One of the most controversial rappers in history, the best Eminem songs have long proven he has more than shock tactics up his sleeve.
Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV
Ranking Eminem’s best songs is a fool’s errand. He has too many stans, haters, and fans in between for any sort of consensus to form. But one thing is clear: few rappers in the history of rap music have a discography to match. From his early days attacking critics who blamed him for violence in America (see: “White America”), to his features on tracks from Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent, few MCs have had as big of a cultural impact as Eminem.
Despite his steely reserve, Eminem knows his role in rap is important. After all, songs like “Lose Yourself” have transcended any cultural boundaries to become important monuments in the history of popular music. His discography is controversial, certainly, but in that regard, Eminem dares you to question the role of artifice in storytelling and the way we look for truth when maybe all that exists is a captivating story. Below, you’ll find a list of Eminem songs that may be his best. Some may think they’re his worst, but that’s the brilliant thing about Eminem: everybody knows these hits.
Listen to Eminem’s best songs on Apple Music and Spotify.
LL Cool J And The Roots Drop NBA In-Season Tournament Anthem
‘Liquid Swords’: GZA’s Genius Still Cuts Deep
Inspired by Frank Lucas, ‘American Gangster’ Is JAY-Z’s Crime Epic
30. White America
Like so many of Eminem’s early songs, “White America,” taken from 2002’s The Eminem Show, analyzes his effect on young Americans, and, more accurately, the reaction from politicians who use him as a bogeyman for all of the issues plaguing young people. Eminem, thanks to his skill and wit, comes out on top, eventually earning a whole host of new fanks thanks to his wit and honesty.
Eminem’s “Elevator” was featured on Relapse: Refill, the deluxe edition to Relapse, which was released in 2009. The track, which was self-produced by Eminem, caused controversy because of some lyrics that caused a beef between him and pop singer Adam Lambert.
28. Lucky You feat. Joyner Lucas
Among Eminem’s hits, it’s easy to overlook a simple fact: the Detroit MC can quite simply rap his ass off. It’s emphasized on “Lucky You” from Kamikaze, which features the Massachusetts-bred lyrical assassin Joyner Lucas. Together, they put on a pyrotechnic display of bars equal parts cerebral and dextrous.
27. Bad Meets Evil – Fast Lane
Bar for bar, few in the rap game are better than Royce Da 5’9” and Eminem. They formed a superduo of sorts with Bad Meets Evil in 2011, and their first collaborative single, “Fast Lane,” shows why they’re such a dynamic pair. The group first formed in 1998, but it wasn’t until “Fast Lane” that they were recognized as a formidable pair, mostly due to Eminem’s ascent as a solo superstar.
26. Sing For The Moment
Eminem knew that sampling Aerosmith’s “Dream On” would make for an epic track. But he also used his flip, titled “Sing For The Moment,” as a chance to double down on the critics who levied unfound claims his way. In Em’s eyes, his music provided an antidote to depression and boredom found in young teens, not a call to violence.
25. River feat. Ed Sheeran
There are plenty of standout hits from Eminem’s 2017 album Revival – Beyonce is featured on the record, after all – but it’s interesting to see Eminem link up with one of pop’s biggest artists on the Ed Sheeran-assisted “River.” Em doesn’t generally opt for male singers to handle his hooks, but on “River,” Sheeran proves he has plenty of skill to handle his role.
24. 50 Cent – Patiently Waiting (feat. Eminem)
On 50 Cent’s “Patiently Waiting,” from his breakthrough album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, he teases Em about his place in the culture. In the intro, he says, “Hey Em, you know you my favorite white boy right? / I owe you for this one.” It’s a funny moment between two friends, but Eminem still uses the song to showcase his otherworldly ability as a lyricist and songwriter.
23. Yah Yah feat. Royce Da 5’9”, Black Thought, Q-Tip, Denaun
There may be more popular tracks on Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By than “Yah Yah,” but there are few tracks more fun. Em links up with his old pal Royce Da 5’9”, and gets the opportunity to go bar for bar with two of the greatest MCs in history in Black Thought and Q-Tip. Any aspiring rapper would do good listening to this track with a notebook, taking in lyrical magicians at the top of their game.
22. Not Afraid
Before Eminem released Recovery in 2010, he was planning on releasing a sequel to Relapse, titled Relapse 2. But he eventually moved away from the concept, saying, “As I kept recording and working with new producers, the idea of a sequel to Relapse started to make less and less sense to me, and I wanted to make a completely new album.” With “Not Afraid,” he signaled that change, moving away from his struggle and into a place of defiant strength.
21. Till I Collapse feat. Nate Dogg
Thanks to the size of Eminem’s discography, he has more singles than many artists have total songs. But “‘Till I Collapse” is one of his rare non-singles that became as massive of a hit as his promotional songs. The song, from 2002’s The Eminem Show, features an undeniable hook from Nate Dogg, one of the greatest hook singers in rap history.
20. Yellow Brick Road
“Yellow Brick Road” is another example of Eminem facing a crisis head-on, with the 2004 song from Encore serving as a response to a tape that leaked titled “Foolish Pride.” After a song circulated in which he was rapping that black women are dumb and will use you for your money, he dropped “Yellow Brick Road,” his public apology and explanation for the situation.
19. Like Toy Soldiers
On “Like Toy Soldiers,” Eminem tries to diffuse some of the escalating tensions he was a part of during his early days in the game. Featured on Encore, the track finds Em looking at rap beefs and eventually coming to the realization that the game is healthier for everyone involved if peace treaties are agreed to.
18. Love the Way You Lie feat. Rihanna
Sure, Em could write a hit on his own in his sleep, but with “Love the Way You Lie,” he guaranteed he’d get a chart-topper when he recruited Rihanna to sing the hook. The track is featured on Em’s 2010 album Recovery, and it shows one of pop music’s most formidable duos creating an absolutely massive jam.
17. Rock Bottom
Eminem’s career before superstardom was far from glamorous, as he has revealed many times over the course of his career. But on “Rock Bottom,” released on 1999’s The Slim Shady LP, he dives into the traumatic experiences of facing poverty and trying to raise a daughter under such conditions.
Eminem’s “Mockingbird,” taken from Encore, shows a different side of the MC. On the track, he empathizes with his daughter, trying to understand her perspective during the tumultuous relationship between Em and Kim. He raps, “I know you miss your mom, and I know you miss your dad,” finding a new way to explore the intense family dynamics he often brings to the booth.
15. Without Me
Eminem was often very vocal about the role he played as a white artist in a black industry, but on “Without Me,” from The Eminem Show, he shows the industry just how important he is to rap music. The track is a sequel to “The Real Slim Shady” and consistently refers to Eminem’s role in the music industry and his effect on rap culture, even as an outsider.
14. ’97 Bonnie & Clyde
Eminem’s violent and problematic lyrics continue on “‘97 Bonnie & Clyde,” which was released before “Kim,” but serves as a sequel, with Em and his daughter Hailie disposing of Eminem’s wife (her mother) in a lake following the aftermath of “Kim.”
13. Cleanin’ Out My Closet
Eminem’s Slim Shady persona had begun to dominate the way fans and the media thought of him when he released The Eminem Show in 2002. With “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” the MC stripped his work of any facade, making a frank, emotional song inspired by his childhood and tumultuous relationships.
Eminem spent a large part of his career battling back against adversaries who took his lyrics literally. This is spelled out explicitly on “Criminal” from The Marshall Mathers LP. Em raps, “A lot of people think that what I say on a record/ Or what I talk about on a record/ That I actually do in real life or that I believe in it/ Or if I say that I wanna kill somebody/ That I’m actually gonna do it or that I believe in it/ Well, shit, if you believe that, then I’ll kill you.” Fair enough.
11. Jay-Z – Renegade (feat. Eminem)
Jay-Z’s “Renegade” was originally a collaboration between Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ as part of the Bad Meets Evil series, but Royce was eventually replaced by Jay-Z. No offense to Royce, but it’s hard to pass up going bar for bar with Hova. The song was featured on Jay’s seminal The Blueprint, and Em’s contribution was the only guest rap verse on the entire album.
10. Rap God
Eminem has earned a lot of awards over the course of his illustrious career, but with “Rap God,” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, he entered the Guinness World Records as the hit single that contains the most words; it has 1,560 words. In that respect, he truly is a Rap God.
Click to load video
9. Dr. Dre – Forgot About Dre (feat. Eminem)
Though Eminem is only a featured guest on Dr. Dre’s “Forget About Dre,” he still manages to make his mark alongside one of hip-hop’s most legendary figures. Em gives a show-stopping verse to accompany Dre’s thesis that he and his crew are still the preeminent figures in rap.
8. My Fault
Any critics who levied attacks at Eminem for his violent rhetoric or cold heart had obviously never listened to 1999’s “My Fault,” which finds Em telling a story about a friend who took psychedelic drugs and take a bad trip, with the MC trying his best to help his female friend get through the event without succumbing to the thoughts in her head.
7. Drug Ballad
“Drug Ballad,” taken from The Marshall Mathers LP, is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a love song. Rather than devoting himself to a partner, though, Eminem spends the song expounding his love for substances of all kinds. Even when Eminem is at his lowest, he’s still one of the best rappers alive.
6. I’m Back
“I’m Back” is one of the early Eminem tracks that finds him fully indulging the caricature he embraces as Slim Shady. The song, taken from The Marshall Mathers LP, finds Em playing into every stereotype that’s lobbed his way, almost laughing in the face of the boring and simple ways people view him.
5. Guilty Conscience
“Guilty Conscience” is one of the more imaginative songs in Eminem’s catalog. It began during a conversation at the gym, when Dr. Dre said they should rap bars about complete opposite ideas. Eminem liked the idea, and the two came together to make “Guilty Conscience” in 1999, which showed the duo performing an angel and devil duality.
Eminem’s relationship with his wife, for whom the song is named, frequently appears in his songs. It’s taken to violent heights on the track, one of the standouts on The Marshall Mathers LP. The song is shocking and controversial, and one that helped make Em a household name.
3. Role Model
On “Role Model,” taken from Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP, he strikes back at figures across the country who called for him to be a role model. By his estimation, he didn’t ask for the heavy task of guiding the youth, so why should it be on him to make sure they don’t try to mimic his lyrics?
“Stan” is one of Eminem’s biggest hits, thanks to its expertly placed sample of Dido’s “Thank You,” Em’s strikingly confessional lyrics, and the legendary performance from the MC and Elton John at the 43rd GRAMMY Awards. The song tells the fictional story of Stan, an obsessive fan who grows increasingly erratic at Eminem’s lack of response to his letters. It’s one of the most powerful songs in Em’s discography, a piercing look at the artist-fan relationship.
1. Lose Yourself
“Lose Yourself” is more than Eminem’s biggest song. It’s one of the biggest songs in the history of rap music. Released in 2002 as a part of the 8 Mile soundtrack, “Lose Yourself” has permeated every part of American culture, from sporting events to high school parties to gym workout playlists. In a discography full of hits, “Lose Yourself” reigns supreme.