Producer: Eminem
Album: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile
Label: Shady/Interscope
It's the titular track to the Oscar-winning film loosely based on his life, but it's also the soundtrack to the hard-knock life nearly all unsigned MCs experience while they struggle to get put on. "8 Mile" contains no throwaway lines and addresses the forbidden subject of stage fright, which broke new ground the same way Marvel did when they humanized superheroes. MCs always tell you how great they are; rarely do they admit self-doubt in their skill set. "And I clam up/I just slam shut/I just can't do it/My whole manhood's just been stripped/I have just been vicked." He may be rhyming as the fictional character Rabbit, but that fear comes from a real place. The song zeroes in on the pressure of trying to make it in the rap game, where losing is not an option. (Listen closely to the very beginning to hear Em, barely audible, going: "It's OK, it's OK, I'm gonna make it anyway.") The use of the looming train blaring in the background not only symbolizes the desire to get out of the 'hood or trailer park but reminds us that most rappers do indeed come from the wrong side of the tracks.