It’s interesting to talk about Eminem nowadays on a multitude of levels. While he hasn’t put out a meaningful project in almost five years, he’s still making waves in the music industry. Following 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, the Detroit rapper has found himself speaking out about our current political climate. Believe it or not, he probably spit his most polarizing verse at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards, where he called out President Trump on multiple levels. An event like this foreshadows what we may see from him on his next project, and it will be interesting to see if he follows this same political direction.
Watching him drop his usual vulgar punchlines and zany wordplay leads me to reminisce about his past work, and how he progressed into rap’s elite. Part of that journey included the critically acclaimed 8 Mile Soundtrack. All around, this was a great performance, and it even resulted in Em receiving an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself”
Although this soundtrack was a compilation of most of the artists on Shady Records (and not just Eminem), the songs represented Eminem’s lifestyle and development the most. Listening to the album just by itself is great, but watching the film, and hearing the music within the scenes, is what creates a perfect atmosphere.
This was a turning point for Em in his career in the sense that he was starting to mature into a more serious artist. Compared to his first couple of projects from the late 90s, Shady became less playful and goofy on the 2002 soundtrack. Yes, the controversy was still present, but it was like he opened even more layers, taking us through a dark journey through the horrific streets of Detroit. He generated quite a bit of fans from this experience, probably because he was giving us more and opening up.
He became a better business man as well, learning the ins and outs of the hip hop industry. By accumulating superstars like 50 Cent, Obie Trice and Nas for this record, Em was gaining respect from his counterparts, and all of them were buying into his vision.
The album kicked off smartly with Em’s biggest and best track to date, “Lose Yourself.” To this day, both of his verses give me goosebumps, and the chorus has been an anthem for sporting events for years. This was the epitome of his progression as a rapper, and he was at his most raw and genuine with impressive lyricism.
That’s basically the case with a majority of these tracks here. Eminem produces most of the songs that he’s featured in, and he brings a more dingy vibe to the bass and even the orchestration. “Love Me” and “8 Mile” gave us more insight on the come-up for Em, and the latter gives us an in-depth description of how he was feeling during his toughest times.
This record has always impressed me with the fact that it could stay so consistent with the sound it was going for, especially considering the amount of artists featured on the soundtrack. Even though it’s not considered an album technically, the refined production was a breath of fresh air and represented hip hop in the best possible way.
50 Cent was the other MVP here, as he played exactly into what makes him so great. “Places to Go” and “Wanksta” showed Eminem’s knack for having an ear for quality production. I wish Em and 50 did more songs together especially seeing their incredible chemistry on just a soundtrack.
The controversial rapper didn’t shy away from having legends before him put their work on his name. Rumored to avoid rapping about guns and violence, Rakim still brought an ego-driven anthem on “R.A.K.I.M.” and Nas subtly takes a shot at Jay-Z on “U Wanna Be Me,” (supposedly). Even here, these guys are still being themselves.
For diehard rap fans, this soundtrack has everything you can dream of in hip hop. Gangsta rap, impressive wordplay, tales of hardship and rap battling can all be featured within this record. I’m not surprised that this soundtrack has made it hard for other artists to live put too, probably because it was so legitimate. It’s impressive that with so many titans on one project, the album didn’t implode. Instead, it prospered. Sure there might have been some shots fired, but a good amount of respect was shown here, and that seems to be its lasting effect.