihanna (Recovery, 2010)
Having Rihanna sing Skylar Grey’s chorus about a masochistic lover in a doomed romance just a year after her own highly publicized domestic abuse trauma was both devilishly exploitive and maybe a little visionary, but either way, Em’s love raps here are shockingly drab, and Alex da Kid’s soupy arrangement sounds like a coffee shop’s hip-hop open mic night committed to tape. C.J.
214. “Psycho” (50 Cent feat. Eminem, Before I Self Destruct, 2009)
213. “Bagpipes From Baghdad” (Relapse, 2009)
212. “313” (Infinite, 1996)
211. “So Much Better” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
210. “You’re Never Over” (Recovery, 2010)
209. “Git Up” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
208. “Crazy in Love” (Encore, 2004)
207. “Never 2 Far” (Infinite, 1996)
206. “Headlights” feat. Nate Ruess (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
205. “Revelation” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
204. “Public Enemy #1″ (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
203. “Pistol Poppin’” (Cashis feat. Eminem, The County Hound EP, 2007)
202. “My Band” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
201. “Love You More” (Encore [Deluxe Edition], 2004)
200. “Hell Breaks Loose” feat. Dr. Dre (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
199. “Won’t Back Down” feat. Pink (Recovery, 2010)
198. “Hands on You” (Obie Trice feat. Eminem, Cheers, 2003)
197. “Must Be the Ganja” (Relapse, 2009)
196. “Session One” feat. Slaughterhouse (Recovery [Deluxe Edition], 2010)
195. “Groundhog Day” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
194. “25 to Life” (Recovery, 2010)
193. “Survival” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
192. “Music Box” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
191. “Cum on Everybody” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
190. “Drop the World” (Lil Wayne feat. Eminem, Rebirth, 2009)
189. “Going Through Changes” (Recovery, 2010)
188. “Wicked Ways” feat. X Ambassadors (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
187. “Richard” (Obie Trice feat. Eminem, Bottom’s Up, 2012)
Obie Trice’s Shady Records situation wrapped up after just two albums but Em still showed up for this deep cut from Trice’s indie album, Bottoms Up, skittering in like a detuned radio station and delivering a scene-stealing guest spot that strikes the expected balance of indecent trash talk and breathtaking wordplay. C.J.
186. “Welcome 2 Detroit” (Trick Trick feat. Eminem, The People vs., 2005)
185. “Jimmy Crack Corn” feat. 50 Cent (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
184. “Ricky Ticky Toc” (Encore [Deluxe Edition], 2004)
183. “S–t Hits the Fan” (Obie Trice feat. Dr. Dre and Eminem, Cheers, 2003)
182. “These Drugs” (D12, Devil’s Night [Deluxe Edition], 2001)
181. “Watch Deez” (Thirstin Howl III feat. Eminem, Skilligan’s Island, 2002)
180. “Not Afraid” (Recovery, 2010)
The production is bombastic — the layered vocals on the chorus are the definition of overdramatic — but this blockbuster comeback single does its job. Em summons a new kind of strength on his “phoenix from the ashes” narrative. How can you argue with a line like, “It was my decision to get clean / I did it for me”? You can’t. Don’t even try. BRENNAN CARLEY
179. “Get You Mad” (The Slim Shady LP [Limited Edition Bonus Disc], 2003)
178. “One Day at a Time (Em’s Version)” (2Pac with Eminem feat. Outlawz, Tupac: Resurrection [Original Soundtrack], 2003)
177. “Tonite” (Infinite, 1996)
176. “Ridaz” (Recovery [Deluxe Edition], 2010)
175. “Old Time’s Sake” feat. Dr. Dre (Relapse, 2009)
174. “Don’t Push Me” (50 Cent feat. Eminem and Lloyd Banks, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 2003)
173. “No Love” feat. Lil Wayne (Recovery, 2010)
172. “We Made You” (Relapse, 2009)
171. “Smack That” (Akon feat. Eminem, Konvicted, 2006)
170. “What If I Was White” (Sticky Fingaz feat. Eminem, Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, 2001)
169. “My Darling” (Relapse [Deluxe Edition], 2009)
168. “Doe Rae Me” (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
167. “Serious (Remix)” (Proof feat. Eminem, Swift McVay, and Promatic, “One, Two” Single, 2002)
166. “Trife Thieves” (Bizarre feat. Eminem and Fuzz Scoota, Attack of the Weirdos EP, 1998)
165. “Freestyle” (DJ Kayslay feat. Eminem, The Streetsweeper Vol. 1, 2003)
164. “Welcome 2 Hell” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
163. “Airplanes, Pt. II” (B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams and Eminem, B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, 2010)
162. “Numb” (Rihanna feat. Eminem, Unapologetic, 2012)
161. “How Come” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
D12’s 2004 single “How Come” is easily one of the heaviest cuts in the group’s canon, as Em, Proof, and Kon Artis deliver verses about friendships in disrepair that appear to be about each other. Em smells resentment as fame pulls him away from a close friendship with Proof, and Proof details the rigors of being thrust into the spotlight alongside him, while Kon Artis delivers a too-personal “I told you so” to Em about shacking up with a no-good girlfriend one imagines is Kim. C.J.
160. “Rap Game” (D12 feat. 50 Cent, Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002)
159. “Just Lose It” (Encore, 2004)
158. “We As Americans” (Encore [Deluxe Edition], 2004)
157. “Shake That” feat. Nate Dogg (Curtain Call: The Hits, 2005)
156. “We Shine” (Da Ruckus feat. Eminem, Da Ruckus, Episode 1, 1998)
155. “Blow My Buzz” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
154. “On Fire” (Recovery, 2010)
153. “Hailie’s Song” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
152. “Love Game” feat. Kendrick Lamar (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
151. “Living Proof” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel [Deluxe Edition], 2011)
150. “Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music” (D12 feat. Dr. Dre, Devil’s Night, 2001)
149. “My Mom” (Relapse, 2009)
148. “Devil’s Night” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
147. “Go to Sleep” (Eminem, Obie Trice, and DMX, Cradle 2 the Grave [Original Soundtrack], 2003)
146. “Cold Wind Blows” (Recovery, 2010)
145. “S–t Can Happen” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
144. “One Shot 2 Shot” feat. D12 (Encore, 2004)
143. “That’s All She Wrote” (T.I. feat. Eminem, No Mercy, 2010)
142. “Mosh” (Encore, 2004)
141. “Hello” (Relapse, 2009)
140. “Loud Noises” feat. Slaughterhouse (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
139. “Writer’s Block” (Royce da 5’9″ feat. Eminem, Success Is Certain, 2011)
138. “W.T.P.” (Recovery, 2010)
137. “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
136. “Careful What You Wish For” (Relapse [Deluxe Edition], 2009)
135. “Berzerk” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
The debut single from The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a love letter to the rap music of Eminem’s formative years, and it taps Def Jam founder/beatsmith emeritus Rick Rubin for a crunchy rap-rock flip of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” as Em channels his inner Beastie Boy. C.J.
134. “Wanksta (Eminem’s Version)” (The Singles, 2003)
133. “American Psycho” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
132. “No Apologies” (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
131. “Low Down, Dirty” (The Slim Shady EP, 1997)
130. “So Bad” (Recovery, 2010)
129. “Same Song & Dance” (Relapse, 2009)
128. “Drips” feat. Obie Trice (The Eminem Show, 2002)
127. “Desperados” (DJ Butter feat. Eminem, Bugz, Proof, Tha Almighty Dreadnaughtz, Kill the DJ, 2000)
126. “Soldier Like Me” (2Pac feat. Eminem, Loyal to the Game, 2004)
125. “Talkin’ 2 Myself” feat. Kobe (Recovery, 2010)
124. “Pistol Pistol” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
123. “Lean Back (Remix)” (Fat Joe feat. Eminem, Ma$e, Lil Jon, and Remy Ma, All or Nothing, 2005)
122. “S–t On You” (D12, Devil’s Night [Deluxe Edition], 2001)
121. “Spend Some Time” feat. Obie Trice, Stat Quo, and 50 Cent (Encore, 2004)
120. “Warrior, Pt. 2″ (Lloyd Banks feat. Eminem, 50 Cent, and Nate Dogg, The Hunger for More, 2004)
119. “When the Music Stops” feat. D12 (The Eminem Show, 2002)
118. “Slow Your Roll” (D12, D12 World [Special Edition], 2004)
117. “Evil Deeds” (Encore, 2004)
116. “3hree6ix5ive” (Old World Disorder feat. Eminem, Restaurant: … It Ain’t Always on the Menu [Original Soundtrack], 2000)
115. “Mockingbird” (Encore, 2004)
114. “I Remember (Dedication to Whitey Ford) (Street Version)” (D12, “S–t On You” Single, 2001)
113. “The Monster” feat. Rihanna (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
Here, Eminem’s tried-and-true tactic of drafting a pop star to belt out a hook pays off in spades. When this MMLP2 juggernaut crashes into its chorus, Rihanna’s dulcet yodel makes an otherwise overcooked track feel lively. And for his part, Em’s delivery maintains a confrontational edge but never becomes overbearing — this one was built to conquer the charts, after all. K.M.
112. “Words Are Weapons” (D12, Devil’s Night [Deluxe Edition], 2001)
111. “Monkey See, Monkey Do” (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
110. “Bad Guys Always Die” (Dr. Dre & Eminem, Wild Wild West [Original Soundtrack], 1999)
109. “5 Star Generals” (Shabaam Sahdeeq feat. Eminem, Skam, A.L., and Kwest, “Sound Clash” Single, 1998)
108. “I’m Gone” (DJ Kayslay feat. Eminem and Obie Trice, The Streetsweeper Vol. 2: The Pain From the Game, 2004)
107. “Bully” (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
106. “Get My Gun” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
105. “Never Enough” feat. 50 Cent and Nate Dogg (Encore, 2004)
104. “I’m On Everything” feat. Mike Epps (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
103. “Outro” (Obie Trice feat. D12, Cheers, 2003)
102. “What the Beat” (DJ Clue? feat. Eminem, Method Man, and Royce da 5’9″, The Professional 2, 2001)
101. “Legacy” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
100. “Superman” feat. Dina Rae (The Eminem Show, 2002)
“Superman” may be the most plainly misogynistic track in Eminem’s oeuvre — no small feat. Controversially, though, the Eminem Show creeper (which features an assist from singer Dina Rae) also ranks as his most successful sleaze-jam. K.M.
99. “Rock City” (Royce da 5’9″ feat. Eminem, Rock City [Version 2.0], 2002)
Recorded as mounting tensions between Royce da 5’9″ and D12 boiled over into an all-out feud, “Rock City” almost didn’t happen. G-Unit associate Red Spyda serves up a sinister Dre approximation as Royce carries the weight, denied a verse from Em, who instead picked up work with D12 after Royce gave up his hypeman spot mid-tour to go solo. C.J.
98. “Calm Down” (Busta Rhymes feat. Eminem, “Calm Down” Single, 2014)
The latest single from Busta Rhymes’ forthcoming E.L.E. 2 album is a friendly joust between two lyrical titans that took weeks to record. Every time one heard the other’s verse he’d go back and revise his own, the end result ballooning out to six brain-bending minutes of abject warfare. If there’s a winner to call, it’s the listener. C.J.
97. “Stir Crazy” (The Madd Rapper feat. Eminem, Tell ‘Em Why U Madd, 2000)
“I’m crazy with this razor / With this razor I’m crazy,” Eminem shouts on this 2000 stunner, in a prime example of lyrical chiasmus. “Crazy” is one of Em’s more dated verses, but it’s an early look at his long-lasting vitality. (Plus that Kanye production is the good stuff). B.C.
96. “The Conspiracy (Freestyle)” feat. 50 Cent (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
Eminem’s feud with Raymond “Benzino” Scott — rapper, record exec, Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta star, and one-time owner of The Source — spawned several diss tracks on both sides, including Em’s “The Conspiracy,” a syllable-drunk (and sometimes nonsensical) freestyle powered by DJ Green Lantern’s pogoing production. Off the cuff, Mr. Mathers dismisses the idea that his career is on a comedown and wobbles a line to The Source’s dwindling page-count, 50 Cent’s success, George W. Bush’s foreign policy, and back to his own dominance over hip-hop, all in just under three minutes. K.M.
95. “Bad Guy” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
“Bad Guy” picks up where its predecessor, “Stan,” left off: with the brother of the suicidal Eminem fanatic lamenting his loss as he plots a revenge hit on the man he blames for his family’s tailAnabelmusic. But in the closing moments of the song, we come to see Matthew Mitchell as more than just a disgruntled murderer. He’s reckoning for a career whose brick and mortar is insult and antagonism. C.J.
94. “Can-I-Bitch” (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
Another product of yet another feud — this one with Jamaican-born battle-rap warrior Canibus — “Can-I-Bitch” isn’t the most cleverly titled of Eminem’s attack tracks, or the best-produced, but it is among his densest and most playful, a foul-mouthed yarn that would smite anyone on the schoolyard. K.M.
93. “Keep Talkin” (D12, D12 World, 2004)
The greatest strength of “Keep Talkin” — the closing track from D12’s most recent studio album, 2004’s (!) D12 World — is its construction. Eminem hangs back, electing to talk s–t on a competent (if slightly forgettable) hook that serves as the song’s throughline, clearing space for his bandmates, who spit bullets over a tight, wrist-snapping loop. K.M.
92. “Amityville” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
This Marshall Mathers LP deep cut finds Eminem and Bizarre trading horrorcore shlock until verse three opens up the titular conceit, that their native Detroit is every bit as harsh and dangerous as the haunted house that inspired the supernatural horror classic of the same name. C.J.
91. “Hellbound” (Masta Ace feat. Eminem and J-Black, Game Over, 2000)
Wherein Eminem cops to some left-of-center dietary choices (“I ain’t no f–king G / I’m a cannibal”), rattles off a few of his vices (“Coke and acid / Black magic / Cloaks and daggers”), and figures, f–k it, he’s going to hell anyway. This one also gets extra points for sampling the soundtrack to another classic artifact from the Y2K era: the Sega Dreamcast’s SoulCalibur. K.M.
90. “Bump Heads” feat. 50 Cent, Tony Yayo, and Lloyd Banks (Straight From the Lab, 2003)
Want to remember what it was like to be alive in 2003? Well, nothing does the job quite like a diss track directed at Ja Rule. The rubbery beat serves as the perfect catalyst for Shady’s relentless stream of lobs at Ja, like, “Got undercover cops that’ll legally pop you.” Don’t cross Em unless you come correct. B.C.
89. “Girls (Limp Bizkit Diss)” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
Tucked away as a hidden track on D12’s debut album, “Girls (Limp Bizkit)” takes aim at — who else? — Limp Bizkit, specifically for appearing to buddy-up with another target of Eminem’s, Everlast. “Now I gotta go grab my s–tlist and add some new enemies,” Em raps, quietly seething over a lullaby-like arrangement. Fred Durst and his boyz never stood a chance. K.M.
88. “Lady” (Obie Trice feat. Eminem, Cheers, 2003)
Eminem’s first verse on this track — a thumping, handclap-break-heavy highlight from Obie Trice’s debut album — begins, “I’m internationally known, baby / But, actually, there are few people who know how I am naturally.” That’s likely still true to this day, but at the very least, “Lady” gives listeners a peek at Marshall Mathers the man — a public figure who longs for privacy but relishes the limelight, a guy who’s prone to jealousy and lashing out, and who shrugs while he raps, “I guess it’s do unto others as you’d have ‘em do unto you.” K.M.
87. “Forever” (Drake feat. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem, Relapse: Refill, 2009)
Posse cuts with the biggest names in the game are very hit or miss. You can get a bunch of big egos trying to out-rhyme each other for purely selfish reasons, or you can get “Forever,” in which Drake, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Kanye push each other to be better. “They’ve been waiting patiently for Pinocchio to poke his nose / Back into the game,” Em raps with the confidence of a man ten years his junior. “Forever” was his “I can still ball with the young pups” moment, and it worked. B.C.
86. “Don’t Front” feat. Buckshot (The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [Call of Duty: Ghosts Bonus], 2013)
If you managed to cop last year’s MMLP2 / Call of Duty: Ghosts tie-in bundle you were blessed with a real treat. Bonus cut “Don’t Front” finds Marshall flashing his underground cred on a gritty boom-bap production sampling “I Got Cha Opin” by ’90s hip-hop legends Black Moon and featuring group leader Buckshot on the chorus. C.J.
85. “My Fault” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
The Slim Shady LP’s chronicle of Em’s dealings with “Susan, an ex-heroin addict who just stopped using” devolves into madness quick: He gives her a dose of shrooms to take her mind off opiate cravings, she loses it, and the both of them spend the remainder of their night trying (and ultimately failing) to stop her from harming herself. C.J.
84. “No One’s Iller” feat. Swifty McVay, Bizarre, and Fuzz (The Slim Shady EP, 1997)
Years before Kanye West sampled Hank Crawford’s “Wildflower” (which is itself a cover of a song originally by the Canadian band Skylark) for his Late Registration stunner “Drive Slow,” Eminem made the 1973 track an accomplice to this laid-back, blood-soaked bit of braggadocio. K.M.
83. “Love Me” feat. 50 Cent and Obie Trice (Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002)
By the time this foggy bruiser appeared, Eminem had already built out his empire: millions of records sold, a starring role in his own near-biopic, an armful of Grammys, and, soon, an Academy Award. Here’s how untouchable Em was at the time — “Love Me” isn’t even the second or third best song on the 8 Mile soundtrack, and it’s still gripping. Hell, he doesn’t even have the strongest verse; that title belongs to 50 Cent, who casually skewers R. Kelly, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, and D’Angelo in the track’s closing moments. But even though we open with Obie Trice and close with 50, Eminem’s at the center, flanked by two of his finest lieutenants. K.M.
82. “Underground” (Relapse, 2009)
Eminem dove deep into horrorcore camp for his comeback album, 2009’s unjustly maligned Relapse. When he isn’t urging us all to crack a bottle, he’s recounting brutal narratives filled with child abuse, cannibalism, and premeditated murder. But on “Underground,” the LP’s closing track, the violence morphs into pulpy fan-fiction as Em arms himself with a stutter-strobe beat and faces down Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Hannibal Lecter. In this case — the last gasp of Eminem’s bleakest record — the lower the stakes, the better. K.M.
81. “So Far…” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
MMLP2 album cut “So Far…” loops up sometime-Eagle-guitarist Joe Walsh’s bluesy late ’70s hit “Life’s Been Good” while Marshall strings together a series of humorous observations about life as a fortysomething, a father, and a recovering addict. It’s charming, adult, and honest in a lot of places where MMLP2 prefers to escapist and juvenile. C.J.
80. “Fight Music” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
Eminem is famously evasive about the negative behavior his music is assumed — by his detractors — to inspire, and this denial is both the spark for much of his greatest work and one of his biggest foibles. D12’s single “Fight Music” sits weirdly in his discography as a moment where he owns it and proceeds to try and incite a riot. C.J.
79. “Stay Wide Awake” (Relapse, 2009)
Em lets his serial-killer persona — and its questionable accent — loose on this unsettling Relapse standout, stalking and attacking his victims, proudly comparing himself to Ted Bundy, and warning over an eerie, throttled track: Stay wide awake, or else. K.M.
78. “Cinderella Man” (Recovery, 2010)
Recovery deep cut “Cinderella Man” imagines Em as the comeback kid in Russell Crowe’s 2005 boxing drama of the same name while offering a curt reappraisal of Relapse (“F–k my last CD, that s–t’s in the trash”) and a promise to never fail his fans again. C.J.
77. “Nuttin’ To Do” (Bad Meets Evil, “Nuttin’ To Do” Single, 1999)
It wasn’t the first song Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ recorded together, but “Nuttin’ To Do” was their first single as Bad Meets Evil, and as such, it’s a slow-drip distillation of the duo’s impeccable chemistry and a promising sign of more good — or, uh, evil — things to come. K.M.
76. “Elevator” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)
This Relapse hold-over — bundled into that album’s bonus-filled Relapse: Refill re-release — possesses a true rarity: a half-sung Eminem hook that works. And the chorus, in which Marshall remembers how his younger self used to laugh at the idea that he’d ever go platinum, is a reminder of just how unlikely Em’s success must’ve seemed pre-Slim Shady. It’s actually kind of endearing. K.M.
75. “We All Die One Day” (Obie Trice feat. Eminem, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo, Cheers, 2003)
Mariah diss? Check. Leg-humping joke? That too. Threatening to stab someone? Yeah, “We All Die One Day” has those and more, including a “deez nutz” reference. And we’ll take Eminem rapping a few bars in Spanish any day, if only because it’s so fascinatingly off-kilter. B.C.
74. “The Anthem” (Sway & King Tech feat. RZA, Tech N9ne, Eminem, Xzibit, Pharoahe Monch, Kool G Rap, Jayo Felony, Chino XL, and KRS-One, This or That, 1999)
For the most part, Eminem has evened himself out on the whole “rape rap” persona he adopted in his early days, but his verse on Sway and Tech’s “The Anthem” doesn’t reflect that maturation. Having said that, Marshall sounds young and hungrier than any of his collaborators on this track, and the video is prime-cornball Em. B.C.
73. “Yellow Brick Road” (Encore, 2004)
For much of Encore, Eminem appears to have run out of things to say — see “Puke” (No. 254) and “Big Weenie” (268) for quick proof. But now, the reflective moments on Em’s fifth LP stand as some of his most level-headed, self-aware, and mature material to date, like “Yellow Brick Road,” a pre-origin story that doubles as an apology for a racist rap (“Foolish Pride”) he recorded in his early days, which surfaced years later, thanks to Benzino and The Source’s then-CEO, David Mays. “I’ve heard people say they heard the tape and it ain’t that bad / But it was / I singled out a whole race and for that I apologize,” he admits on “Yellow Brick Road,” with startling sincerity. K.M.
72. “My Name” (Xzibit feat. Eminem and Nate Dogg, Man vs. Machine, 2002)
Back when Eminem was regularly trading insults with Canibus and Dr. Dre was busy feuding with Jermaine Dupri (remember that non-conflict?), Xzibit chose to go on record supporting his comrades with “My Name,” a muscular cut from his Man vs. Machine LP that features an assist from Nate Dogg and a pair of guest verses from Em, who can’t help but spread the wrath. He lobs insults at both Canibus and Dupri, then closes the track by invoking none other than Nas. K.M.
71. “Say Goodbye Hollywood” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
This Eminem Show favorite was one of the first tracks — if not the first — that cast a spotlight on a truly overwhelmed Marshall Mathers. Up to his eyeballs in personal and legal drama after getting hit with a concealed weapons charge, Em’s not spitting venom at overzealous fans or wishing he could take a chainsaw to journalists here; instead, he’s genuinely worried about the pressure he’s under and realizes that, maybe for the first time in his life, he’s got something to lose. Eminem would contemplate walking away from fame and the rap game on subsequent records, but this song marked a shift, when he started to seriously ponder saying goodbye. K.M.
70. “Seduction” (Recovery, 2010)
At first pass, “Seduction” scans as a boast about coldly stealing another guy’s girlfriend, but a more careful read reveals a clever metaphor for Em’s return to hip-hop dominance in the spirit of Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” C.J.
69. “Welcome to D-Block” (Jadakiss feat. The LOX and Eminem, Kiss of Death, 2004)
One of the highlights of Jadakiss’ sophomore album Kiss of Death, “Welcome to D-Block” reunited Kiss with his LOX compatriots and teamed the group up with Eminem, who swoops in on verse two shouting out Kiss’ native Yonkers, cracking Diddy marathon jokes, and plugging G-Unit sneakers. C.J.
68. “3 a.m.” (Relapse, 2009)
There are some clunky rhymes on “3 a.m.” (“coroner” and “corner” couldn’t have been the best Eminem’s got), but Em’s subtle inflections and timing keep the song on track. Sometimes its darkness threatens to eclipse its lighter moments, but Dr. Dre’s production and Marshall’s third-act Silence of the Lambs shoutout keep this one grounded. B.C.
67. “Off the Wall” (Eminem and Redman, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps [Original Soundtrack], 2000)
By far the best thing to ever come of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. K.M.
66. “Roman’s Revenge” (Nicki Minaj feat. Eminem, Pink Friday, 2010)
“Roman’s Revenge” is probably best known as Nicki’s second round K.O. against Lil Kim, but couching the savage joy of the assault are two workmanlike verses from Em, who leaves Kim alone to razz his favorite subset: haters. Fun fact: An early version of the song featured a chorus that quoted West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty” instead of Busta Rhymes’ “Scenario” verse. C.J.
65. “Square Dance” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
A kinda-clumsy crowd-pleaser, “Square Dance” throws jabs at Dubya (“Yeah, the man’s back / With a plan to ambush this Bush administration”), packs in a quick Canibus brush-off (“Can-I-Bitch don’t want no beef with Slim / Nooooo”), and still finds room for a string of tightly coiled rhymes, just for the sake of doing so (“Psychotic, hypnotic product / I got it / The antibiotic / Ain’t nobody hotter / And so on / And yadda, yadda”). So, yeah, we’re willing to look past the over-the-top, down-South affectation Em adopts for the chorus (“Don’t be scurrred / Cuz thur ain’t nuttin’ to wurry ’bout”). K.M.
64. “You Don’t Know” feat. 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, and Cashis (Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, 2006)
It’s almost depressing to hear 50 Cent and Eminem at the top of their lyrical game on “You Don’t Know,” because if anything, it just reminds you that time eventually gets the better of us all. Get past that though, because Eminem goes in pretty hard here. “It’s no pretend s–t, it’s friendship,” he sneers, adding the final nail in every other rapper’s coffin: “Me nemesis is su nemesis.” B.C.
63. “Gatman & Robbin’” (50 Cent feat. Eminem, The Massacre, 2005)
Eminem and 50 Cent have terrific chemistry even when they’re not really trying, as you can tell from The Massacre’s “Gatman and Robbin’,” which finds our diabolical duo hurling a volley of violent threats over superhero theme music. Steer clear of the video unless the sight of 50 mugging in a cartoon Gatmobile is your idea of a good time. C.J.
62. “Beautiful” (Relapse, 2009)
Near the end of Relapse, Eminem drops the psycho killer shtick and instead opens himself up for “Beautiful,” a six-minute self-analysis — and slow-burn power ballad, fueled by a sample of 1996’s “Reaching Out” by the one-off supergroup Rock Therapy — that casts his life-changing success in a dim light, one that longs to escape the shadow of Slim Shady. K.M.
61. “Rush Ya Clique” (Outsidaz feat. Eminem, Night Life, 2000)
Eminem’s affiliation with the Newark, New Jersey’s Outsidaz crew sadly yielded more shoutouts than collaborations before it combusted, but “Rush Ya Clique” — off of the Outz debut EP, Night Life — proved the union of Em, Pacewon, Young Zee, and company was a formidable one. The Lauryn Hill potshot at the end of Em’s verse is business as usual for him but weird for them, since Hill’s Fugees gave the Outsidaz face time on The Score’s “Cowboys” a few years earlier. C.J.
60. “Rabbit Run” (Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002)
This is vitriolic Em at his finest: looking inward, taking stock of his choices, and unleashing his anger in cleverly controlled bursts. The bravado and urgency are both there (“You gon feel my rush / If you don’t feel it then it must too real to touch”), but it’s both fiery and measured for a change. B.C.
59. “Without Me” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
This is how you kick off the lead single for your third major album: Obie Trice fake-out, “Buffalo Gals” faux-sing-along, and Shady-as-Batman theme song, all within the first 30 seconds. Hard to live up to for another four minutes of run time, but “Without Me” mostly does, featuring some of Em’s most memorable and verbally dextrous hook-Anabelmusicning (“So the FCC won’t let me be / Or let me be me…”) and myth-making (“I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley…”). By song’s end, it’s understandable that Slim’s too tired to do anything but yelp “Kids!” and let the beat rock for another half-minute. ANDREW UNTERBERGER
58. “The Last Hit” (The High & Mighty feat. Eminem, Home Field Advantage, 1999)
For their 1999 debut album, Philadelphia duo the High & Mighty (a.k.a. Mr. Eon and DJ Might Mi) tapped a young, hungry, and punny MC from Detroit to supply a handful of guest verses. If they were hoping to fill “The Last Hit” with bars about dropping acid, spraying bullets, snatching mics, and disposing of bodies, well, the kid didn’t disappoint. K.M.
57. “Busa Rhyme” (Missy Elliott feat. Eminem, Da Real World, 1999)
“Busa Rhyme,” off of Missy Elliott’s sophomore album, Da Real World, is an oddity on account of its marquee star getting one verse to her guest’s three, but it’s also notable as one of only two existing Eminem-and-Timbaland collaborations. It’s a shame they didn’t work together together more; Em’s elastic flow and Tim’s pinball machine production are a heavenly match. C.J.
56. “Murder, Murder” (The Slim Shady EP, 1997)
This dark, 2Pac-sampling gem from The Slim Shady EP proves that the violence in Eminem’s world doesn’t always have to be cartoonish, gory, or fueled by rage. Sometimes the blood spills because of simple, lonely desperation. K.M.
55. “Infinite” (Infinite, 1996)
The title track from Eminem’s little-heard debut album, 1996’s “Infinite” is a minor record, but if you listen closely, there are hints of the career that would follow. Em hadn’t yet developed his signature flow, but a few key elements are already there: the fascination with hell, the impressive internal rhyme schemes, the references to murder and venereal diseases. And then there’s that titular promise: “I’m infinite.” At the time, it must’ve sounded like requisite hip-hop bravado; but now, nearly 20 years later, it sounds like a self-evident truth coming from someone who knows he’s destined to become an all-time great. He’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up. K.M.
54. “I’m Shady” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
The quasi-title track for The Slim Shady LP, “I’m Shady” might be the friendliest appearance that Eminem’s homicidal-prankster alter ego has ever made on a record. That said, he’s still writing his biggest fan a f–k-you letter, shooting up the playground, cracking AIDS jokes, and dealing drugs. But for the record, Shady does do pills, doesn’t take speed, doesn’t do crack, doesn’t do coke, he does smoke weed, doesn’t do smack, he does do shrooms, does drink beer, and let’s make one thing clear: At this stage of his output, even Em’s deep cuts are classics. K.M.
53. “Rhyme or Reason” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
Even the most pleasant track to sneak onto MMLP2 has its dark patches. Eminem continues to carry hateful resentment for his absentee father on “Rhyme or Reason,” and devotes himself to nihilism — “There’s no rhyme or reason for nothing,” goes the chorus — but he tempers the song’s thorniness by feeding on an expertly deployed Zombies sample. K.M.
52. “Under the Influence” feat. D12 (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
D12’s first appearance on an Eminem album, and still one of their best posse cuts, has the six members compete for most-f–ked-up honors by shooting gats at Stop the Violence rallies, impregnating pitbulls, and straight-up vomiting on the mic. Em, reigns supreme, of course, even rendering his entire testimony inadmissible on the hook (“I was high when I wrote this / So suck my dick”) like Rust Cohle chugging down Lone Stars while recounting the Dora Lange case. Veteran move. A.U.
51. “Scary Movies” (Bad Meets Evil, “Nuttin’ To Do” Single, 1999)
The B-side (and, arguably, strongest cut) from the first meeting of Bad Meets Evil finds the two rappers sounding massive while playing slashers over a beat that’s cinematic enough to be worthy of Wes Craven. The obvious datedness of quoting the Scream catchphrase in the intro — not to mention all the Clinton/Lewinsky stuff in Em’s verse — is more than made up for by the gorgeous, Alchemist-like Shirley Bassey sample that propels the song, ironically one of the least horrorcore-indebted productions of Slim’s early years. A.U.
50. “Still Don’t Give a F–k” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
As if it wasn’t enough to call one of the best tracks on his breakthrough album “Just Don’t Give a F–k,” Eminem slapped a follow-up onto the end of The Slim Shady LP to underline his point: “Still Don’t Give a F–k.” Though it’s not quite as strong as its predecessor, the sequel makes for a fitting, middle-fingers-up victory lap to close Em’s sophomore full-length, and it does boast one of his finest homicidal rhymes — “How in the f–k am I supposed to get out of debt? / I can’t rap anymore / I just murdered the alphabet.” K.M.
49. “Bad Influence” (End of Days [Original Soundtrack], 1999)
Eminem’s favorite subject to rap about is angry parents’ disdain for his crassness, and the End of Days soundtrack cut “Bad Influence” goes for the throat. Em thumbs his nose at inflated ideas about his influence on his youngest listeners, perhaps hitting a few hairs too close to the message of “Who Knew” to be fit for inclusion on The Marshall Mathers LP proper. C.J.
48. “Crack a Bottle” (Relapse, 2009)
It seems absurd that lead Relapse single “Crack a Bottle” is one of only two officially released Dre, Em, and 50 collabs (the other being “Encore” — and we’re not counting the leak of “Syllables”). It’s a perfect display of the curious multi-regionality of the Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit bond, an important precursor to the studiously inclusive rap crews of today. C.J.
47. “If I Get Locked Up” (Funkmaster Flex and Big Kap feat. Dr. Dre and Eminem, The Tunnel, 1999)
Funkmaster Flex’s forgotten Tunnel album is home to one of the great Eminem non-album cuts. “If I Get Locked Up” is all raw Slim Shady-era battle-rap trash-talk, with cursory bars from Dr. Dre and audacious strings and horns from Redman and Def Squad associate Rockwilder. C.J.
46. “8 Mile” (Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002)
“8 Mile” ostensibly tells the same story as “Lose Yourself,” and the latter earned Eminem the Oscar, but the former deserves some accolades as well. Named for the Hollywood adaptation of Marshall Mathers’ life story, the song weaves a narrative thread that’s separate from its better-known companion. The finer, well-drawn details — like the little sister, oblivious to the domestic wasteland around her, who colors with a crayon till it wears down in her hand — are especially honed, and the scope diverges as well. In this six-minute soundtrack cut, Em’s silver-screen counterpart dreams of being onstage and finding success as a famous rapper — just as he does in “Lose Yourself” — but he doesn’t quite get there. For now, he’s just got to settle for leaving 8 Mile Road behind him. K.M.
45. “Don’t Approach Me” (Xzibit feat. Eminem, Restless, 2000)
The main takeaway from this Eminem-and-Xzibit collaboration? These guys value their privacy, so don’t approach them, and they won’t approach you. Sounds like same ol’ flexing, chest-beating, and gun-waving, you say? It might be, but the rapport between Em and X elevates this Restless knockout. K.M.
44. “Fast Lane” (Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 2011)
Eminem and Royce da 5’9″‘s cold war lasted a decade, but 2011’s Bad Meets Evil reunion single “Fast Lane” cashed out on the duo’s latent promise so effortlessly that it’s as if there was never a rift, Em and Royce sparring and and proving themselves equally matched. C.J.
43. “Encore/Curtains Down” feat. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent (Encore, 2004)
If only Eminem could resist the urge to overstuff his albums with 20 or so tracks. Strip the skits from Encore, peel off a handful of duds (consult the 150 to 200 range of this list for some contenders), and the chugging “Encore/Curtains Down” could’ve been a powerhouse closer to a lean, reigned-in record. Instead, it’s a strong, star-studded finish — Dr. Dre and 50 Cent contribute guest verses — to Em’s first major misstep. (Him promising, in 2004, that Dre’s still-unreleased Detox was coming soon makes this landing rougher than it needs to be.) K.M.
42. “As the World Turns” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
As the world turns, Slim spreads like germs, perpetrating all sorts of evil whilst dressed like a WKRP in Cincinnati DJ. Em’s own particular brand of soap opera wouldn’t play all that well with the daytime crowd, as the “small obstacles and challenges” that represent his daily tribulations include getting beaten up and having his legs eaten by his attempted-assault victims, before raping them to death with his Go-Go Gadget Dick. About a million times more nauseating than ABC’s traditional 2:00 block, but considerably more entertaining, and uh, definitely less predictable. A.U.
41. “Purple Pills” (D12, Devil’s Night, 2001)
One of the most narcoleptic jams ever created, with a hook that teeters on the verge of passing out at the end of every measure and a bridge which basically ends with Eminem falling asleep on the keyboard. Transfixing stuff, and hardly inappropriate for a single (and group) that ingests so many different kinds of narcotics that the single edit basically had to turn it into a completely different (though, really, no less disturbing) song altogether. Bubba Sparxxx never dreamed of a harmonica outro this funky, either. A.U.
40. “Drug Ballad” feat. Dina Rae (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
This piano-plinked, Dina Rae-assisted fan favorite points to inevitable dark days and many hangovers in the future — really, “Drug Ballad” is the unknowing prequel to Relapse and Recovery — but it’s glorious, high-on-its-own-fumes fun while it lasts. K.M.
39. “Soldier” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
Violence is a constant in Eminem’s music, but “Soldier” is different. Recorded after Em racked up two gun charges (one for waving a gun at a rival MC and another for pistol-whipping a man he caught kissing Kim), the Eminem Show cut revels in real-life danger with the same zeal that other songs in Em’s catalog leave for fantastical, imaginary bloodletting. The 2Pac nod in verse three is chillingly on the mark. C.J.
38. “Say What You Say” feat. Dr. Dre (The Eminem Show, 2002)
Jermaine Dupri caught hell in return when he spoke ill of Dre and Timbaland in an interview with XXL. Em and Dre struck back with The Eminem Show’s “Say What You Say,” and as per usual, Em got a little trigger-happy and licked off shots at his mother, Canibus, and The Source for sport. C.J.
37. “Bitch Please II” feat. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Nate Dogg (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
How does one craft a worthy sequel to a Snoop Dogg track that featured Nate Dogg and Xzibit? Reassemble the original cast, add Dr. Dre and Eminem to the roster, then stand back. K.M.
36. “Déjà Vu” (Relapse, 2009)
A portrait of the artist as an addict, “Déjà Vu” comes late into Relapse — it shocks the record to life in its final quarter — but the deceptively potent track is actually the album’s centerpiece. As a downward groove loops endlessly, Eminem circles the drain himself, detailing the real-life relapse that gives his sixth LP its title. He cops to his habits and appetites (Nyquil, Valium, and Vicodin are a few of his preferred substances), admits that the 2006 shooting death of Proof intensified his spiral, and admits that he suffered a near-fatal overdose in 2007. But Em never misplaces the blame. The person Marshall holds accountable for his backslide is the same one he’s trying to get away from: himself. K.M.
35. “Business” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
Eminem carries over the Batman-and-Robin dynamic from the “Without Me” video for the siren-sounding “Business,” the closest The Eminem Show gets to having a proper banger. On previous efforts, Em would’ve sullied this kind of track with a groan-worthy pun (“Cum on Everybody”) or shameless misogyny (“Drug Ballad”), but here he keeps those impulses in check (for the most part). Why this one was only released as a single in the U.K. is beyond us. K.M.
34. “The Kids” (The Marshall Mathers LP [Clean Version], 2000)
Learning his lessons from “Drug Ballad” and “My Fault,” Eminem decides to educate a classroom of children on “The Kids,” telling them the stories of Bob, a psychopath who enjoys attacking strange women and smoking marijuana and Zach, a weak-willed 21-year-old who succumbs to peer pressure and, eventually, too much ecstasy. He also warns the youngsters about the dangers of eating “fungus” (read: magic mushrooms), but doesn’t mention the tale of “Susan the ex-heroin addict” from The Slim Shady LP — probably for the best. Shame he also didn’t leave out those ultra-dated South Park imitations, but we’ll overlook it for this Marshall Mathers-era oddity. K.M.
33. “Sing for the Moment” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
“Sing for the Moment” nicks a hefty chunk of the Aerosmith classic “Dream On” and matches Steven Tyler and company’s stressed, youthful ennui, again lashing out at critics and naysayers who suggest Em’s music drives fans to anything other than comfort and escape. C.J.
32. “Dead Wrong” (The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Eminem, Born Again, 1999)
Eminem and Biggie never met in real life but that doesn’t remove “Dead Wrong” — a single from the posthumous B.I.G. album Born Again’ — from consideration as one of the best songs released by either MC. Biggie’s performance is typically flawless, but Em swipes the song out from under him in the third verse with an occult-heavy tour de force that ends in a bloodbath. C.J.
31. “Stimulate” (Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile [Special Edition], 2002)
An underrated Eminem Show-era B-side, “Stimulate” is mostly notable for its uncharacteristically psychedelic chorus — overwhelmed by a massive guitar swirl, and a backmasked Em singing in reverse underneath his own chorus — and for what must be the only reference in hip-hop history to the solo career of ex-Take That singer Robbie Williams. Its lyrics aren’t nearly as pointed as most of Em’s hits from the period, so it’s not surprising it mostly stayed under the radar, but it’s a forgotten cut well-worth unearthing. A.U.
30. “Marshall Mathers” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
Some of the references may feel dated now — that guitar-solo fade-out, the shots taken at ‘NSync, Britney Spears, and $16 CDs — but the feelings of indignation, betrayal, and please-give-me-a-reason irritability are cornerstones of the Eminem mythos. K.M.
29. “Bad Meets Evil” feat. Royce da 5’9″ (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
This is what happens when bad (Eminem) meets evil (Royce da 5’9″): a spaghetti-Western-flavored team-up that leaves no survivors and sows the seeds for a two-man side project. K.M.
28. “Remember Me?” feat. RBX and Sticky Fingaz (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“Remember Me?” is the only time another rapper gets the best of Eminem on The Marshall Mathers LP. The guest list is unusual: one-time Dre associate RBX (best known for spots on The Chronic) and Onyx’s Sticky Fingaz both show up dishing guttural shock raps, and Em, who swiped the song from inclusion on Dre’s 2001 album, can’t quite get the best of Sticky. The steepness of the competition and the cold purity of their senseless violence makes for one of the best album-tracks of Em’s career. C.J.
27. “Role Model” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
The ’90s were the decade of “I Am Not a Role Model,” which is one of the thousand or so reasons it was so terrifying to middle America when Eminem showed up at the turn of the millennium with a bloody knife in one hand and a bag full of mushrooms in the other, asking “Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me?” Marshall certainly wasn’t hurting for statement-of-intent tracks on his first few albums, but “Role Model” certainly ranks as one of his most definitive, desecrating Sonny Bono’s memory, hitting his mother over the head with a shovel, and ending it all by tying a rope around his dick and jumping out of a tree. The parents fought admirably to keep their kids on the righteous path, but to no avail — a year later, Slim had assembled an entire army, and the rest of the world was completely f–ked. A.U.
26. “Like Toy Soldiers” (Encore, 2004)
Proof’s passing was a tough time for Em’s camp, and Encore’s “Like Toy Soldiers” gives pause to reflect on Marshall’s fears about rap beef bleeding out into his personal life, musing aloud whether the destructive tack he took with his friends’ enemies is worth the compromised safety it brought them. It’s clear to him that wars just lead to more wars, and “Like Toy Soldiers” marks a turning point in a career full of legendary beef; he wouldn’t stop harassing people he didn’t like, but from then on, he picked his targets much more carefully. C.J.
25. “Guilty Conscience” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Meet Marshall, 26 years old. Fed up with life and the way things are going, he decides to adopt a pair of alter egos: one being Eminem, a rapper, and the other being Slim Shady, a troublemaking psychopath who advocates for armed robbery, drug use, date rape, and murder. He’s the bad angel to Dr. Dre’s good angel, and the perennial scapegoat for anything sick or twisted that comes out of the mouths of Marshall or Eminem. His conscience never comes into play, so don’t listen to Slim, he’s bad for you. K.M.
24. “White America“ (The Eminem Show, 2002)
By the time “White America” dropped in May of 2002, parents’ worst nightmare had been realized: Eminem was one of the most talked-about and omnipresent forces in pop culture, a fact he relished reminding them of with the aforementioned song. Despite its now-antiquated mention of TRL in the chorus, the proper opening track from The Eminem Show endures, thanks to Em’s relentless delivery, which insists it be recognized as nothing less than a major statement. K.M.
23. “Patiently Waiting” (50 Cent feat. Eminem, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 2003)
It speaks to the magnitude of the hits on 50 Cent’s major-label debut Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ that the driving, anthemic “Patiently Waiting” was never released as a single. It’s Em and 50’s finest showing as a pair, pulsing with the gleeful abandon and pop smarts that made the Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit reign of terror such a singular moment in rap history. C.J.
22. “Brain Damage” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
“Brain Damage” is a vision of Em’s awkward childhood, detailing events both real and imagined, incredulous that a “scrawny and always ornery” headcase could’ve blossomed into a rap phenom. Forgotten fact: D’angelo Bailey, the bully from verse two, tried to sue for libel in 2001 and lost the case in a verdict fittingly delivered by the judge in the form of a rap verse. C.J.
21. “Who Knew” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
In which the kids who Em asked one album earlier if they wanted to be just like him resoundingly answer “yes” — much to their parents’ consternation — and the rapper shrugs and decides to double down. In case any of his lyrical offenses had previously escaped the PMRC contingent — homophobia, wife-beating, further shots at the untimely death of Sonny Bono — Marshall makes sure to lay them out here in neat order for their ease of cataloging, challenging those with ruffled feathers to focus on actual parenting, or at least to “get a sense of humor.” Eminem’s refusal throughout his career to compromise in the face of better judgment has arguably been detrimental to his numbers and certainly detrimental to his character, but it makes him a uniquely enthralling listen, nowhere moreso than on “Who Knew.” A.U.
20. “What’s the Difference” (Dr. Dre feat. Eminem and Xzibit, 2001, 1999)
Dre speaks on the troubling decay of his friendships with DJ Yella, Eazy-E, and the D.O.C. post-N.W.A on this 2001 cut, but before things get too somber, Xzibit and Em roll in to provide some comic relief. It’s conceptually disjointed, but also immaculately rapped and blessed with Dre’s inimitable collusion of expert sample selection and tasteful orchestration. C.J.
19. “Any Man” (Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II, 1999)
Before his Aftermath deal, Eminem was rumored to be interested in work with venerable rap indies Duck Down and Rawkus. He took meetings with Duck Down’s Buckshot and Dru Ha and popped up on Rawkus Records’ label comp Soundbombing II with “Any Man,” an immaculate bit of drug-addled savagery — delivered over production from Buckshot’s longtime collaborators Da Beatminerz — that memorably cuts out in the third verse with Em saying his daughter scratched out the last line in his book of rhymes. C.J.
18. “Criminal” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
The closing track on Eminem’s career-defining effort, “Criminal” is the crowning achievement by his machete-wielding Dennis the Menace persona. Ecstatic to cause mayhem over a splasy piano beat, Em goads his critics with some of his most viciously homophobic lyrics, robs a bank and blows away a teller for the fun of it (“Thank you!”), and explains the sick joke that’s at the heart of Slim Shady: “S–t, half the s–t I say / I just make it up / To make you mad / So kiss my white, naked ass.” And how does he immediately follow that confession? “And if it’s not a rapper that I make it as / I’m-a be a f–king rapist in a Jason mask.” K.M.
17. “The Way I Am” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
After Eminem handed his third full-length in to Interscope Records in early 2000, the label felt it was missing an accessible first single, so Jimmy Iovine — one of the company’s co-founders and its then-chairman — asked Em to try and write another song like his 1999 breakout hit, “My Name Is.” What Interscope got instead was “The Way I Am,” a smoldering f–k-you aimed at record executives, journalists, and even Eminem’s own fans. Punctuated with dramatic chimes and crackling tape effects, the track features Mathers’ fiercest performance on the mic, as he answers the pressure and expectations placed upon him with teeth-gnashing intensity, wishing he’d die or get released from his record contract, and sniping at the people swirling around the outer edges of his life. No, it wasn’t exactly the sort of radio-ready jingle that Iovine had in mind, but “The Way I Am” did end up making it onto The Marshall Mathers LP and was, incredibly, released as a single — after “The Real Slim Shady,” the record’s punchline-filled lead-off, which Eminem wrote after he burned off “The Way I Am.” K.M.
16. “Rap God” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)
No real hook to speak of, a six-minute-and-four-second run time, a No. 7 peak position on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and 1,560 words total, enough to earn Eminem a world record for “Most words in a hit single.” This has been a by-the-numbers analysis of “Rap God.” K.M.
15. “The Real Slim Shady” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“My Name Is” was the song that made Eminem a star, but “The Real Slim Shady” was the song that made Eminem a phenomenon, and though it’s inseparable from its cultural moment — the spring and summer of 2000, when Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera, and Fred Durst regularly appeared on TV (and in sentences) together — the first single from MMLP still stands as a pop pillar, a mudslinging but ultimately harmless bit of goofball G-Funk that helped a man amass an army of bleach-blond devils. K.M.
14. “I’m Back” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“I murder a rhyme one word at a time / You never heard of a mind as perverted as mine…” Nestled in the middle of The Marshall Mathers LP is one of the finest vocal performances of Em’s career. The wordplay in the first verse of “I’m Back” is genius, but it’s the deft switch in the subject matter, the quick shift from demented radio terror to sad-kid Marshall and back to still-unhappy Eminem, that sets this one apart from the rest of the pack. C.J.
13. “Rock Bottom” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Listening to “Rock Bottom” now, the track’s most disarming element isn’t the ghostly sample of “Summertime” by Big Brother and the Holding Company (though that comes close); it’s how beaten-down and worn-out Eminem sounds. Before his Relapse and Recovery, before his high-profile feuds and two divorces, before “The Real Slim Shady,” Marshall Mathers was, like many people, a husband and father struggling to support his family, a self-described nervous wreck who busted his ass and broke his heart for bum checks, who felt as though his best days were already behind him and that his worst would never end, who fantasized about breaking the law and inflicting pain on others not to hold onto his throne, but to carve out even the smallest part of the kingdom. K.M.
12. “Just Don’t Give a F–k” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Written in dire straits as Em struggles to nurse a new child and a rap career seemingly nearing its demise, “Just Don’t Give a F–k” chronicles a dark descent into drug abuse. It also lays out the blueprint for the next five years of Slim Shady diss wars: verse two calls out five white rappers in two lines and puts rap mags on notice that they can get it too, as Em’s Source war would quickly bear out as truth. C.J.
11. “Lose Yourself” (Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002)
8 Mile was a quality concept that’s yet to be duplicated: a rapper at the top of his game playing himself in the story of his rise to power. It’s everything Cool As Ice wanted to be but couldn’t. The soundtrack netted the first Best Original Song Oscar to ever be awarded to a hip-hop act. That’s thanks to “Lose Yourself,” the prototypical Eminem empowerment anthem. It’s a genius melding of hip-hop attitude and rock swagger, a motivational message of empowerment pulled from adversity, the entire Eminem experience distilled into one knockout punch. C.J.
10. “Kim” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
Nearly 15 years after its release, “Kim” remains a chilling and uncompromising work. As a song, it’s a punishing listen: a horrifying, six-minute homicide fantasy starring an unhinged Eminem as the murderer and his then-wife (now ex-wife — twice over) as his victim. As a piece of storytelling, it’s an emotional and psychological bloodletting, the most focused and visceral narrative Marshall Mathers has recorded to date. A horror movie that needs no visual, “Kim” depicts the end of a marriage, follows a man’s descent into madness, and ends with no music — just the sound of a body being dragged through some reeds as far-off cars pass on the adjacent highway, right before a trunk slams shut. K.M.
9. “Renegade” (Jay Z feat. Eminem, The Blueprint, 2001)
Even if Eminem never achieved and maintained his own success, landing the only true guest feature on Jay Z’s The Blueprint would’ve earned him bragging rights for life. Hova’s 2001 LP was the moment he solidified Shawn Carter’s present-day role as the King of New York; it’s a virtually flawless full-length blockbuster, arguably the greatest hip-hop record of the 21st century, and, for a few moments, Em steals the spotlight from its star. (He also supplied Jay with the track, which was originally recorded as a collaboration between Eminem and Royce da 5’9″, who was replaced by Jay Z for this version.)
Here’s a bold, but true, statement: The Detroit rapper’s flow has never been better or more natural on record than it is on his two “Renegade” verses. Well-worn territory for Eminem — taunting parents, Shady as Satan’s Little Helper — is discussed and dispensed with breathtaking economy and ease (“See it’s as easy as cake, simple as whistling ‘Dixie’ / While I’m waving the pistol at 60 Christians against me… Motherf–kers hate to like you / What did I do?”). Post-Marshall Mathers LP and pre-Eminem Show, this is Eminem at the peak of his powers, a snapshot of a kid from the gutter making his butter from bloodsuckers. K.M.
8. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
A rotting wound given a backing track, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” features an understated but effective arrangement: a simple snare drum, muted electric guitar, mournful strings on the chorus, and a key hook that twinkles all throughout. That’s all dressing, though, for one of the most personal, pained, and uncomfortable listens in Eminem’s catalog. The second single from The Eminem Show, “Closet” opens with Em responding to his critics, recasting himself as a victim of hate and discrimination; verses two and three take an axe to the Mathers family tree, as Marshall curses and wishes death upon his father, ponders the broken pieces of his marriage, excoriates his own mother for mistreating him as a child, and claims that he was a victim of Münchausen syndrome. Eminem had covered much of this territory before, but never with such plainspoken rage and intimate detail. He’s since apologized to his mom in song for dragging their dysfunctional relationship out in the public, but that doesn’t make “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” any less devastating. And the video — which features Em digging a grave in the rain — hasn’t softened, either. K.M.
7. “If I Had” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Stressed, depressed, and broke, Marshall rattles off a list of life conditions he’s sick of dealing with before musing in the chorus about what he’d do if he ever became a millionaire in a subtle twist on the Barenaked Ladies track “If I Had $1,000,000″ from a few years prior. We all know the rest of the story: international fame, acclaim and stacks upon stacks of millions. Em doesn’t make records like “If I Had” anymore because he can’t. His fear of starving has long since vanquished. C.J.
6. “Stan” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“Stan” reveals that parents and Eminem share the same fear: that Em’s most die-hard fans would take everything the rapper says literally. Broken into four verses and spread across nearly seven minutes, the third track on the MMLP tells the story of an obsessive who clings too closely to the macabre in Marshall Mathers’ work — and eventually acts out the kind of murder-suicide fantasy that Slim Shady would write off by chuckling and saying, “I’m only playing, America.” Aided by a sample of Dido’s “Thank You” and a wash of rainstorm effects, “Stan” unfolds as an epistolary narrative that lets Marshall play the role of Responsible Artist (note the glasses he’s wearing near the end of the song’s ambitious music video — a tell-tale sign that we’re dealing with serious Eminem). In the song’s final verse, Em drops the playful psychopath act and urgers his biggest (and most unstable) fan to seek professional help and focus on the real relationships in his life — solid advice, even if it came too late. K.M.
5. “My Name Is” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Though Infinite and The Slim Shady EP preceded it, “My Name Is” was Eminem’s introduction to many of his listeners. The character was a lot to take in: a devilishly smart, bleached-blond white rapper with a penchant for violence, a natural disdain for celebrity, and a stunning history of family trauma. “My Name Is” showcased all of these facets, kookily springing a severely unusual character on an unsuspecting public with an infectious Dre beat and a calculatedly absurdist video treatment. His mom was so fried by her depiction in it that she sued her kid, then penned a rap diss and tell-all. C.J.
4. “‘Till I Collapse” (The Eminem Show, 2002)
The Eminem Show’s “‘Till I Collapse” does everything “Lose Yourself” would do months later, but “Lose Yourself” didn’t have Nate Dogg. C.J.
3. “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
Originally featured on The Slim Shady EP with a different musical arrangement and title, “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” was re-recorded and ported over to Eminem’s first major release, The Slim Shady LP. An R-rated bedtime story, the song follows Eminem immediately after the events of “Kim,” which was recorded as a prequel for The Marshall Mathers LP. In this track, Em’s got to dispose of his murdered wife’s dead body and explain to his daughter why her mom won’t be coming home with them. Of all the different facets of Eminem — Em the rapper, Slim the id, Marshall the son, Marhsall the husband — none is more fascinating than Marshall the father, who loves his baby girl more than anything and would do whatever it takes to raise her as he sees best, even if that means letting Slim Shady rob her of her mother. By design, “Kim” covers a lot of the same territory in much more graphic detail, but “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” (previously known as “Just the Two of Us”) plays with the maniac/dad-knows-best dichotomy that’s central to early Eminem. K.M.
2. “Kill You” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
The proper lead track on Eminem’s classic The Marshall Mathers LP is a daring response to criticism about his lyrical content. Accused of promoting misogyny, drug addiction, and violence in his music, Em leads off his best album by upping the ante, rifling through verses packed with jaw-dropping gore and warning anyone listening to the chorus that, “You don’t wanna f–k with Shady / Cause Shady will f–king kill you.” It’s Russian roulette. No living rapper has mustered the guts to try it since. C.J.
1. “Forgot About Dre” (Dr. Dre feat. Eminem, 2001, 1999)
Yes, a guest verse. Pause the outrage for a moment to first consider this: Eminem’s guest turn on “Forgot About Dre” is very possibly the best-known verse of his career — and even if you’d point to “The Real Slim Shady,” “My Name Is,” or “Without Me” as proof of otherwise, “Forgot About Dre” doesn’t get tripped up by dated name-dropping like those other tracks do. And, like any major hit single, “Dre” certainly feels of its time, but it’s not hampered by its turn-of-the-century release date; it’s the sort of song that people can get nostalgic about and still enjoy in-the-moment. In a pop sense, this is Eminem at his most likable — if you were anywhere near a radio in the year 2000, the phrase “hotter than a set of twin babies” is still seared into your brain. (And, if you’re Chris Pratt, you’ve retained much more than that.)
Let’s put it this way: Even people who find Eminem repugnant, offensive, and problematic can get behind “Forgot About Dre.” He’s still got his violent tendencies — he strangles a guy just for giving him an awkward eye, then burns down a house with Dr. Dre and never gets found out — but he doesn’t come off as dangerous or frightening when he’s rhyming over the symphonic drip cooked up by Dre. And looking back, this feature caught Eminem just as he was peaking, when he wasn’t completely mired in controversy or apologizing for entire albums. “Forgot About Dre” was able to bottle Eminem while he was still, relatively speaking, on the come-up, in between The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. What could be more exciting than that? K.M.