Eminem's Lyric Breakdowns Are Incredible, Check the Rap (Genius) God - DJBooth

Eminem's Lyric Breakdowns Are Incredible, Check the Rap (Genius) God

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Next to Wikipedia, Pornhub, Japanesebugfights.com and of course DJBooth, there is no better site on the whole internwebs than RapGenius.com. I can't tell you how many times I've used that site to attempt to determine what what Young Thug is saying or what a "woe" is; it's a remarkable resource for obsessive rap nerds. Well, today, Rap Genius got taken to the next level. As I've said, I've been on the site a million times, but today was one of the most incredible rap internet experiences I've ever had. 

Why?

Well, because Eminem annotated some of his own stuff. Em-in-fucking-em. Normally you have to take the annotations with a grain of salt because any crazy ass Stan can log on and type some shit, but when it comes from the horse's mouth, you know it's legit. Rarely though does an artist like Em take the time to annotate their lyrics. I've always been an Em fan, but I've never loved him the way some do. After reading all of his annotations today though, my respect and admiration have grown ten fold. He really is an incredible musician, but don't take my word for it, check out the highlights below.

PRhyme "PRhyme"
Professor Em Says: 

"Premo’s sound never goes out of style. That rawness he has is incredible. The production on the PRhyme album is updated but still sounds like Premo. It reminds you of those Gang Starr records. The kicks and the snares are ridiculous."

Shit. So Em is a PRhyme fan, makes sense considering the Royce connection. It's always great to hear a huge superstar like Em still just be a fan. Plus, I love PRhyme too, so basically Eminem and I are best friends.

Eminem "Square Dance" [prod.  Eminem & Jeff Bass]
Professor Em Says:

"I like going on stage to this beat. I don’t even know if people care that much about me producing things. It’s fun for me to make a beat, but it doesn’t give me the same feeling or gratification as rapping. I’m not really tech savvy. I still use an MPC 2000. That’s probably a cardinal sin now in hip hop. Everyone’s onto other things. I just use that because I don’t have time to learn something else. I don’t have the patience."

The "same feeling or gratification as rapping" thing kind of threw me for a loop. Maybe it's because I love beats, but to me Em's production chops go under-appreciated. Some of his biggest hits, some of his best work - "Lose Yourself," "Stan," "Like Toy Soldiers," "Just Don't Give a Fuck" - are self-produced, so to hear him say he doesn't really think he's a great producer is bananas. 

"Like this weed is laced ain't it, it tastes tainted The whole place fainted, I woke up with my face painted Spaced out like Sci-Fi TV, "Fuck ICP, buy my cd!" Eminem – "Til Hell Freezes Over"
Professor Em Says:

"If you get distance, with the beef happening on records and not in a battle, then days go by, weeks. I’m an M.C in the middle of it, and I’m talking about it with my friends. Now I’m heated, and now I do wanna fight you. My friends have hyped me up to it. My boy has probably said 'Yo, when you see that person, you need to fuck them up.'  Same with their camp. So that’s why it becomes some other shit, instead of a face-off in an actual rhyme battle."

Eminem is the king of beef. He may not have participated in a Pac vs. Big battle (thank god), but he's quite possibly been in more scraps than any other emcee in history (aside from 50 Cent). That's what makes this so fascinating. Even a guy like Eminem, who is the king of rap and probably has seven thousand people in his entourage, isn't above getting gassed up by his crew. How many of these beefs are genuine and how many are really just products of squads talking shit? Also why does he spell it "M.C"? I kind of feel like correcting him - isn't it emcee - but then again wouldn't he know better than me?

While were on the subject...

"I slap Linda Ronstadt with a lobster, throw her off a balcony Just so happens she's fond of algae Eminem" – "Shady XV"
Professor Em Says:

"Let’s say I’m writing, and I lock onto Linda Ronstadt. I’m in the studio and I chuckle. Someone hears me and is like, “What the fuck are you laughing at?” It’s because I thought of something funny that rhymes with something. I’m not gonna not say this, because it’s funny, regardless of whether or not it’s fucked up. If it happens to connect and there’s some kind of humor in it, some reason for it to rhyme with something else, then I’m going to say it.

When I’m pushing boundaries, I want to make sure that I keep myself in check. I want you to know that this rhyme might be fucked up or funny or not, or whatever. I’m aware of it and I know I’m probably fucked up for saying it. I don’t think it’s any different than what comedians do."

Sort of along the line of the last annotation, what makes Em so unique is his humor. He can be gritty, hostile, and angry, but it's always splashed with humor. He really is a comedian; has an emcee ever made you laugh as much or as loud as Eminem, yet been a real emcee? It's not gimmicky either; it's authentic and "good" yet so off the wall. It's also interesting to hear him compare himself to a comedian. Comedians get away with saying some really fucked up shit because it's under the guise of comedy, but when Eminem raps it's often taken so literal. He really should be given the same leeway as comedians. 

50 Cent – "In Da Club" 
Professor Em Says:

"We couldn’t decide on the first single from Get Rich. It was going to be either “If I Can’t” or “In Da Club.” We were torn, so me, 50, Paul, Chris Lighty, and Jimmy Iovine decided to flip a coin."

Hold up. You mean to tell me 50's career was decided on a coin flip? That may sound a little dramatic, but while "If I Can't" knocks, there's no way it would have taken off like "In Da Club." That song was huge in middle school. I remember first seeing the video on BET right after watching some Digimon. Shit. To think that all happened because of a coin flip. Mind blown.

Eminem – "My Name Is" 
Professor Em Says:

"We had already filmed the video, and we saw it for the first time on MTV. It came on really late at night. I was sleeping on the couch when Paul saw it for the first time."

"That’s when it was like, “Okay, this isn’t a joke anymore.” We had kind of felt that, being in the studio with Dre and shit. But once that single came out, my life changed like that. Within a day. Just going outside. I couldn’t go outside anymore. In a day. It went from the day before, doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do, because nobody knew who the fuck I was, to holy shit, people are fucking following us. It was crazy. That’s when shit just got really — it was a lot to deal with at once."

This is both fascinating and kind of scary. The "it was a lot to deal with at once" stuck with me. When you think about all the shit he's dealt with, all the drugs, it all kind of started here. Okay, so may it didn't "start" there, but there's no question that once Em was on, shit got really out of hand fast. It's the start of the chain of events that led him literally almost dying. It's also a good reminder of how much music videos MTV, and BET used to matter. Like the 50 Cent video, I still remember the excitement when "My Name Is" came out. The rage from my parents, singing it at basketball practice, the joy I would get when I finally got to hear it in full. Shit I even remember a friend of my brother explaining what "dope" is. I didn't even know and yet I was rapping it. Fuck. I'm old.

"See I'm a poet to some, a regular modern-day Shakespeare Jesus Christ, the King of these Latter-Day Saints here / To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as / As a monger of hate, satanist, scatter-brained atheist"  – "Renegade"
Professor Em Says:

"When I’m writing, I’m in the syllable game. I’m connecting 5-6-7-8 syllable phrases where every syllable rhymes. I get heavy into that. When I start rapping something, and I think of more syllables that connect with it, sometimes I want to just keep the scheme going forever. I’ve done it before in songs, where the syllable scheme of the first verse ends up being the syllable scheme of the second verse, and the third verse — all the way down. I do it because the lines start connecting and making sense. Once I find something and lock in, it comes out pretty quick."

That "Renegade" verse is legendary. Maybe this is getting way to rap nerdy, but to hear him break it down in terms of the syllables is fascinating. It really makes you appreciate the verse even more. That bar is hard to say straight-up, so it's always been amazing that he's able to rap it. Still can't pick who had the better verse though.

If that shit interests you, you'll dig this....

"God only knows, he's grown farther from home, he's no father He goes home and barely knows his own daughter" Eminem – Lose Yourself
Professor Em says:

"Maybe people are just thinking father rhymes with daughter or something. But it’s about repeating a pattern. The trick is to get the pattern to hit on the same beat — “grown farther,” “own daughter,” the “knows” and “goes,” like that."

See. that's what I'm talking about! That extra layer of depth you can't appreciate unless you really listen...or, you know, have Eminem break it down for you.

"Lose Yourself (Original Demo Version)"
Professor Em says:

"This is going to sound stupid, but I have no recollection of the demo version on Shady XV. Paul remembers me doing that but I don’t know where I recorded it, I don’t even know when I recorded it. I did a lot of drugs, so my memory is all over the place."

Jesus. He straight up doesn't remember? He later says that, "Cause when we descend together, we begin to move as one / In perfect unison just like the moon and sun" is the only line he remembers. We fucking obsess over these songs like they are gifts from god, and yet he doesn't even remember where he recorded it, when he recorded it, or what he said. That's insane. 

"Had a dream I was king, I woke up, still king Rap game’s nipple is mine for the milking" "Lighters"
Professor Em says: 

"Because of the Martin Luther King quote — “had a dream” — someone thought “milking” was a play on M.L. King. It’s not. But I’ve thought that about other people’s lines. Sometimes me and Slaughterhouse will talk, and I’ll be like “Yo, you meant this?” And he’ll be like “No,” and I’m like, “You should tell people you meant that.” I should have told that guy that’s what I meant. That “milking” thing is pretty cool."

This kind of goes along the same line as the "Lose Yourself (Demo)." We obsess over these bars to find double meanings and build connections, it's what Rap Genius is based on, and here's one where the intent of the rhyme is not even close to the definition. Music is so subjective, not just in tastes, but how people hear the same piece of music. Even the artists don't pick up on things in their ownsongs.

Also, one of the biggest takeaways from these annotations is how insane Em's fanbase is. I know I just spent the day breaking down his every word - pot, meet kettle - but there are people on Genius begging Eminem to respond to their comments. Every annotation has a comment from a Stan. It's incredible. There's weird shit like this guy, "i want you to milk me bby," but then there's also people like this, "My life has been a living hell and sometimes I think, fuck it, I give up. But then I play your songs and always find in your lyrics the right words to express how I feel and that gives me strength keep fighting." That's powerful. 

I could go on forever. To see someone as big as Eminem take the time to hop on Genius and annotate some of his stuff is really amazing. Having him annotate some of his lyrics is like getting a mini-book from him. I'm by no means a diehard Eminem fan, I love him and appreciate him like any self-respecting hip-hop head, but this kind of thing really makes me appreciate his genius more. 

* Art by Volture.

[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]

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