Eminem is considered by most to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Throughout the 1990s, the artist, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, took hip hop into a new dimension of popularity, with hits that still get millions rapping along to this day.
We’ve given our take on the discography of the self-confessed ‘rap god’, looking at his best, most ground-breaking work, as well as some of the less popular records in his arsenal.
1. The Marshall Mathers LP
Eminem’s third studio album, released in 2000, is a true piece of hip hop history. In the first half, listeners are hit with the chilling and epic ‘Stan’, the masterpiece that would cement Marshall (and Dido’s) place in the timeline of rap as an art form.
Alongside this, the album features hits such as the huge ‘The Real Slim Shady’, and ‘The Way I Am’, both US billboard 200 and UK top ten hits.
While the album does carry some of his biggest hits, the Marshall Mathers LP is also known for Eminem’s poetic ramblings about his ex-wife Kim, and his mother, both of which he has a famously contentious public relationship with.
2. The Slim Shady LP
Up next in our ranking is Eminem’s second studio album, The Slim Shady LP. Released in 1999, the record is the first to get the master treatment from Dr Dre, after the hip hop mogul signed Marshall to Interscope Records.
The album is delivered from the perspective of Marshall’s fiery alter ego Slim Shady – a loud-mouthed, sweary individual – arguably not that different from the real Marshall Mathers. The Slim Shady LP brought us the incredible ‘My Name Is’, as well as the less known ‘Role Model’ and ‘Guilty Conscience’ featuring Dr Dre.
3. The Eminem Show
In 2003 Eminem was undoubtedly the biggest name in hip hop. After two ground-breaking albums, The Eminem Show was a sight step down in lyrical complexity and depth, but still filled with runaway hits.
The album was recorded around the time Eminem was creating 8 Mile, and if ‘Lose Yourself’ was included on the album, it may have been higher up the list. As it stands, however, the hits are still pretty impressive from The Eminem Show: ‘Superman’, ‘Business’, ‘Sing For The Moment’, ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’, and ‘Without Me’, which reached number one in fifteen countries.
Now more mature, Encore sees Eminem go into deeper territory, looking at politics in the anti-George Bush song ‘Mosh’, and ‘We As Americans’, as well as touching on fatherhood with the melodic ‘Mockingbird’.
The biggest hit from Encore is the now infamous ‘Just Lose It’, which reached number one in Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom – despite alienating many long-time Shady fans. Alongside this was ‘Like Toy Soldiers’, a meditation on gangland violence, as well as ‘Encore’, and the comedic hit ‘Ass Like That’.
After dropping off in quality for several years, Eminem came back in full force with Recovery, an album devoted to his true fanbase, attempting to speak directly to those who stuck with him through the good times and the bad.
The world was first treated to single ‘I’m Not Afraid’, in which Eminem reflects on the recent ups and downs of his career, alongside hits such as ‘Love the Way You Lie’, featuring Rihanna, a love/hate story which received five Grammy nominations. ‘No Love’, featuring Lil Wayne, and ‘Space Bound’, are also well-constructed tracks.
Towards the end of 2018, Eminem unexpectedly dropped his tenth studio album, and the fans were more than happy. Kamikaze sees Eminem truly return to form, with the kind of lyrical depth and versatility seen in his early work.
The brilliant ‘Not Alike’ featuring long-time collaborator Royce da 5’9” is a sure-fire hit, whilst other guest appearances by Joyner Lucas and the chilling vocals of Jessie Reyez give listeners a variety of tracks to keep them interested.
Since its release, the album has received double platinum certification, and has become a gem in Eminem’s discography.
7. The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Eminem’s eighth studio album is definitely a mixed bag. Acting as a sequel to the 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, the album attempts to both tie up loose ends and pay homage to the rapper’s own influences.
The Opening track ‘Bad Guy’ continues the story of Stan, from the 2000 hit of the same name, whilst ‘Berzerk’ is a clear tribute to the rap/rock style of the MTV generation. Meanwhile, in ‘The Monster’, Rihanna and Eminem’s fourth collaboration, comes a solid gold hit, as well as the lyrically sublime ‘Rap God’.
Eminem returned in 2017 after a four-year gap, to bring Revival, an album carrying raw emotion and political commentary – the album’s release was precluded by a freestyle titled ‘The Storm’ performed at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards, taking aim at Donald Trump.
Though the album is somewhat lacklustre in terms of hits, it is noteworthy for its celebrity roster alone. R&B megastar Beyoncé, Phresher, the UK’s own Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, X Ambassadors, Skylar Grey, Kehlani, and Pink all feature. Alongside the Beyonce driven single ‘Walk on Water’ and Ed Sheeran collaboration ‘River’, ‘Framed’ and ‘Castle’ are also worth a listen.
2009’s Relapse came at a real low point in Eminem’s life. The rapper was returning from a four-year hiatus due largely to his struggle with addiction, and understandably, it seems he wasn’t quite ready to pick up the mic.
Eminem’s style on the album is erratic at best, and the lyrics are often verging on the nonsensical. Critics were harsh upon its release, and listeners were even harsher.
Though most of the album was rejected at first even by lifelong fans, Relapse has seen a kind of revival amongst some, developing a cult following of sorts. There are a few gems: ‘Crack a Bottle’, ‘We Made You’, ‘3am’ and the ballad-like ‘Beautiful’ hold up the rest of the record. Plus, even at this low point in his career, Shady managed to shift 3 million copies of the album.
10. Music To Be Murdered By
Eminem’s lyrical content on this album isn’t nearly as strong as others, despite the fact that his flow is faster than it’s ever been. Sometimes the two strengths of speed and quality do meet — ‘Godzilla’ perhaps the best example — though these moments are rare.
For Stans this is an experience worth having, and it does provide some decent listening, with support from the likes of Royce Da 5’9” Anderson .Paak providing a big help, but it’s certainly not a strong addition to Em’s discography.
Only die-hard fans are likely to be aware of Infinite, Eminem’s very first album, produced in 1996 by Mr Porter, Proof, and Eminem himself. We’ve included it at the bottom of the list, perhaps unfairly, because of its obvious lack of flair and production value seen in the albums to come. However, Shady ‘completionists’ should still give it a listen.
The story goes that Eminem purposely made Infinite’s songs ‘radio-friendly’, so that they would be played on Detroit stations. This obviously took away a lot of the edge of some of his later hits.