Producer: Eminem
Album: The Marshall Mathers LP
Label: Aftermath/Interscope
After accessible singles like "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady," "The Way I Am" finally got the no-nonsense Eminem on the radio and TV. The mean, dirty-grooved protest was also the first song Eminem produced dolo, announcing that the world's most dangerous MC was now an even bigger threat. It was an impressive christening. "The Way I Am" finds a possessed Marshall Mathers having an out-of-body experience as he angrily baptizes the piano-laced track with pure lyrical fire, the churchly bells encouraging him to exorcise his demons ("I'm so sick and tired of being admired that I wish that I would just die or get fired") and deepest thoughts ("I'm not gonna be able to top 'My Name Is'"). The appropriated chorus, a respectful nod to Rakim, helps elevate this one to holy hip-hop levels, but it's also noteworthy for an early instance of social criticism from Em as he comments on the Columbine shootings ("Look where it's at/Middle America/Now it's a tragedy/Now it's so sad to see/An upper-class city havin' this happening"). Eminem would go on to give more fiery sermons, but this tight rhyme scheme might still be his most mesmerizing.