5 of Eminem’s Smartest, Most Poetic Lyrics
Imagining Eminem as a poet through his best discography
Aside from being one of the best-selling artists of the 2000s, Eminem is also an influential, if not controversial rap icon. His lyrics are heavy with violent imagery and foul-mouthed content uttered in impeccable flow. His songs have helped shape a generation and his status in pop culture is polarizing to say the least. But nonetheless, his songs are clever, even poetic.
He may not be as active in hip hop as he was, ten, fifteen years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s been forgotten. Ask any hip hop fan and majority will say that he is one of the top five rappers of all time. We take a look at his career through a list of five of his smartest lines.
5. Stay Wide Awake (Relapse)
But they can’t see what I can see, there’s a vacancy in my tummy
It’s making me play hide-and-seek, like Jason, I’m so hungry
She’s naked, see, no privacy, but I can see she wants me
So patient, see, I try to be, but gee, why does she taunt me?
Pulls the drapes and she goes right to sleep and I creep right through the front see?
So blatantly, but silently, ‘cause I know that she’s sound sleep
"Who’s waking me so violently, and why’s he on top of me?"
"He’s raping me," she tries to scream, “Somebody please get him off me”
"He’s taping me, he’s biting me, he’s laughing like it’s funny"
She’s scraping me, she’s fighting me, she’s scratching like some dumb freak
Escaping me, no dice, you see
I might just be Ted Bundy
Or Satan, gee what a sight to see
I’m dancing in my red panties
I’m crazy but it’s alright with me
Man life can be so empty
Stay away from me cause I’m dancing
To quite a different drumbeat
Smooth execution of a rhyme scheme that lasted way more than one could think. The last 18 lines of his second verse can be jumbled in any order and can still rhyme with each other. It’s a lyrical feat to maintain that rhyming scheme line after line after line, and still paint a vivid picture (a gruesome one at that, thanks to the Friday the 13th and serial killer references) and deliver it without a sweat.
4. Remember Me/Marshall Mathers (Marshall Mathers LP)
In Remember Me, Eminem raps the lines:
I’m try’na clean up my fuckin’ image
So I promised the fuckin’ critics
I wouldn’t say “fuckin’” for six minutes
Fulfilling his promise from that line, he continues on without using “fuckin’” for the entire six minutes, only using the word two tracks later in “Marshall Mathers.” This little quirk is indicative of Eminem’s precise attention to detail, as well as his hip-hop know-how; the line references an old school, classic hip-hop track, which also mentions the use of six minutes: The Show, by Doug E. Fresh featuring Slick Rick.
3. No Love featuring Lil Wayne (Recovery)
‘Til I’m topplin’ from the top, I’m not going to stop
I’m standin’ on my Monopoly board
That means I’m on top of my game
And it don’t stop ‘til my hip don’t hop anymore
Wordplay and clever punch lines are a mainstay in Eminem’s lyrics. In these lines, the choice of certain words builds up momentum to give deeper meaning. Not only does he say that he is in control of the rap game—a monopoly—he also says that he won’t stop rapping until he gets old. Eminem has an efficient, economic use of language that is smooth as butter.
2. Lose Yourself (8 Mile Soundtrack)
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti
These are one of, if not the most, famous lines Eminem has ever delivered. When other rappers resort to swagger, Eminem lets his lyrics speak for themselves. Aside from being a good technical rapper with his rhyme and rhythm, Eminem is also a good story teller. Those two lines are already packed with a clear image that lets us know that the character is about to do something huge most likely for the first time hence his nervousness; that the character is probably close to his mom or still lives with her—why? Also, those two lines make us want to know more: Will the character quit or push through and fight his nerves? Having them begin Lose Yourself is ingenious.
1. Stan (The Marshall Mathers LP)
See everything you say is real
And I respect you ‘cause you tell it
Stan is probably one of his best songs to date. While the rest of his songs are popular due to shock value or technical prowess, Eminem’s creativity and poetic mastery shows itself in this song. The lines quoted above come from Eminem as Stan—a fan addressing his idol, Slim Shady, Eminem’s alternate persona. In the layers of impersonation and authenticity, the lines reveal two stories in a poignant stroke of self-awareness. Eminem’s use of an unreliable narrator through Stan heightens the dramatic situation greatly, not to mention discuss his rabid fan base in one swoop. If anything, it’s clever as hell.