I finally had to admit to myself that Eminem is not only my favourite rapper alive, but he is my favourite of all time. For some reason, I find admitting that uncomfortable.
There are three reasons why I came to this conclusion: there is a racial bias against Eminem within hip-hop; Relapse; and time.
Biggie had been riding high as my king based on two albums of work. I still contend that even with a small body of work, Christopher Wallace was special. He was so special that Jay-Z bit his whole style and managed to carve a ‘legendary’ career out of it… I digress. Many have Big L in the GOAT conversation with an even smaller body of work than that of Biggies. But it has taken to now, 18 years after he dropped the Slim Shady LP, eight albums deep, for me to give the crown to Em.
Just as race has been an obstacle in how the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods and Barack are viewed in their respective fields, it’s the same case with Marshall. I know how that reads, but I know deep in my gut it’s true.
I’ve been witness to some nonsensical arguments made against Eminem: if he was black, he wouldn’t get away with half the stuff her raps about (these folks must not be into horrorcore rap); he is only popular because he’s white (tell me another white rapper beloved by the hiphop community besides Em, The Beasties or El-P); and he raps about the same thing, he has no content diversity (these people only listen to Eminem’s singles). All of these points are utter bullshit.
Em’s 2009 comeback record is his most underrated, rawest and most personal work. And to top it all off, it’s mostly filled with grade-A Dr Dre beats. I get why this album is polarising, the lyrical content is very much an acquired taste, but for those who study the art of MCing there are too many moments on Relapse that take your breathe away.
Deja Vu and Stay Wide Awake should be considered as two of Eminem’s greatest songs – and that is saying something – and they both show the man’s versatility as a writer and his technical ability as a writer.
I think the biggest swing towards Eminem being my GOAT was something Biggie never had – time. Although Em hasn’t been able to hit the same heights as his early 00s glory, I listen to some of his music in the latter part of his career and I truly believe no one wants it with this white boy – not even Kendrick.
In fact Kendrick is another reason why I have elevated Eminem to GOAT status – I see a lot of Em in K Dot. His song Fear from his fantastic DAMN. album made me think of Eminem’s Rock Bottom and K’s ability to change characters is very Slim Shadyesc.
This is a debate no one will agree on but I am now at a place with Eminem where I believe I have to be honest. It doesn’t mean I love Biggie any less, I just believe Eminem had to be better than great to get where he is at in hip-hop.