With the arrival of Eminem’s new compilation album Shady XV, the world has been reminded that among all of the Christmas music, there is still an Eminem lurking about. This controversial artist has been under fire from all directions since he was first discovered, and the scrutiny certainly hasn’t stopped. Em’s tongue has a knack for saying things that tick people off. From articulating murder to slamming public figures, Eminem’s lyrics have the habit of getting under the skin.
Many focus on the rapper’s lyrics because of their shocking nature, resulting in a general lack of appreciation for the music behind the words. With Slim silenced, we can focus solely on the music that backs his venomous rhymes. Let’s take a look at eight of the 8-Mile artist’s best instrumental beats.
“Guilty Conscience” from the Slim Shady LP has a dark, uncanny beat that is entirely listenable without Eminem’s vocals on top. It retains a sliver of Eminem’s characteristic goofy vibe, though it is far from sounding silly. Rather, “Guilty Conscience” has a serious, pounding beat that fluctuates enough to remain interesting as its own entity. This tune’s instrumental section also seems to have served as an influence on Eminem’s “Criminal,” indicating that it stuck out in Slim’s mind as well.
While a title like “Square Dance” implies a beat laden with country-acoustic elements, this instrumental piece leans in an unexpected direction. While this beat from The Eminem Show does have a subtle spattering of banjo, it is dominated by forceful bass and heavily spiced with dirty violin. “Square Dance” harbors a beat more fitting for the crashing of a county fair than it does for a country fair itself. Of course, the fair would be crashed by clowns…clowns with hammers Why clowns? Clowns are terrifying, that’s why.
Surprisingly culturally sophisticated, the beat from Encore’s “Ass Like That” features a grooving sitar riff and Middle Eastern-styled violin. Paired with an easy bass-line and chilled drumming, “Ass Like That” achieves an intriguing instrumental fusion between Eastern and Western sounds. In fact, it is at such steady cultural equilibrium that it could easily fit on a Buddha Bar compilation. The beat will make your ears go, “doyng, doyng, doyng!”
Another outstanding beat from Encore, the piano-drum combination in “Mockingbird” is tragically sad. It cuts deep to the core, urging introspection. The piano melody would be appropriate at the most pretentious of piano ensembles. See, Eminem has the capacity to be classy. The conservative percussion is perhaps the main reason for the high degree of elegance in the song’s instrumental section.
“Bagpipes from Baghdad” off of Relapse has a wicked beat that is dominated by grooving bagpipes. Never did I ever think that I would call bagpipes grooving. Along with the bagpipes comes minor piano accents and, at the end of the beat, funky sitar. The entirety of “Bagpipes from Baghdad” has a Middle Eastern vibe to it. The whole thing sounds as if it was the result of a crazy, heat-stricken camel that got a hold of a bagpipe. How else could a beat sound so fiery?
Has anyone ever heard the nut that plays piano in Johnny Cash’s “I’m Movin’ On?” I truly believe that it is the same nut that plays piano in Eminem’s “Crack a Bottle.” This heavy beat is propelled by sick piano flourishes. It’s all about that keyboard. This beat from Relapse is one of Eminem’s darkest, fit for a twisted horror house. I dig it immensely.
If there is any Eminem song where the lyrics are essential to the song, it is “Rap God” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Nonetheless, the song’s beat is righteous, strong enough to stand alone. While it is simple, “Rap God” features fantastic, thumping bass and steady, sinister-sounding keys. Insanely high in energy, the beat of “Rap God” deserves praise.
To conclude this list is a bonus track from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, “Desperation.” The beat oozes southern attitude, and screams Breaking Bad. The grungy acoustics, which include an acoustic slider, pair well with the staple hip-hop bass. “Desperation” throws me back to Eminem’s “Bad Meets Evil” from The Slim Shady LP, which begins with some cabin acoustics that heavily emulate those of “Desperation.” Perhaps that oldy is what inspired the beat to this new song.
Eminem has an impressive discography with consistently fresh beats, and so this list is by no means representative of his entire repertoire. Rather, it is a sampling of the cream of the crop sowed by this ground-breaking rapper. It seems that many of my instrumental favorites of his include piano or Middle Eastern influence. Whatever the case may be, Eminem has something for everybody.