Here are Eminem’s 32 best songs, ranked,Check it out 😂
Whittling down the vast Eminem catalog—a trove of records deeper than Jack Handey’s thoughts—to 32, and then ranking them, should only spark debate and passionate objection. The stans will be coming for us.
But not unlike Marshall Mathers’ roller-coaster career, this listicle is more about the process—the journey—than the end result. The joy lies in the getting there.
Re-listening to 20-plus years of album cuts, smash singles and loosies reminds us how versatile and volatile, how ingenious and risky Eminem has been. Of course, we were also met with the cold splash of the flops and misses. But when you hurl so much spaghetti on your sweater, not all of it is gonna stick.
As far as parameters are concerned, we’ve eliminated cameo tracks on other artists’ albums (sorry, no “Dead Wrong” or “Patiently Waiting” or “Caterpillar”), Em’s work as D12’s band leader (but we still bump “Purple Pills” and “How Come”) and tracks from the excellent Bad Meets Evil rhymefests.
The result is a list of songs that both captured Em’s maniacal, mischievous (and, yes, sensitive) mind at the time of release and remain undeniably great today. And still it pained this author to leave a heap of personal favorites on the cutting-room floor (“Amityville,” “So Bad,” “Evil Deeds,” “Love You More,” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera).
Here are Eminem’s 32 best songs, ranked. You’ll love it. You’ll hate it. Let’s agree to disagree. —Luke Fox
32. “Love the Way You Lie”
The best of the Rihanna collaborations, “Love the Way You Lie” (which owes a hook-writing credit to Skylar Grey) expertly captures the tension that boils in the type of love-hate relationship Eminem endured with his first love, Kim. Many of us can relate. “Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano,” Eminem figures. Passion and dependency blur as RiRi’s voice burns.
31. “Like Toy Soldiers”
Sampling Martika’s “Toy Soldiers,” Eminem takes a sober evaluation of rap beefs gone wild, realizing there is a line where words morph into guns. The artist not only expertly and candidly breaks down the Ja Rule and Benzino rifts, but more importantly reflects on how the tension affected him mentally: “Even though the battle was won, I feel like we lost it/I spent so much energy on it, honestly now I’m exhausted.” As a bonus, listeners learn that Dr. Dre talked the guy willing to say anything (anything? anything!) out of ever mentioning Suge Knight. “Toy Soliders” is battle rap gone emo, and we’re better off for it.
30. “3 A.M.”
Rapping from the perspective of a serial killer with short-term memory, Eminem does horrorcore right with his second sinister single off Replase. Dr. Dre’s production stings with its strings, as influences from Silence of the Lambs and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde bubble like acid pouring on flesh. The trick here is Em carving a catchy hook through his vivid story rhymes that flop atop each other like a pile of corpses.
29. “Yellow Brick Road”
Mathers can’t help himself. It’s in his DNA. Every issue or challenge raised must be addressed in one of his write-past-the-margins rhyme books. The dissolution of D12, the death of Proof, an attack from a lesser light like Machine Gun Kelly—everything demands a response. So, when The Source unearthed a destructive old Em basement demo, “Foolish Pride,” in which our hero fires racist rhymes stemming from a busted relationship with a Black girlfriend, he responds by putting the shameful recording in context. “Yellow Brick Road” is an apology, a defense and a nostalgic trip (the details of his Proof connection and the effects of X Clan on the aspiring white MC are great) all at once.
28. “I’m Back”
Eminem is wrestling with his newfound superstardom (“Look at my life—how is it perfect?”) and trying to decipher just how much power he can really wield through a CD. Are my listeners simply puppets? Must every utterance be taken so literal? I can’t be the only one who thinks *NSync is wack, right? Tongue firmly in cheek, he tackles these queries with a breezy, cutting wit and punk sarcasm that makes him untouchable. It’s his shield against the pitchforks. And the mouth-made faux DJ cuts on the hook are great fun.
27. “Lucky You”
The third and sharpest single from Eminem’s critic-crashing surprise LP, Kamikaze, “Lucky You” wins with its Boi1da beat and wordy tete-a-tete with less-proven recruit Joyner Lucas. Lucas’ opening verse reminds us of Em’s knack as a talent scout (from 50 Cent to Slaughterhouse to Boogie). And Em’s finale hits that sweet spot between battle barbs and sneak confessionals (“Coming from humble beginnings/I’m somewhat uncomfortable winning”). Unlike so much of Em’s recent work, “Lucky You” isn’t too defensive or too precious. It’s just good rappity-rap fun. No ghostwriters allowed.
26. “Hail Mary”
At the pinnacle of the Murder Inc.–Aftermath feud, Eminem bats lead-off in this scathing takedown piece aimed squarely at Ja Rule, Irv Gotti and anyone in their general vicinity. 50 Cent and a rather salty Busta Rhymes (“Even 106 & Park fans don’t even fuckin’ respect you”) jump on the classic 2Pac instrumental and go for broke. An old-fashioned raw, impulsive mixtape blast.
An earnest entry into the Marshall Mathers category of Em’s catalog, “Mockingbird” dives deep into the heart of Dad’s relationship with Hailie Jade, touching on adopted daughter Alaina and estranged wife Kim. Highly personal—the details of a broke father trying to play Santa Claus resonate—and warmly conversational, the self-produced “Mockingbird” strikes a reflective and mature mood. It’s a far cry from Hailie’s introduction on “ ’97 Bonnie & Clyde.”
24. “Chloraseptic (Remix)”
You will like him when he’s angry. The Mr. Porter-orchestrated track from the poorly received Revival received a vicious makeover—with 100 percent more 2 Chainz and a 100 percent more ticked-off Eminem verse—in form of a feistier and superior remix. “Chloraseptic (Remix)” is Eminem spraying an Uzi at all the critics who panned Revival and its collaboration choices. His back against the wall, Em comes out flexing, dropping a nice reminder of his Donald Trump diss: “Then I took a stand, went at Tan-Face/And practically cut my motherfuckin’ fan base in half and still outsold you.” It’s a succinct and delicious precursor to Kamikaze.
23. “Rock Bottom”
Minimum wage got your adrenalin caged? This early, Bass Brothers–produced gem is the closest we get to see the true Marshall Mathers on the fantastical The Slim Shady LP. This is Eminem singing the blues the way only he can—mad enough to scream but sad enough to tear. On the surface, “Rock Bottom” is a song about poverty, but it’s also about ambitions and doubts and family. The first indication that Em can write beautifully sad songs.
22. “Love Game”
Eminem x Kendrick Lamar x Rick Rubin = creative magic. Buried at the back end of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, “Love Game” samples oldies “Game of Love” and “The Object of My Affection” and brings to life a conceptual collab between two of the best MCs of their respective generations. Taking a quirky, silly, raunchy look at romance—Em raps four bars as a woman giving a blowjob, sound effects and all, and has his third verse interrupted by a text message—“Love Game” bounces around like a gigolo. It’s the type of oddball record that would have no place on a proper Kendrick project, but Em brings the Compton youngster into his world and the results are downright loopy.
21. “White America”
As the curtain opens on The Eminem Show, we are greeted with its author’s rock-tinged sociopolitical manifesto on his own race. Mathers flexes a firm understanding of how his blue eyes initially put him at a disadvantage trying to cut his teeth in a predominantly Black culture, and of how valuable his co-signing from Dr. Dre is to his success. He’s not too cocky to realize that his White privilege has permitted him access to suburban homes that may not have been bumping, say, the latest Geto Boys record, but that doesn’t mean he’ll apologize for something he can’t control. “My skin, is it starting to work to my benefit now?” he wonders, with tongue-in-cheek astonishment. Erica loved this song.
20. “Any Man”
Still keeping one Nike in the backpack circuit, Eminem lends some mainstream star power to Rawkus’s soundboming 11 compilation, a must for any fan worth his Jansport. Rhyming purely for the sake of riddling over some bouncy Beatminerz boom-bap, “Any Man” dishes out goofy punchlines (“Original bad boy on the case/Cover your face/Came in the place blowed and sprayed Puffy with mace”) and whip-smart disses (“Your style is like dying in my sleep—I don’t feel it”) with a carefreeness that would become harder to capture in Em’s elevator-in-the-house days.
19. “Till I Collapse”
By track 18 on The Eminem Show, you’d think the author had exhausted all his venom. Then “Till I Collapse” marches in like a one-man army, with its stadium-rock claps and its balls-to-the-wall Nate Dogg chorus. Eminem reveals his top nine dead or alive—“Reggie, Jay-Z, 2Pac and Biggie/André from OutKast, Jada, Kurupt, Nas and then me”—then makes a strong case for moving up his own list, demanding respect from peers and pundits.
18. “If I Get Locked Up”
Pulling a bullet out of Tupac’s chest, beating his kids in public, and stumbling drunk, Em jams off-kilter punchlines together like verbal traffic, unleashing enough quotables in a two-verse, scene-stealing cameo on Funkfaster Flex and DJ Big Kap’s The Tunnel LP to have the rest of the cast playing catch-up. “You critics wanna criticize but couldn’t visualize individuals’ lives through a criminal’s eyes.” Yikes. Dr. Dre is happy to assume the hypeman role over a scorching Rockwilder beat.
17. “8 Mile”
Overshadowed by the monstrosity that is “Lose Yourself,” Eminem’s other solo effort from his semi-autobiographical film is excellent in its own right. As far as introspective origin stories go, it’s superhero level, as Em retraces his hardscrabble come-up over long, melodic verses. His writing in this era nails that sweet spot between focused and hunger, as filming 8 Mile provided a creative spark between takes.
16. “Rap God”
Compelled to remind the world of his lyrical dexterity, Eminem hammers on the gas pedal and stuffs more words into this tour de force The Marshall Mahttp://Www.zolexreporters.netthers LP 2 single (1,560) than any other hit song at that point in history, while morphing his flow’s cadence and patterns multiple times. (Harry Shotta would squeeze 1,771 words into 2015’s “Animal,” replacing “Rap God” in the Guinness Book of World Records.) Midway through the six-minute display, Em goes supersonic, spitting 101 words in a span of 16.45 seconds for an average of 6.14 words per second. Show-off.
15. “The Real Slim Shady”
The lead single for arguably Eminem’s greatest album serves not only as an uber-catchy jingle—take a bow, Dr. Dre and Mel-Man—but as a warning shot to copycats, (relatively) innocent pop stars who also happen to be soaring up the charts and any listener foolish to believe that Em had used up all his rewind-worthy punchlines on his big studio debut. Even Tom Green and Will Smith get caught in the crossfire. Few artists in any medium have proven as adept at Mathers in using goofiness to make a point. That’s what “The Real Slim Shady” accomplishes, with its light-but-biting lyrics, its outrageous video antics and its 2000 MTV Video Music Award performance, with a memorable invasion of all those real-live Eminem clones.
14. “Marshall Mathers”
Over sparse acoustic guitar strums arranged by the Bass Brothers, “regular guy” Marshall Mathers unleashes his most homophobic barbs, spraying vengeance at a laundry list of foes. New Kids on the Block, Insane Clown Posse, Vanilla Ice, *NSync, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, his own mother and some magazine called XXL all get double-barrel 12-gauged as their insulter walks around rapping circling around all competitors while guzzling Remy Martin till the bottle and the cartridge are both emptied.
13. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”
Flashback to ’73. Painting a world in which he was abused by his mother, Debbie, through medicinal drugs and became a victim of Munchausen syndrome, Mathers gets ultra-personal on The Eminem Show’s cathartic second single. “My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t,” he reveals. Spiteful and honest. Angry and hurtful. As great as “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is, its author would try to make on-wax amends to his estranged mother for the song’s harshness 12 years later on MMLP2’s excellent and empathetic “Headlights,” in which Em wonders if he went too far. Now, “Closet” makes Em cringe and he avoids reciting it at shows.
Explosive, jarring and revolutionary, the most controversial track from Eminem’s most controversial album is so raw and real, it’s still difficult to listen to 19 years later. Between a warbly, off-key sung chorus (“Bitch, you did me soooo wrong”), Em creates a domestic dispute gone psycho. Through the terrified shrieks of Kim, the mother of his child, Mathers—fueled by enraged jealousy—rips his heart out in a dangerous mini drama so hateful you can feel the spit hit the walls. If not the most unique, “Kim” will undoubtedly go down as the most frightening love song in the history of recorded music.
11. “Square Dance”
The head-nodding “Square Dance”—one of the more boom-bappy tracks from The Eminem Show, a classic largely acknowledged for its classic-rock influences—finds Eminem doing a do-si-do around his competition (Canibus gets pelted with a warning shot), playing with words for the sake of it (“Psychotic hypnotic product/I got the antibiotic”), and scaring us with the U.S. government’s draft power. All while throwing in two scoops of onomatopoeia. Unpredictable in its direction and thumping in its execution, “Square Dance” is one of Eminem’s best album cuts. Yee to the haw!
10. “Guilty Conscience”
A hip-hop morality play in which Slim Shady plays the devil on each character’s left shoulder and Dre plays the angel on the right, “Guilty Conscience” is an exultant conceptual joint from a The Slim Shady LPthat flexes Em’s ability to create entire worlds and explore well-worn territory from fresh angles. The concluding twist, when Em and Dre start taking shots at each other (“You gonna take advice from somebody who slapped Dee Barnes?”) became instantly legendary.
9. “Kill You”
The opening song on his best album, the diamond-selling The Marshall Mathers LP, immediately lets fans know their controversial hero is charging headfirst into the next shitstorm, with more Dre bangers and creative new ways to inflict violence (“I’ma pull you to this bullet and put it through you”). Chainsaws whir, expletives soar, mothers get raped, threats reign and O.J.’s machete gets stolen for evil. “Kill You” is unhinged and over-the-top. It’s disgusting and NSFW. It’s also electric, skillful and crams more wit into four minutes than most MCs can in a career. Don’t worry, he’s just playing.
8. “Role Model”
Popular figures as varied as Canibus, Sonny Bono, the first lady, O.J. Simpson, Garth Brooks, Foghorn Leghorn, Cage and Lauryn Hill all get dragged into the fray as Eminem buzzes through a pair of airtight verses. “Role Model” is snide, sarcastic and meant to incite. It’s battle rap for the mentally warped, but you have to be pretty smart to craft rewind-worthy raps like this: “If I say I never did drugs, that would mean I lie and get fucked more than the President does/Hillary Clinton tried to slap me and call me a pervert/I ripped her fucking tonsils out and fed her sherbet.” As far as Dr. Dre productions go, the sinister beat is sparse enough to ensure Em’s words remain the focus.
7. “Just Don’t Give a Fuck”
Sampling hero Tupac for the unveiling of his irrational, irrepressible Slim Shady persona, Eminem draws a middle finger out of each holster and goes berserk, taking down the other White rappers, careening over medians and behaving badly with Grade 8 swim team. “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” is shock-rap done proper, with punchlines for days and a creativity that hints that greater things are to come.
6. “Without Me”
Of all Eminem’s goofy early-career lead singles—“My Name Is,” “The Real Slim Shady,” “Just Lose It”—“Without Me” is a standout. Maybe it’s the horns, which burp and squelch in a jaunty way destined to move your shoulders. Maybe it’s the Batman-and-Robin parody video. Or the image of Obie Trice stomping Moby (“Nobody listens to techno!”). Or the self-conscious sarcasm: “I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley/To do Black music so selfishly/And use it to get myself wealthy.” Or the freedom that comes with settling a lawsuit with Mom.
5. “If I Had”
A standout from The Slim Shady EP that gets remastered for the LP, “If I Had…” captures the struggle of an unsigned Eminem, broke and running laps around the Detroit battle circuit. He’s trying to get airplay, starving for a break, a crab scratching to get up out the bucket. The dude is “tired of wearing the same damn Nike Air hat” and imagining (prophetically, it would turn out) what it might be like to have a million dollars. This is a trailer-park, white-trash dad believing money, a radio hit and a world tour might solve all his woes. Little does he know…
4. “My Name Is”
“Hi, kids, do you like violence?” Slim Shady happily plays the role of your friendly neighborhood psychopath, some sort of Billy Madison/Chucky hybrid on a path to disrupt and offend in his attention-snatching major-label debut single. “My Name Is” won Eminem the first of several Grammys and first bout with controversy, as the openly gay Labri Siffre bristled at producer Dr. Dre’s attempt to sample “I Got The…” for the “My Name Is” rhythm track due to Em’s homophobic punchlines.
3. “The Way I Am”
How do you follow up a playful ditty like “The Real Slim Shady,” your biggest pop hit of your career to date? With the thunderstorm-dark, silliness-free “The Way I Am,” an angsty bundle of spite and sourness and spit. Hock-pew! Unveiling a fresh and choppy cadence, Eminem unleashes his earliest and fiercest resentment of fame—“But I can’t take a shit/In a bathroom without someone standing by it”—and flips a beautiful bird to anyone trying to put him (or you) in a box.
2. “Lose Yourself”
A worthy contender for the No. 1 spot and a staple to this day at sporting events the world over, the inspired battle-rap motivational pep talk “Lose Yourself” was the first hip-hop song to ever win a Grammy for Best Original Song (2003). Urgent and intricate, “Lose Yourself” is not only a triumph for the underdog and an “Eye of the Tiger” for 1990s babies, it made Mom’s spaghetti something you can both eat and wear with pride.
Not only did it give birth to a fresh entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (“an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity”), “Stan” stands as the greatest epistolary rap song, period. Inventive on an epic level both lyrically and sonically—Dido’s “Thank You” sample, the Sharpie scratches, the raindrops—the track escalates to wonderful and dangerous heights. Critical and commercial acclaim, plus a landmark live duet with Elton John at the 2001 Grammy Awards only pile on to the song’s G.O.A.T. status of the Eminem catalog. The man himself even acknowledged he’s been scribbling in its shadow. “Bitch, I made ‘Stan,’” Eminem reminds us at the end of 2017’s “Walk on Water.”