Love him or hate him, its virtually impossible in the world of modern day popular music not to know who Marshall “Eminem” Mathers is and what he’s accomplished. With nearly 20 years in the game, 49+ milllion albums sold in the U.S, and 100+ million albums sold worldwide, he is one of the biggest selling artists in the world and the biggest selling artist of the 2000’s. As a fan and artist myself, his music directly inspired much of how I write and record. Here is my comprehensive ranking of Eminem’s albums worst to best, with the exception of Curtain Call.
Every Eminem fan will probably agree ‘Encore’ was by far one of his least impressive works to date. I personally enjoy the album with introspective and unique records such as “Evil Deeds,” “Yellow Brick Road,” and “Toy Soldiers.” And the additional three tracks on the bonus discs were classic Eminem using his lyrical unique dexterity to entice a point politically, professionally, and romantically. Even so, much of the album’s songs seem so playfully pieced its as if Em lost a bit of his hunger amidst the comfort of his fame and hierarchal status as an artist. Though the production is on point, it was Em’s continuous use of his comical character voice that alienated his die-hard fan base from giving “Encore” the same praise as his previous three. Encore’s numbers did well, selling 1.5+ million copies in its first two weeks and is certified quadruple platinum; and made digital history selling 10,000 copies in one week.
After a 5 year hiatus, a rehabilitated Eminem returned to the rap world with Relapse and its 7 bonus track addition, Refill. Though the subject matter had improved and production remained consistent with Dr. Dre behind the boards, fans were still left with a semi-serious Eminem using a more diverse array of character accents. Though not empty of any less shock value with the sexually perverse “Insane” and fantastic homicidal “3 a.m” I believe fans expected more after 5 years away from the rap game. After listening closely you’ll noticed a more evolved rhyme within a rhyme style as every bar transitions in much of his verses. Alot of fans will argue Relapse being their least favorite, but I have to disagree due to my appreciation of “Deja Vu,” “Beautiful,” “Underground,” “Careful what you Wish For,” and “My Darling.” I also enjoyed every song on the Refill disc, placing the dual disc collective above Encore.
Once again, a completely re-focused and more evolved Eminem released Recovery testing the waters musically with a more diverse group of producers and collaborations. Here we see a completely new side of Marshall with every record deeply apologetic and remorseful to his long-time fans for his absence as one of the greatest rappers ever. Talkin’ 2 Myself is my favorite track with a poignant and determined Em showing giving fans a sincere return. “Won’t back down” featured Pink and was a semi-rock/rap crossover with guitar sampled production by DJ Khalil. “Love the Way you Lie” added Pop songtress Rihanna and placed as the perfect commercial single to embrace a newer and younger fan-base. With a feature from Lil Wayne and a completely solid track-listing Recovery was exactly what Eminem needed to rejoin the greats as a relevant artist in today’s music world.
This album started it all, introducing Eminem to the mainstream rap world and changing music as we know it forever. Though we hear a still evolving vocal approach, Eminem’s controversial subject matter and in-your-face lyrics were something fresh and impressive to both rap music and popular culture. Add to the fact no caucasian rapper had broken ground like Eminem at this point and Dr. Dre as Executive Producer, this was a milestone of a project. Though “My Name is” and “Guilty Conscience” were the lead singles, my all time favorites of this album will always be “Brain Damage,” “Rock Bottom,” and “Just don’t Give a Fuck.” Songs like “If I had” and “97 Bonnie and Clyde” were also unique personal testimony inside of the most unique minds in music.
I may receive some controversial upheaval from Eminem fans but I have to give credit where credit is due because of one single record from Eminem’s debut album. Track 2, fittingly entitled “infinite” is one of my all-time favorite hip-hop ballads to date. From the production to the lyrical construction and content, this track alone will forever remain in a league of its own. The album consisted of merely 10 tracks and displayed an early and less lyrically aggressive Eminem. The production was handled by Mr. Porter and Proof and received much criticism because of an all too familiar rap style by Mr. Mathers. But from top to bottom, the Infinite album represented a conventional form of hip-hop only a 90’s rap music fan can love and appreciate.
Eminem was at the peak of his career at this point achieving success on a global scale commercially and creating more controversy than almost any other artist to date. Here we see a lyrically focused Marshall, taking aims at society with “White America” and his personal grievances in “Cleaning out my Closet.” The albums lead single “Without Me” once again attacked popular culture, giving Eminem his signature of what’s expected in his material. “Sing for the Moment” was a generational representation of his understanding of the connection between the music and the fans sampling Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Every M.C. including myself will say “Til I Collapse” is one of the most lyrically compelling tracks ever recorded. The Eminem Show was Marshall’s second Diamond Certified album.
Deemed one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time by Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, and XXL there is no question which of Eminem’s albums was his best. “Stan” will be one of hip-hop music’s and popular culture’s most cherished works of art. “The Real Slim Shady” will be a classic single that every Eminem fan will never forget. “Bitch Please” solidified Eminem’s placement amongst his more elite peers in Snoop Dogg and Xzibit. “Under the Influence” has its definite placement amidst a generation of teens’ all time house party favorites. And “The Way I Am” pretty much speaks for itself. This album not only defined a generation, it was a statement by one disgruntled and determined caucasian M.C that hip-hop had a new sheriff in town.