Let the horns blow: Eminem has annotated selections from his entire catalog for Genius. Below are a few highlights — to see all the annotations, go to Eminem's profile page.
Eminem recalled his first studio session with Dr. Dre and the creation of "My Name Is," a song that was recorded in one take and launched him into superstardom:
Dre put on the Labi Siffre record, and I was just like “Hi! My name is!” That beat was talking to me. I was like, “Yo, this is it, this is my shot. If I don’t impress this guy, I’m going back home and I’m fucked.” I knew Dre wasn’t an easy person to please. I made sure that everything he had a beat for, I had a rhyme ready to go, or I came up with a rhyme on the spot
“My Name Is” was the first thing that came out of my mouth that first day I was at Dre’s house. I don’t know if we released what I did the first day or if I re-did it, but it was basically the same. I didn’t understand punching, or believe in it. So I would just go from the top of the song all the way down. I was never flying in hooks. Everything was live, one take. If I got all the way to the fucking end, and messed up the last word, I’d be like “Run it back, let’s do it again.” I remember Dre was like “Yo, are you fucking crazy? Let’s just punch.” I didn’t like that concept because I wasn’t used to it. When we were recording here in Detroit, in the beginning, I was saving up my money to go in. We only had an hour, you know? I’m like “One take down, alright, let’s go to the next song. Fuck it.” That’s what I was used to.
Marshall explained where the name "Slim Shady" came from in an annotation on the song "Just Don't Give A Fuck":
Coming out with an alias was part of Proof’s whole idea. He said, “Let’s be in a group called D12, and there will be six of us, and we’ll each have an alias. We’ll each be two different people.” When I started rapping as Shady, as that character, it was a way for me to vent all my frustrations and just blame it on him. If anybody got mad about it, it was him that said it, you know what I’m saying? It was a way for me to be myself and say what I felt. I never wanted to go back to just rapping regular again.
In another annotation on the same song, Eminem explained that he started writing songs like "Just Don't Give A Fuck" because "people were saying that I sounded like AZ and Nas."
Em broke down a few lyrics from "Lose Yourself," clarifying whose sweater the vomit was on in the first verse:
The first verse is all about Jimmy Smith Jr. It’s me talking about Jimmy Smith Jr. — like, I’m not saying my sweater, I’m saying his. I’m trying to show you what his life is about.
On the original demo version of "Lose Yourself":
This is going to sound stupid, but I have no recollection of the demo version on “Shady XV.” I don’t know where I recorded it, I don’t even know when I recorded it. I did a lot of drugs, so my memory is all over the place.
On how the lyrics of Dido's "Thank You" helped inspire "Stan":
When I heard “your picture on my wall,” I was like “Yo, this could be about somebody who takes me too seriously.” So I knew what I was going to write about before I wrote it. A lot of times when I’m writing songs, I see visions for everything I’m writing. This was one of those.
On the decision to make "In Da Club" the first single off 50 Cent's Interscope debut:
We couldn’t decide on the first single from Get Rich. It was going to be either "If I Can’t" or “In Da Club.” We were torn, so me, 50, Paul, Chris Lighty, and Jimmy Iovine decided to flip a coin.
On Jay Z's "Renegade," Em explained his thought process when writing:
When I’m writing, I’m in the syllable game. I’m connecting 5-6-7-8 syllable phrases where every syllable rhymes. I get heavy into that. When I start rapping something, and I think of more syllables that connect with it, sometimes I want to just keep the scheme going forever
I’ve done it before in songs, where the syllable scheme of the first verse ends up being the syllable scheme of the second verse, and the third verse — all the way down. I do it because the lines start connecting and making sense. Once I find something and lock in, it comes out pretty quick.
Marshall also annotated a fan favorite, "Sing For The Moment," explaining why he kept going despite the criticism he received early in his career:
This is where I was dealing with critics who didn’t understand why people were identifying with me. I realized I was becoming like the rappers that I looked up to as a kid. I identified with and loved LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys. I felt like if everybody didn’t understand their music, it didn’t matter — they were speaking to me. So that’s what I was trying to make people realize on this track. I may not be shit to you, but there’s a kid in fucking Nebraska, or somewhere, that I’m talking to. I don’t care if you’re listening, because he’s listening. That’s who I’m directing my material at.
On "Rap God," Marshall said the only thing he would do, other than rhyme, is play for the Detroit Lions:
The hook was the first phrase I thought of when I heard the track. I thought “Okay, this has something to it and might be catchy but — I’m a “rap god”? Why? If I’m going to say that, I need to validate that.”
I don’t want to say it’s the crutch, exactly, but the theme of the whole song is: this is the only thing I know how to do. I don’t know how to do anything else, aside from play a little bit of basketball. Except if the Lions called me. I’m down to be receiver or something, or a running back. I’d be good for that.
(You can read two more annotations from Eminem on "Rap God" here.)
Eminem also annotated a vintage Biggie/2Pac Freestyle from 1999, commenting on past and present MCs:
There’s people who rap to make songs, just because they enjoy doing it and want to express themselves. And then there are people who rap competitively. I believe that anybody who competitively raps — like Drake and Kendrick and Jay Z — raps to be the best rapper. People diss each other, but it’s more in the vein of “How can I kill you with record sales? Or with a flow? How can I be better than you at making records, at punchlines, metaphors, wordplay, syllables?”
But when you have two rappers like Biggie and 2Pac getting into it, you get the hip hop community torn. No one wants to see something real happen. If for a second you entertain the idea of that being entertaining, if something ever happened out of that? No. That’s not healthy.
Click here to view all of Eminem's annotations on his profile page.