Eminem undoubtedly deserves to be put in the GOAT conversation. He can sometimes be overrated and underrated, but being one of the greats always generates unnecessary praise and hate among the fanbase.
Eminem’s albums may not be what most African-Americans would bump into in their cars, but his influence’s spread to several non-English speaking countries with no hip-hop roots at all, and I think that counts for something.
In honor of Marshall Mathers’ birthday, I am ranking Eminem’s albums from worst to best. Here’s a friendly reminder that this is a personal ranking, and you’re free to make yours.
That is precisely my face when Em revealed the tracklist of Revival back in December 2017. This album was a hard pill to swallow: shallow production, half-baked rock samples, and uncooked lazy lyrics.
It feels like Em was trying too hard to get airplay by collaborating with A-list pop stars: Ed Sheeran, Bey, Alicia Keys, Kehlani, etc. I’m not saying it’s wrong; it’s just a bit hypocritical for someone who uses pop star-bashing as the backbone of his early days of career. The worst of Eminem’s albums.
Favorite track: Arose is a diamond in the dirt. If there’s anything, Arose and Castle deserve to be put in a better album.
Worst track: Need Me. Come on, Em. This isn’t 2010 anymore. This is your song, but you have P!nk to sing on almost 70% of it?
Encore is something I’d see as Em’s fall from grace. He sounds tired and full of resentment & regret. After reaching the most possible peak that any rapper could run, he feels exhausted at the latter stage of his career.
The first half of Encore is legendary: Curtains Up, like its predecessor The Eminem Show, followed by Evil Deeds, then Nate Dogg & 50 Cent-assisted Never Enough, and so on; the second half was mostly mediocre to terrible at best. Encore would have been Em’s fourth back-to-back classic album if it wasn’t for leaks.
Favorite track: Mockingbird. The most Marshall Mathers moment. Beautiful apology to Hailie, Alaina, and Whitney. No more words. This track, plus Like Toy Soldiers, are the highlights of Encore.
Worst track: My 1st Single. I can’t even imagine how Em and Dre would sit one day and be like, “Hey, let’s make a song where my voice is barely heard and put it into an album.”
Following the lackluster reception of Revival, Eminem attempted to resurrect Slim Shady with Kamikaze. Nobody was safe from Em’s mouth, not even a small-time radio guy who doesn’t like his previous album. It was a great listen and perfectly-timed as well.
It was a good album at first, don’t get me wrong, and it still is. It’s a return to form. However, what I’m trying to say is that the replay value just isn’t there. I couldn’t find anything I could relate to because Em spends most of the album bashing his haters.
Favorite track: Fall sends a strong opening message, “Everybody’s been tellin’ me what they think about me for the last few months / Maybe it’s time I tell ’em what I think about them.” Thank you for producing this godly track, Mike Will. It punches harder than my stepdad.
Worst track: Nice Guy is definitely not nice for your ears. Needed to be polished better.
Recovery is the start of a new era. Slim Shady is dead, and now we have a healthy Marshall who is optimistic about the future. He raps about positivity, not letting go of his hands, proving everybody wrong, and paying tribute to his late friend Proof.
I understand why people relate to Recovery. It was actually the very first Eminem album I have ever fully listened to. Still, as I grew, it was too poppy to my liking. Since Recovery, Em would always try to get pop stars to win airplay.
Favorite track: Not Afraid since it’s the very first Eminem song I have ever listened to. Back in 2010, YouTube has just started to become a thing. I would sit and play some Counter Strike and play Not Afraid even though I didn’t understand what it meant at that time.
Worst track: Won’t Back Down just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m not always a fan of rock’s fuse to hip-hop, and only a small segment of rock-rap that actually gets into my radar.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
Eminem got so much love in 2013. MMLP2 is a nostalgia trip to his 19946 Dresden in Detroit. The sequel of the first Mathers album saw Eminem dying his hair back to blonde once again.
In Mathers LP 2, Eminem seemingly kills Shady, and The Monster video approves that. Rap God, love it or hate it, makes everyone try to replicate his supersonic speed.
Favorite track: Bad Guy is how you strongly start a sequel album to your diamond-certificated magnum opus.
Worst track: So Much Better. Another album, another recycled I-hate-women Eminem song. The yelling isn’t there.
Music to Be Murdered By (2020)
Music to Be Murdered By proves Eminem’s longevity. Close to his 50s, Em’s pen game is still as strong as ever. Music to Be Murdered By has what Revival and Kamikaze respectively lack: concrete production and better replay value.
What I like from this album is how Eminem finally, after years, comes out of his comfort zone. All years Em spent collaborating with easy targets like pop stars, he eventually adapted to the current weather of hip-hop. 2017 me would never see Em collaborating with (the late) Juice WRLD, Young MA, Don Toliver, Black Thought, etc.
Favorite track: Darkness. I love how the first half of Darkness makes you think like, “This is going to be another track of on-stage nerves à la Lose Yourself,” then it takes you to the mind of Stephan Paddock, a white supremacist and a mass shooter. Solid message.
Worst track: Stepdad. Come on, Em. You’re 47. For once, I actually did side with Lord Jamar when he mocked your hooks on Stepdad.
After years of drug abuse, Proof’s death, and a handful of personal problems, Eminem introduced Slim Shady to the world again in a more violent and comical persona in Relapse.
Dr. Dre was back in the booth once again for godly production. In fact, this is Em and Dre’s most collaborative album. Although fans and critics disliked this album for his overly-used faux-Jamaican accent, it’s gained a cult following status years later. In fact, if it wasn’t for the accents, Eminem wouldn’t have so much freedom to bend the words that shouldn’t rhyme with one another. Horrorcore hip-hop at its finest.
Favorite track: Beautiful. I have never listened to any rap song, and I mean nothing. I love Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Jay, and Cole, but I have never listened to any rap song that speaks to me beautifully and personally within the first listen more than the third verse of Beautiful.
Worst track: My Mom. I was expecting something intense à la Cleanin’ Out My Closet, but boy, I was wrong.
The Slim Shady LP (1999)
The Slim Shady LP was the start of something magical. During the time when the standard of white rappers was Vanilla Ice, Eminem broke the stereotype. With aid from Dr. Dre of NWA, Eminem had all the weapons in his arsenal.
Both Em and Dre were hungry. Dre had just started a new label, and he’s doubted himself. On the other hand, Eminem had no way to provide for his daughter if it wasn’t for rap. Legendary.
Favorite track: Rock Bottom. Simple. It helps me get through the most problematic years of my life.
“My life is full of empty promises and broken dreams.
I’m hopin’ things look up, but there ain’t no job openings.
And I’m sick of workin’ dead-end jobs with lame pay.
And I’m tired of being hired and fired the same day.”
Worst track: Wow, this is a hard pick. I’m sorry, but I’d have to go with Cum on Everybody. It’s a chill song to smoke some weeds, don’t get me wrong, but this album’s quality hinders this specific track.
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Eminem sounds hungry to prove that he’s here to stay & he’s more than just a one-hit-wonder. The sudden skyrocketing fame drives Shady even more crazed, and he’s more than eager to hunt irritating journalists, crazy fans, and the censorship movement.
The Marshall Mathers LP has zero skips (except for those Biz’s lazy rhymes), and many consider this as Em’s magnum opus. An influential & polarizing album that deserves to be studied.
Favorite track: Stan. How do I start? It is a definitive pop culture moment—a mentally unhinged and overzealous fan chasing after his rap idol.
It is ironically a beautiful storytelling song wrapped in epistolary, almost as if you’re watching a documentary. Oxford & Merriam-Webster admitted ‘stan’ to the dictionary.
Worst track: Remember Me. I just wish Em’s version was much longer.
The Eminem Show (2002)
Eminem made 2002 his playground, and The Eminem Show is the pinnacle of that. This album proves that Em is more than just a poster white boy who hides behind Dr. Dre’s production, screams the f slur, and uses shock values to boost sales.
The Eminem Show is Em’s full growth as a rapper and a producer. Eminem proves that he has more to rap about than just drugs, bitches, Christina Aguilera, and forbidden incest sex.
In the same year, Em also signed 50 Cent in a joint deal with Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, produced D12’s sophomore album, and starred in 8 Mile. What a machine.
Favorite track: Cleanin’ Out My Closet. It’s a vivid storytelling song that keeps you hooked from the first listen, almost as if you’re watching a summary of Marshall’s life from childhood.
Worst track: Say What You Say is the song from TES with less value replay value to me.