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The 15 greatest rap songs of all time: Number 8.

May 11, 2020

The 15 greatest rap songs of all time: Number 8.
  1. Eminem – “The Way I Am” (2000)


Before turning into the definition of a cornball in the 2010s, Eminem was one of the most controversial musicians in the hip hop genre as a white kid from Detroit not afraid to challenge or diss any adversary. Most of this behavior was construed as a joke and was meant to be tongue in cheek.

However, “The Way I Am,” the second single off diamond-certified The Marshall Mathers LP, can in no way be considered a joke.

Eminem spits a technically masterful verse with a flow and rhyme scheme that even the most proficient MC’s couldn’t attempt to replicate. It pulses with hate and vitriol that is usually considered a joking jab at detractors, but feels like he is trying to knock them out with every line he delivers on this song. 

“The Way I Am” is very much a proverbial boxing match between Eminem and those who criticize the shock value of his earlier work. Whenever the media tries to make him the center of controversy or blame him with the rebelliousness of teenagers at the turn of the millenium, they’re throwing punches of their own. Eminem is never one to back down from a fight and puts forth three verses ripe with even more controversial content, adding to the reason why MMLP stands as one of the most contentious albums in history.

The second verse is one of the most brutal in the history of the genre when he comes to the realization that “All of this controversy circles me/And it seems like the media immediately points the finger at me,” then proceeds to flip them off and fight the claim that musicians such as he and the equally debated Marilyn Manson contributed to the mental state of the school shooters at Columbine High School, essentially pinning the two of them, along with others of the same nature, as scapegoats in the tragedy instead of delving into more complex issues such as mental health or other environmental factors.

Immediately after this, Eminem pokes the bear once again by pointing out that Columbine was the first time that the media paid attention to mass shootings or gun violence at large while gun violence in urban areas had been prevalent for a long time.

That is quite a lot to take in on one verse.

It’s certainly a take with some caliber of nuance, whether you agree or disagree with Em’s sentiment, and he has a lot of other somewhat thought out takes on life as a celebrity, selling out and making radio-friendly pop music and the burden of pressure after making an album as revered as his debut, The Slim Shady LP. It is all delivered bluntly and honestly, which is on-brand with everything Slim Shady had done up to that point.

The instrumental is just as tense and tightly-wound as the verses themselves, with minor piano arpeggios repeating and an unflinching drum loop that sounds ready to snap at any second just like the rapper who is on top of the beat. As high-strung as the performance and the beat are, they both carry a certain defiance and triumphantness with the chimes on the chorus and Eminem chalks everything up because that is “the way I am.”

Yes, Eminem is indignant as all get out on “The Way I Am” and the lyrics are, to put it euphemistically, a tad provoking, but it sits as a timely track that covers some of the issues that still plague America today such as mental health, unhealthy fanaticism and school shootings with the same vigor and attitude that made Eminem one of the most polarizing entertainment figures of his generation.

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