The genius of Eminem is that he reinvents himself yearly (or bi-yearly), rarely settling on one shtick for longer than it takes to court a new demographic. The Slim Shady LP in 1999 was an observational comedy classic with shades of Slick Rick and Posdnuos. Then came the angry, anti-authoritarian Marshall Mathers LP.
After a few albums of woebegone introspection came the slasher-flick fun of 2009’s craven Relapse. The following year’s Recovery struck a more inspirational tone, with evangelical power balladry and galvanizing choruses.
Em’s chameleon act has paid off extraordinarily handsomely: he speaks to many different people for many different reasons, cutting a broad enough swath across the music-listening world that 100+ million records sold isn’t an implausible figure. Today his influence in hip-hop is vast, from science-dropping technical wizards like Yelawolf to voices-of-a-generation like Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator.
Five years ago, Em rid himself of an addiction to prescription sedatives. For a while, he’d been making arid, serotonin-depleted music because of the pills, but his recent work is exponentially more upbeat; regardless of how well they sit with first-gen believers, triumphal Billboard smashes like “Not Afraid” and “Berzerk” suggest a new lease on life. But even those two songs are wildly, aesthetically different. Em can never get too comfortable in one lane.
With Eminem’s seventh studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, slated for release on Nov. 5, here we count down the 10 best songs since his 2008-2009 comeback.
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