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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Eminem Songs

Your picks include ‘Stan,’ ‘Without Me’ and ‘Rap God’


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Eminem released his eighth studio album last month, debuting at Number One on the Billboard 200 albums chart with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. In addition to appearing on the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone, the rap veteran has released videos for "Berzerk" and "Rap God," and earlier this month performed as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, where Rick Rubin joined him onstage for "Berzerk." With all the attention on Em and the new album, it seemed like a good time to ask our readers to vote for their favorite Eminem songs, resulting in a selection of older songs and new. Click through to see the results.


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10. ‘Without Me’

"This looks like a job for me," Em boasts on The Eminem Show's rousing lead-off track. "We need a little controversy." And back in 2002, nobody did controversy better than Eminem. This sax-driven beat-monster is essentially a parade of fuck you's: Throughout, Mathers runs through a check-list of musical enemies (Limp Bizkit, Moby, even poor Chris Kirkpatrick of 'NSync) with some of his sharpest wisecracks to date.

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9. ‘Drug Ballad’

"You have the right to remain violent and start wildin'," Em rhymes on this funky non-ballad from The Marshall Mathers LP. The track's moaning bass and soulful back-up vocals offer some levity from the album's suffocating darkness, but the lyrics are deceptively introspective: Mathers nakedly chronicles his drug addiction – from his childhood ("In third grade, all I used to do / Was sniff glue through a tube and play rubix cube") to his much scarier adulthood as a rap superstar ("Let the X destroy your spinal chord / So it's not a straight line no more").

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8. ‘Mockingbird’

This Grammy-nominated rap-ballad is a far cry from, say, "My Name Is." The emotional high point of Eminem's fifth album, Encore, "Mockingbird" is a love-letter written to Mathers' daughter, Hailie. "I know you miss your mom, and I know you miss your dad," Em rhymes over moody piano chords, "When I'm gone, but I'm tryin' to give you the life that I never had."

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7, ‘Rap God’

The third single from Em's latest album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, "Rap God" is (as the LP title suggests) a return to the schizophrenic insanity of his early work. But instead of focusing on a specific target or deep personal issue, Mathers simply makes general boasts about his longevity in the rap game, referencing his heroes (Tupac, Rakim, Dr. Dre) between random shout-outs to planking and The Walking Dead. The very loose theme is thus: Eminem is very, very good at rapping – and he demonstrates that prowess in a 15-second avalanche of syllables that makes Busta Rhymes look like a Bush League chump.

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6. ‘Kill You’

On his first few albums, Eminem walked a tight-rope between fiction and reality, terrifying conservative America with his graphic murder fantasies. But he took that approach to a further extreme on "Kill You," the electrifying opener from The Marshall Mathers LP. Within, Mathers purposefully blurs the line between sadism and satire, spewing out one-liners about sodomy, raping his own mother and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style beheading. The menace is almost overwhelming, but it's balanced out by Em's virtuoso flow and Dr. Dre's old-school G-funk production.

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5. ‘Sing for the Moment’

A highlight from Eminem's fourth LP, The Eminem Show, "Sing for the Moment" is one of the rapper's finest lyrical achievements. Within, he defends himself against crucifying critics, pissed-off journalists and outraged parents who think his rhymes promote violence to American youth. "They say music can alter moods and talk to you / Well, can it load a gun up for you and cock it too?" he raps. "Well, if it can, the next time you assault a dude / Just tell the judge it was my fault, and I'll get sued." But "Moment" isn't a pity-party – by the end, Em shifts focus to his young fans and the redemptive power of hip-hop. Empowering stuff, and the classic rock riffs (sampled from Aerosmith's "Dream On") only add to the visceral thrill.

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4. ‘Criminal’

On his breakout album, 1999's The Slim Shady LP, Eminem gained notoriety for both his pure rapping ability and his extremely morbid sense of humor. Of course, he was also labeled a pervert, a homophobe and a loose canon with a murder fantasy. With "Criminal," the closer on The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem responds in reliably demented fashion, flipping a massive bird in the face of his critics. "My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That will stab you in the head, whether you're a fag or lez'," he rhymes at the outset. It only gets gnarlier from there, as Em tackles his birth ("My mother did drugs, tar, liquor, cigarettes and speed / The baby came out, disfigured ligaments indeed"), pokes fun at Versace, impersonates a redneck preacher and shoots his mentor, Dr. Dre, in the head.

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3. ‘The Way I Am’

"I'm not Mr. 'NSync; I'm not what you're friends think," Mathers raps on "The Way I Am," the second single from The Marshall Mathers LP. While it's unlikely anybody was confusing Eminem for Justin Timberlake in the early 2000s, this propulsive track still serves to distance the rapper from his successes, framing him as an outsider in both his personal life and career. Within, Em rails against his record label, his family and commercial radio (who "won't even play my jam"), delivering each line in a razor-sharp, syncopated cadence against a backdrop of minimal percussion and piano. 

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2. ‘Stan’

Eminem's third album, 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP, is overwhelmingly dark, focusing on Marshall's problems with drug abuse, his newfound celebrity status and his troubled (to say the least) relationship with his ex-wife, Kim. The album's bleakest moment, however, is its acclaimed third single, "Stan." Lyrically, the track is framed as a series of fan letters – each growing increasingly angry, culminating with the narrator driving his car (his pregnant girlfriend bound in the trunk) into a lake. Meanwhile, the building tension is constantly counterbalanced by Dido's gentle, rainy-day hook ("It reminds me that it's not so bad"). "Stan" is much more than just a violent fever dream – it's a poignant commentary on the destructive power of fame. 

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1. ‘Lose Yourself’

This 2002 staple was written during filming for the 8 Mile film, and throughout, it channels the intensity of Em's character, "B-Rabbit," preparing for a rap battle. "His palms are sweaty / knees weak, arms are heavy," Mathers rhymes, narrating his own movements to the stage, "There's vomit on his sweater already / mom's spaghetti." In terms of pure lyricism, "Lose Yourself" is one of the rapper's finest achievements, and the rapped-sung hook is far and away the best in his discography. But let's not forget the work of producer/co-writer Jeff Bass, who contributed one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs of all-time.