Eminem is recognized as one of the greatest rappers of all time, but does he write his own songs?
Eminem is a rapper and songwriter who began to write lyrics as a teenager from an unstable home. He’s known to write most of his lyrics on paper and has received widespread critical acclaim from the media and other artists, dubbed a ‘modern-day Shakespeare’.
Read on to learn more about Eminem’s writing process, some of his major themes, and his legacy.
Eminem is widely regarded as one of the greatest musical storytellers. According to Stephen Hill from Black Entertainment Television, “Eminem is better than the best. In his own way, he is the best lyricist, alliterator and enunciator out there in hip-hop music”.
Born in Kansas City in 1972, but settling in Detroit at the age of 12, rapping was a way to be heard for a youngster who moved schools frequently. He eventually dropped out at 17 with a constant desire to make music.
He found salvation in his music and in looking for different ways to tell stories. He recalled to Rolling Stone writing his first ever verse: “I was at my great-aunt Edna’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri. I was 12, maybe 13 at the most, and I wrote a rhyme that sounded exactly like LL Cool J”.
Though he struggled with most school subjects, English came pretty easily and he was able to pick up and retain new words, which is apparent in his writing. Experimenting with his writing as a kid, Eminem wanted to make his verses rhyme, and would practise religiously.
It’s this that makes Eminem’s verses so distinctive now, and he constantly writes down rhymes to use in his raps. He connects the same sounds several times in an impressive display of skill.
He’s always used paper to get down his ideas, though he’s aware that technology is generally more popular.
In an interview with ePro, Eminem gave some insight into the writing process: “Something about a pen and paper is better cause I can look at all my ideas and I can see them at once”. He added, “I keep a book and write my ideas down in that”.
He’s massively invested in his work and claims that, “I write and write ‘til my brain hurts, I write every day”. He’s also made it clear that he thinks poorly of rappers who don’t write their own lyrics.
According to analysis from the Pop Song Professor, Eminem’s most popular raps have an average of 645 words and 9.8 words per line, with a high number of average syllables per word compared to other artists.
Listen to the rapper discuss his approach to writing in the YouTube video below.
Emerging from underground rap clubs, where battles were all about exchanging witty insults, has influenced the content of Eminem’s lyrics.
He admits that his bad temper is often on full display in his tracks, as he writes about how he feels. Alongside the temper comes the poor language, which has been known to cause outrage from parents.
A major theme within his work, which has received heavy praise, is his representation of difficult lives, including his own.
He’s written about the difficult relationship he had with his mother, his love for his children, and the struggles of the underclass, often rapping through his alter ego ‘Slim Shady’.
Though Eminem clearly thinks highly of himself, as a self-titled “rap god”, hordes of other artists have also recognized his talent.
In a piece for Rolling Stone, Elton John summarised Eminem’s writing talents, saying, “I think he’s enthralled with what he’s doing; he’s intimately involved with his art”, adding “as a lyricist, he’s one of the best ever”.