Sunday, 28 March 2010

2002 Eminem: Lose Yourself

From the soundtrack of Eminem's self starring, loosely autobiographical movie '8 Mile', 'Lose Yourself' ditches the humour for another altogether more serious - yet no less revealing - address on the state of his nation and a first person kick up the arse monologue dedicated to his 'Rabbit' character (another one!) within the film. Only it's not that clear cut in the line between alter ego and reality are necessarily blurred; not only can we read 'Eminem' for 'Rabbit', the song itself gradually sheds all reference to the third person and moves to a series of clearly personal 'I' statements that Eminem spits out with an intensity that borders on self flagellation for the life he's lived and fears he could live again.

It's a confidence free fear of failures that stands at sharp angles to his previous cocksure deliveries - how can a man who wrote 'Without Me' be living with any doubt? Well, because Eminem has always been at war with his past and sought to 'rise above' and regain control of his own situation via his music. Take these lines from 'Revelation' (recorded with D12): (rap music) "compelled me to excel when school it failed me. Expelled me and when the principal would tell me I was nothing, and I wouldn't amount to shit. I made my first million and counted it. Now look at a fucking drop-out that quits, stupid as shit, rich as fuck, and proud of it". Or the blisteringly honest 'in character' closing 'battle rap from '8 Mile' itself -"I am white, I am a fucking bum, I do live in a trailer with my tell these people something they don't know about me". There are 'issues' here that Eminem is not afraid to air in public; the man is angry.

To compliment Eminem's rage, 'Lose Yourself' wraps itself around a simple and direct chug-a-lug metal riff and drum pattern with an extra ice adding piano motif that's a world away from the usual hip hop beat box and samples. But that's all it needs - the main 'instrument' here is Eminem himself and this time he's not playful; he's pummelling, and he dares you not to listen. "I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed. I've been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage" - Eminem's anger in self awareness is palpable, it drips off the lyrics like beads of sweated venom to splash over all who doubted him, with the biggest splash back reserved for the doubts that rule him. The "You better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it, you better never let it go" is a shout of inspiration from one who lived it and made it work, but there's also a subtext of unease of Eminem (not Rabbit) acknowledging the distance he's come and recognising that the road back there isn't far for a loose cannon like himself ("I've got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot. Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not").

Which is the dichotomy at the heart of 'Lose Yourself' that makes it so arresting - 'Rich as fuck' maybe, but at what price? "
here tell these people something they don't know about me" - with a life lived out in the media, there's not much 'these people' don't know about Eminem - for my own part, there is no other popular music star whose mother, wife and daughter I know on first name terms. On one level you can take 'Lose Yourself' as A.N.Other rap song, albeit one more accessible to a white audience than is the norm. On the other hand (and while it might be pretentious to label this rap as psychoanalysis) there's mineshaft depth here that's equal measures of alienation and inspiration. It all depends on where you're coming from and what you want to hear. And if you do choose to gaze into Eminem's abyss, 'Lose Yourself' will gaze directly back with an aggression that will make you blink first. 'Lose Yourself' won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It deserved it.

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