Organisers of the 92nd Academy Awards pulled a surprise on Sunday, February 9, 2020, to the joy and amazement of guests and viewers worldwide when, as the big screen on stage switched to a clip of Eminem’s critically acclaimed 2002 movie, 8mile, the underground stage came up revealing multiple award-winning rapper, Eminem in front of a band of instrumentalists. The crowd went wild as he blurted the lyrics of his Oscar-winning soundtrack to his 8mile movie titled, “Lose Yourself,” to a bouncy rhythm. It was a reminder of how brilliant a song it was and everyone was reminded that Eminem is one of the greatest rappers of all time.
It is very possible that I have heard this song over a thousand times (It used to be my favourite song), but hearing it again made me appreciate the brilliance of this rapper’s writing and storytelling. I downloaded the song again so I could listen to this amazingly crafted song and it immediately hit me! Marshal Mathers, AKA Eminem is what writers should aspire to be like.
Below are some important things I learnt from The Real Slim Shady:
- Write, Read, Repeat: If you pick up the lyrics of an Eminem song and look past the vulgarity, you will be amazed at his wide range of vocabulary. Note that this man is a school dropout but his command of the English language is unrivalled in the world of hip-hop. What’s his secret? He studies the dictionary to find words that rhyme. His dedication to reading means he is one of the most knowledgeable rappers out there. He reads, he writes and repeats over and over again. As a writer, you need to be a notorious reader. Read because your career depends on it. Eminem read the dictionary so much he now has a word in it. The word is “Stan.”
- Edit and Edit some more: Rap is a very competitive genre and when two rappers combine to make a project, it is an automatic competition between them. What most rap fans will debate is who had the better verse or in rap terms, “Who murdered who.” So, when Eminem teamed up with long-time friend, Royce Da 5’9 on the joint album, Hell: The Sequel, both rappers knew it was a competition and it showed in every song on the album as they both brought their ‘A’ game. Eminem has even revealed that he re-edited a lot of his verses when he heard Royce’s so as not to get “murdered” in every song. This is an insight into Eminem’s writing style. He is a perfectionist and the lyrics of his rap show a refinement that is the result of working on your first draft. You may not attain perfection just yet, but always remember that your first draft can never be your best work.
- Write from the heart: Eminem’s best works are those he writes from his heart. “Lose Yourself” is one of them. It talks about his early struggles of being accepted in a music genre dominated by blacks. “Cleaning out my Closet” is a dark and disturbing song, but one can’t help but get drawn to it as he talks about his rocky relationship with his mother. “Mockingbird” is about his love for and relationship with his daughter. All these are some of Eminem’s best and he moves the needle when he writes directly from his heart. As a writer, you need to be invested in what you do emotionally. You must have complete knowledge of what you are writing about, it should be a huge part of you, only that way can you give it your all.
- Start Strong and Finish Stronger: I have read books that started so well, but the more I read, the less the zeal I had to finish them. This can never be for an Eminem Song. “Lose Yourself” begins with the story of a young rapper who has an opportunity to thrill the crowd with his rap skills but chokes out of stage fright. At this point, you are hooked to the story and want to know what happens to this kid. Second verse explores the personal life and struggles of this young kid and the third one just explodes as he switches to first-person narration, so the listener realizes the kid is Eminem himself and he boastfully talks about his resilience and determination to not let that setback stop him from achieving his dream. The line, “Success is my only option, Failure’s not!” resonates powerfully and as you bounce your head to the rhythm, you can’t help but feel inspired by this story. The third verse is where the lessons are and it makes you wish the song does not come to an end. Every Eminem song starts strong and finishes stronger!
Being a big fan of Eminem all my life, I never thought I would learn so much about writing from him. But these lessons are so valuable I’ve been jamming many of his old songs all over again. If these four points resonate with you, you will be a much better writer in future.