Producer: Eminem, Jeff Bass
Album: The Eminem Show
Label: Shady/Aftermath/Interscope
"Cleaning Out My Closet" was more introspection with a more serious approach. After the emotional rollercoaster that he had been on—going from poverty to newfound wealth, catching cases, and having his own mother file a lawsuit against him—it seemed like he was ready to finally purge the demons and let it all go. But we'd soon find out that wasn't the case. In this hypnotic therapy session, with its rock-fueled chorus of "I'm sorry, Mama," Marshall Mathers manages to get more off his chest in five minutes than Tony Soprano did sitting with his shrink for six seasons on HBO. He touches on his absentee dad and problems with his girl, but it isn't until the third verse that the rapper sheds light on his past family torment: "But put yourself in my position/Just try to envision/Witnessing your mama poppin' prescription pills in the kitchen/Bitchin' that someone's always goin' through her purse, shit is missin'/Goin' through public housing systems/Victim of Munchausen Syndrome." Em's claim that as a kid his mother made him believe he was sick when he wasn't was a major revelation. Unfortunately, the time wasn't right to heal old wounds. In what has to be one of the most devastating lines on a rap record, Eminem spits: "Remember when Ronnie died and you said you wished it was me?/Well, guess what? I am dead/Dead to you as can be." Eminem's words really are weapons, and that moment slices like a knife.