As my blog is named Poetry for Healing you could say I have an understanding of expression and the need to use poetry as a way of sharing one’s deepest thoughts. I love the written word and I particularly like song lyrics. So when I hear the usual refrain of “I can’t stand Rap” or having it referred to as “Crap”, I get a little sensitive. Rap, depending on who you ask, stands for Rhythm and Poetry or you will have some who will tell you Rapping is another word for conversing or chatting. People used to share their stories of frustration, pain and anger with a need to vent and communicate it for their sanity. A little like some of my poetry. So I am very happy it is Rap and Hip Hop week at Song Lyric Sunday today.
I have chosen a song by Eminem called “Lose Yourself” which is so brilliant it won him an Oscar for the 2002 movie 8 Mile. It was a great movie.
This song is featured in Eminem’s first movie, 8 Mile. The movie is loosely based on Eminem’s life; he grew up in a poor Detroit neighborhood and followed his dream of rap stardom. The movie got very good reviews as Eminem turned out to be a surprisingly good actor.
With “Lose Yourself,” Eminem had to figure out a way to authentically express himself under the guise of a fictional character. “Because the movie is not me, the movie is Jimmy Smith Jr. So I’m playing this character, but I have to make parallels between my life and his, in this song. I gotta figure out how to reach a medium. It would sound so corny if I was just rapping as Jimmy Smith Jr. How is that going to come from a real place?” he explained on Genius.
“If I’m telling you that my daughter doesn’t have diapers, I need this amount of money to pay my bills this month, and it’s some real s–t I’m telling you, then you know that it’s just coming from me. That was the trick I had to figure out – how to make the rhyme sound like him, and then morph into me somehow, so you see the parallels between his struggles and mine.”
On the movie set, Eminem had a trailer where he could record songs for the movie during breaks in filming. He wrote this in character as B. Rabbit, who he played in 8 Mile. Writing in character was nothing new for Eminem, as he had previously written songs as his alter ego, Slim Shady.
The track had been around for over a year before Eminem pulled it off a CD and decided to work off the beat. He had his musicians mold the beat around his vocals.
This song is highly produced and heavily layered. In addition to several vocal tracks, there are horns, woodwinds, strings, keyboards, drums, and sound effects all over the track.
When the movie studio released the first trailers, this song did not exist, so they used “Cleanin Out My Closet,” which the studio wanted to feature in the movie. Eminem thought that song was too personal for the movie, which was one reason he was so determined minsto write something that fit the character.
The 8 Mile soundtrack was part of a very successful run for Eminem. While overall album sales were declining due to high CD prices and Internet piracy, this soundtrack and Eminem’s album The Eminem Show were selling millions of copies. Rapper 50 Cent, who also appeared on the soundtrack, was the next big music success story. He also sold millions of albums after signing a deal with Eminem and Dr. Dre’s Shady/Aftermath Records and releasing Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Oh, and the movie went to #1 at the box office, eventually taking in over $240 million. For a week in November Eminem had both the #1 movie and song, a feat previously accomplished only by Prince, who did it with Purple Rain and “When Doves Cry” in 1984.
Eminem performed this at the 2003 Grammy Awards with The Roots backing him up. He won the Best Rap Album award that year for The Eminem Show. It was the only rap or R&B award presented during the telecast, as the other awards in those categories were given out before they went on the air. This didn’t go over well in the rap community, especially since the award for Best Comedy Album (won by Robin Williams) was given out during the show.
This won an Oscar for Best Song From A Movie, beating out songs by Paul Simon and U2. It was a bold choice for the academy, who usually pick fairly tame songs by Randy Newman, Sting, or Elton John. Barbra Streisand announced the award, and seemed surprised and happy that Eminem won.
Eminem did not perform at the Oscars or show up to accept his award because they wanted him to sing the “radio friendly” version and he wanted to sing the song as written and let the censors edit the language. It was the first winning song not performed on The Oscars since it has been televised. Luis Resto, who co-produced the track, accepted the award in Em’s stead.
Unlike most rap songs, this uses a guitar playing power chords.
The line, “Best believe somebody’s paying the pied piper” is a reference to traditional German story The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The piper was hired to help the village with their rat problem. When they didn’t pay, he left with the town’s children.
Mekhi Phifer, who is mentioned in the lyrics, is an actor who starred with Eminem in the movie 8 Mile.
Weird Al Yankovic did a parody of this called “Couch Potato” on his album Poodle Hat, his first album in four years. Eminem let him do the song, but wouldn’t let Weird Al make a video for it or release it as a single because he was worried about his image. Al thought this was odd considering how much Eminem makes fun of people in his videos. The parody makes fun of people who watch too much TV.
This won a Grammy for Best Rap Song of 2003.
With a 12-week run at #1 on the Hot 100, this song is the most commercially successful Oscar-winning tune.
In 2015, a Washington D.C. judge quoted from this song in passing sentence. Twenty-year-old twins Christopher and Christina Lucas were convicted by a jury of a horrific unprovoked 2013 attack on a man in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apparently because he was homosexual. Prosecutors asked for 15 years, but Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams told the pair:
“It’s like, you only get one shot. And his one shot is that he had to – you know, it’s in the movie 8 Mile… the rap has to be so good. You only get one shot.”
Williams called it “the most inspirational song.”
She sentenced them each to a year in jail under the Youth Act. Shortly after their release, they were back behind bars, Christopher Lucas for making verbal threats, and his sister for obstructing his arrest.
New Zealand’s National Party were found guilty on October 24, 2017 of ripping off this song in a TV election ad entitled “Eminem Esque.” A High Court judge in the country ordered the party to pay $600,000 (£314,000) plus interest to the rapper’s publisher. The commercial was run 186 times in the party’s 2014 election campaign and can be found here.
Em’s anecdote about barfing up his mom’s spaghetti turned into copypasta (yes, really), a type of bait-and-switch meme that begins under the guise of a personal story but leads into song lyrics or another joke ending. The “Lose Yourself” meme originated in the early 2000s in the 4chan community, where a user would start detailing an awkward experience only to drop the lyrics:
Palms are sweaty
Knees weak, arms are heavy
Vomit on my sweater already
Oodles of image-based gags followed that Photoshopped platefuls of pasta into photos of the rapper. The meme went mainstream when YouTuber Jay’s Green Stuff created a video of Em singing almost entirely about mom’s spaghetti.
Eminem made a surprise appearance at the Oscars in 2020, performing “Lose Yourself” to cap off a tribute to songs that have become associated with movies. Backed by an orchestra, he sang the original lyric and was censored repeatedly. After the performance, he tweeted: “Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity… Thanks for having me @TheAcademy. Sorry it took me 18 years to get here.”
The image of Em barfing up his mom’s spaghetti is rather unappetizing, but it launched a brand controlled by the rapper. In 2017, Eminem opened a pop-up restaurant called Mom’s Spaghetti at the Detroit music club The Shelter; the following year it was sold at festivals he played. In 2020, servings were delivered to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On September 29, 2021, Eminem showed up for the grand opening of the Mom’s Spaghetti restaurant in downtown Detroit, serving fans who had been waiting in line for hours. It’s far from gourmet: The spaghetti is cooked the day before, then reheated so it tastes like leftovers; the sauce is from scratch but made to taste like it comes from a jar. An Eminem merch shop opened upstairs.
Eminem performed this at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2022, joined by Dr. Dre, along with Anderson .Paak on drums. After his set, he took a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick’s famous protest.
In the video below Eminem’s live performance at the 2020 Oscars begins at around 3.35 minutes.