You don't have to like him, but if you think this guy can't rap you are dumb. It's that fact that makes this "Prove Eminem Can Rap" feature different than our previously-feature on Big Sean. Those were about finding that one song in a haystack of mediocrity. This go-round is all about finding the one verse out of a haystack of amazing verses that's the most amazingest. Em has proven time and time again that he is a great rapper, but if you had to pick one moment, which would it be? The choices are yours and yours alone.
If you are new to the series, here's the deal. Somehow, someway, there's a person out there who loves hip-hop, but has never actually heard Eminem rap, and doubts that he's very good. Your job is to prove to that person with one song, and one song only, that Em is actually worthy of being called an emcee. Which record are you going with? No mention of the song's production, the album it's from, historical context, sales, nothing. We're talking just rapping. You have one song or guest verse to showcase Em's lyricism, flow, delivery, and that special X-factor that every great rapper must possess. It's crucial to state that this is not a "best song" debate; "My Name Is" might be your favorite, but you can't tell me that's his best rap performance. It's so hard to put just the verses in a vacuum, but that's what you have to do. Make that unknowing hater say, "Shit, I guess he can rap." Which song are you going with?
At its core, at its best, hip-hop is really just the art of storytelling (just ask Outkast). Any rapper can spit about drugs, boobs and the size of their genitalia, sure, but the real emcees must have the ability to tell one hell of a story. It's no coincidence that some of the best songs in hip-hop are ones with a cohesive and vivid story. This is why songs like "Ms. Fat Booty," "Today Was A Good Day" and "I Used To Love H.E.R" are timeless. The ability to tell a story is what separates the men from the boys, the emcees from the rappers; Eminem's "Stan" is one of those classic stories. Shady doesn't rap fast or angry here, but the story is so compelling he doesn't need to; this is arguably his strongest, most cohesive song and it had to be included. I mean, he invented the term "Stan," that's power. In an age when storytelling wasn't prominent or popular, Em created one hell of a narrative and it has been one of his most legendary efforts.
The discourse surrounding Em and the MMLP2 was that Em just "doesn't have that same magic he used to." That's a debate for a different time, but while he might not have that same spark—the "wow" factor—he is still one of the best rappers around from a technical standpoint. I don't really like "Rap God" as a song, but the sheer skill and ability he displays is undeniable. That last verse?! Nobody can rap with that speed and that much accuracy. Normally, when rappers employ a super fast flow, it can be hard to understand them; words slur and the technical aspects of the flow are sacrificed for a more passionate, fiery delivery. On "Rap God," however, Em raps at a blistering pace but doesn't lose the surgical, crystal-clear aspect of his delivery. I'll be honest: before "Rap God" I thought Em had lost a step, but when this dropped, it proved to me that he is still one of the best in the game. Nobody alive can rap like that. It's bold to declare yourself a "Rap God" but Em proved it with his last verse. And here, where it's all about rapping for the sake of rapping, this had to be included.
What better song to prove Em can rap than the song where he out-rapped three elite emcees that we already proved can rap. Again, this record isn't a "favorite" Eminem song or verse, not by a long shot, but I had to include it because he shows just how dominant he can be. Drake gives the performance of a lifetime and he is still shown up by Em. Kanye and Lil Wayne both get conclusively buried. Em's verse still gives me goosebumps and I can feel each line coursing through my veins; he makes me want to run through a wall. His lyrics are solid but it's all about the delivery; he grabs you and doesn't let go. Just when you think he's plateaued, he keeps going harder and harder. Only a verse of this magnitude could take a song from a Lebron James docu-movie and turn it into something I'd actually enjoy.
This is the quintessential Eminem verse(s). Eminem's career has been polarizing and controversial, even among those who love him, and his input on "Renegade" reflects this so well. Here he really delves into the controversy and the result is an enthralling listen. It's compelling, not just because of what he says, but how he says it.
"Now who's the king of these rude, ludicrous, lucrative lyrics / Who could inherit the title, put the youth in hysterics / Using his music to steer it, sharing his views and his merits / But there's a huge / interference: they're saying you shouldn't hear it / Maybe it's hatred I spew, maybe it's food for the spirit / Maybe it's beautiful music I made for you to just cherish"
The wordplay! The rhyme scheme! The content! And he delivers like it's nothing, alongside one of the GOATs in Jay Z. This is an Em verse for the ages. [Editor's Note: I feel like you could also substitute "Dead Wrong" for "Renegade" and you wouldn't be wrong.]
The Winner: "Stan"
Storytelling is the mark of a real emcee and "Stan" is a story for the ages. Cohesive, well-executed, and passionate. "Stan" is a complete hip-hop song and showcases Em's true colors.
IF YOU DON'T SEE A SONG HERE THAT'S YOUR PERSONAL PICK, YOU CAN ADD IT. IN FACT, PLEASE ADD IT. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO ADD IT!
This isn't a mathematically objective list of the best Eminem songs ever. I've listened to just about every Eminem song ever released, but I'm not claiming to be the world's foremost Marshall Mathers expert. This is a fun hypothetical designed to get people talking about their love for hip-hop and Em, so please remain proper and engage in a normal, rational discussion. If you feel you have to be angry about something Eminem-internet related, allow me to throw Yoh under the bus. But here, on this feature, just pick a song where you think Eminem raps really well, share it with us and try to keep the rage to a simmer. We've purposefully designed the poll so anyone can vote and add their own answer for a reason.
If you don't hear from me in the next five days call the police.