Hey, there was a time when Eminem didn't suck balls. No, you say? He always rapped like he was in a contest to see who could fit the most stupid puns in a 16 bar verse? Not so. Even though today he raps like a 7 year old girl who's hair is being set on fire (or something like that) there was a solid 7 or 8 year period where Marshall was the coldest dude to pick up a microphone, regardless of color. In honor of Mr Shady's 39th birthday (damn, he's getting old to be rapping about poop), here's Johnny Bagel's top 5 Eminem verses from when he was still blond and wasn't unlistenable.
5) Brain Damage Third Verse (The Slim Shady LP)
A long time ago when I was a young Bagels, a hip friend of mine in my high school gave me a cassette tape with a recorded over children's album. What was recorded over it was Eminem's Slim Shady EP which featured Just Don't Give a Fuck, 97 Bonnie and Clyde and also Brain Damage. Thinking this was just some goofy white underground rapper, I didn't pay him much mind until about a month later when "My Name Is" was number one on TRL and I felt like an idiot. The third verse here is an example of an extremely underrated aspect of Em's rap repertoire, that is his storytelling abilities. Also the only known recording of someone rhyming "4 inch screws" with "orange juice". Good stuff.
4) Hellbound/radio freestyle (Game Over Compilation)
Hellbound was a Soulblade sampling song off of the Game Over compilation of the late 90s that featured Masta Ace, J Black and an Eminem freestyle grafted onto the beginning. Most of these copy and paste remixes come off at best clunky and at worst terrible but this one worked so well I thought Em was in the studio recording his ridiculous verse with the rest of the guys. Probably the best first line to an Eminem verse ever:
"I'll puke, eat it and freak you. Battle? I'm too weeded to speak to. The only key that I see to defeat you would be to remove these two Adidas and beat you and force feed you 'em both and on each feet is a cleat shoe".Vicious.
3) Lose Yourself Third Verse (8 Mile Soundtrack)
Something about Eminem's third verses. Guess he likes to finish up strong, and the last verse on this Oscar winning joint was maybe the most perfect rap verse ever. That doesn't mean it's my number one but technically it's pretty flawless. It's since become a staple at sporting events and TV commercials and your mom probably knows the chorus by heart but at first listen this was a freaking monster.
2) Bad Meets Evil All Verses (Slim Shady LP)
There's been a growing trend lately of aging rappers releasing joint albums together. The catch 22 of this phenomenon is that most of these guys were too busy and/or full of themselves to consider doing these types of group efforts when they were in their prime resulting in over the hill emcees trying to stay relevant by pooling their diminished talents. This past year has seen collaborative LP's from geriatric rappers Method Man, Ghostface and Raekwon, Smiff n Wessun and Pete Rock, Jay Z and Kanye West...wait a minute, that was good. Anyway, the point is there's a plethora of rap album team-ups that would have been any 90s rap fan's wet dream. If they were released in the 90s, that is. Maybe the most glaring example of old rappers releasing an album 10 years too late is Bad Meets Evil or Slim Shady and Royce the 5'9" who earlier this year put out an album that I've listened to maybe once in the past 6 months (besides that sappy Bruno Mars single which I've listened to unintentionally 800 times). It's a shame since these two used to make classics like this.
"I don't speak. I float in the air wrapped in a sheet. I'm not a real person, I'm a ghost trapped in a beat".Sheesh.
1) Renegade: First and Second Verse (The Blueprint)
A verse so ridiculous that the title of the song it comes from has entered blog parlance (to "renegade" someone is to murder someone on their own song in your guest spot as Nas rightfully pointed out). It's easy to miss the brilliance of Em's verse here since it's so seamlessly perfect. For fun, just keep track of his rhyme scheme in both verses (and I couldn't pick one of these verses so listen to them both). There's not one slip up. And unlike some later Eminem verses, it all makes sense. It's not just "words put together just to match" as the outshined Hov has said elsewhere. The craziest part about Eminem's performance here though: he's rewritten history. Most unbiased hip hop fans will tell you that Jay-z's verses on this song sucked, when in reality these might be the two best, most intricate verses he spit on the entire Blueprint album (an album some consider his best ever). But in comparison he sounds like a bum. Unfortunately, Em never reached these heights consistently throughout his career. But he'll always have these two verses as evidence of what an absolute beast the drug addicted Marshall Mathers could be.