Matt on Music: Eminem

‘Encore’ shows Eminem at his most humble.

Eminem, Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady—whatever you want to call him, the man is a genius and one of the most important artists in the history of American popular music (at least before his lame last couple albums). Here is a list of his 15 best songs:

1. “Stan” (feat. Dido)
A perfect song. The production, the attention to detail, the sample, the rhyming and the psychology are all brilliant, coming together to form a complete masterpiece. “Stan” is the kind of song that when it comes on, you can hardly move. I first heard the song over 10 years ago, and I’ve heard it too many times to count, but it still causes me to go silent every time it comes on. Disturbing, complex (and sadly) realistic.

2. “The Real Slim Shady”
If “Stan” is Eminem’s dramatic masterpiece, then “The Real Slim Shady” is easily the rapper’s comedic masterpiece. It’s also his most quotable song with classic lines like “Feminist women love Eminem,” “If we can hump dead animals and antelopes/Then there’s no reason a man and another man can’t elope” and “Be proud to be out of your mind and out of control.”

3. “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” (feat. Hailie Jade)
If Eminem should be appreciated for one thing (at least related to his personal life), it should be his absolute dedication to his daughter Hailie. “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” is a perfect example of that. He must have figured if he was gonna put Hailie in a song, he would make it one of his greatest.

4. “Lose Yourself”
“Lose Yourself” is Eminem’s most universal song. It’s the Eminem song that even your grandma loves.

5. “Guilty Conscience” (feat. Dr. Dre)
If “My Name Is” introduced Eminem as the most dangerous artist in the world, “Guilty Conscience” cemented him into that status. It’s a terrifying song with the message that not only is there evil in all of us, but even our good sides can be convinced by the devil on our shoulder.

6. “My Name Is”
It’s hard to imagine a better introduction to either Eminem or Slim Shady.

7. “Yellow Brick Road”
The best track on his underrated album, “Encore,” is “Yellow Brick Road,” which shows Mathers in a rare instance of actually owning up to a mistake he made in his past (specifically, a racist mix he made in high school). It may not be much, but just hearing him say, “I apologize/I was wrong” makes him so much more relatable (even if he doesn’t have it in him to say something humble without following it with a misogynistic statement).

8. “Kill You”
The hardest Eminem song to defend, the classic “Kill You” places his misogyny up front and center. Still, it’s hard to imagine a better song to open “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

9. “Mosh”
Eminem’s attacks on George W. Bush range from amazing to complete failure. “Mosh” is his greatest success.

10. “Kim”
In the prequel to the humorously disturbing “’97 Bonnie and Clyde,” “Kim” avoids humorousness like the plague, and Eminem raps about killing his ex-wife in the scariest way possible.

11. “Cleaning Out My Closet”
The first Eminem song I really loved (all the way back in third grade) was, “Cleaning Out My Closet.” It was obviously a big deal, even if I wasn’t old enough to understand its lyrical implications. With all the parent bashing in the song, its best moment comes when he vows never to be like his own father. “I look at Hailie, and I couldn’t picture leavin’ her side/Even if I hated Kim, I’d grit my teeth and I’d try.” You can accuse him of being a misogynist, but few men love any girl as much as Mathers loves his daughter.

12. “Like Toy Soldiers”
Similar to “Yellow Brick Road,” “Like Toy Soldiers” shows Eminem at his most humble, acknowledging the uselessness of hip-hop feuds. Always be wary of people who say “Encore” is Eminem’s worst album.

13. “Square Dance”
One of the greatest anti-war songs of all time, and like most incredible protest songs, it sounds nothing like you’d expect a protest song to sound like.

14. “My Fault”
A potentially ridiculous song, “My Fault” is saved due to its brilliant execution.

15. “Criminal”
The final track on “The Marshall Mathers LP” is the also the perfect final track for this list, because it features a line that completely sums up Eminem as an artist: “Half the shit I say, I just make it up/To make you mad, so kiss my white naked ass.”

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