Producer: Rick Rubin, Eminem
Album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Label: Aftermath, Shady, InterscopePossibly inspired by Black Hippy's "Rolling Stoned," which similarly flipped the same classic Zombies sample back in 2011, Em's "Rhyme or Reason" is a more revelatory entry in his catalog than it might first appear. Like the bulk of The Marshall Mathers LP II, it features some of the rapper's most dense, intricate writing to date. It's one of the album's most fascinating moments, a destructive whirlwind that is somehow both wide-ranging in its destructiveness, yet laser-focused on a relationship that he rarely touches on.
For all the attention his early work got—focusing on his relationship with his mother and his girlfriend, the women in his lives who bore the brunt of his rage—"Rhyme or Reason" aims the lyrical weapons at his relationship with his absent father. But first, he seems intently focused on annihilating falsehoods, at demolishing his own ego as a defense mechanism to even begin to attack his old man. Give or take a strangely timed rap-like-Yoda moment, he spends most of his time explaining his talent as a kind of reckless, out-of-control paroxysm of rage: "It's like handing a psycho a loaded handgun/Michaelangelo with a paintgun in a tantrum." He orients his anger at his father, but not before aiming it at himself. He seems to see the only truth in hip-hop, and even then he's lacerated by self-doubt. His father he now sees as a catalyst, but this realization still seems to have brought him little piece: "Cause there's no rhyme or reason for nothing."