Song of the Day #263: ‘Rock Bottom’ – Eminem

eminem1After seeing Ben Folds in concert recently my sister made the astute observation that Folds is half sensitive, perceptive songwriter and half obnoxious frat boy. She’s a big fan of the former and not too keen on the latter, and was upset that the frat boy played a prominent role in the live show.

Well, Eminem is sort of like that times a thousand. He’s guilty of some of the most obnoxious, juvenile and downright stupid lyrics known to man but he’s also capable of real insight and emotional honesty. Songs such as ‘Stan,’ ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’ and ‘Sing for the Moment’ are both great music and gut-wrenching poetry. But ‘Big Weenie,’ ‘Ass Like That’ and ‘Cum on Everybody’ … well, I’ll let the titles speak for themselves.

Now I happen to like both side of Eminem. Songs like ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘My Dad’s Gone Crazy’ might have no redeeming value but they’re certainly well-crafted and enjoyable. There is a place for pure mindless fun in music just as there is in film, and even more so when it’s done well. The juvenile and disturbing side of Eminem is the rap equivalent of Airplane or Kill Bill.

But I don’t think he’d be the fascinating artist he is were it not for the serious stuff. Along with his superb raping rapping skills (I believe those less white than me use the term “flow”), those songs set him apart from his peers. They’re the reason he’s appreciated as more than a novelty act.

‘Rock Bottom,’ from Eminem’s debut album The Slim Shady LP, was the first indication that young Marshall Mathers could reach that other place. It’s a wistful, almost delicate song about the frustration of trying to hit it big in the music business and raise a family on little money. He uses the language of the streets, with frequent references to guns and drugs, but you can tell that’s a front. The genuine pain comes through in verses like this:

My life is full of empty promises
And broken dreams
I’m hoping things will look up
But there ain’t no job openings
I feel discouraged hungry and malnourished
Living in this house with no furnace, unfurnished
And I’m sick of working dead end jobs with lame pay
And I’m tired of being hired and fired the same day
But fuck it, if you know the rules to the game play
Cause when we die we know we’re all going the same way

After a five-year hiatus, Eminem is back this year with a new album. The first two tracks I’ve heard are well-crafted, catchy and juvenile. I sure hope the rest of the album delivers songs like this one.

Ey, Yo!
This song is dedicated to all the happy people
All the happy people who have real nice lives
And who have no idea what it’s like to be broke as fuck

Verse One:

I feel like I’m walkin a tight rope
Without a circus net
I’m popping Percocet
I’m a nervous wreck, I deserve respect
But I work a sweat for this worthless check
Bout to burst this tech, at somebody to reverse this debt
Minimum wage got my adrenaline caged
Full of venom and rage
Especially when I’m engaged
And my daughter’s down to her last diaper
That’s got my ass hyper
I pray that god answers, maybe I’ll ask nicer
Watching ballers while they flossing in their pathfinders
These overnight stars becoming autograph signers
We all long to blow up and leave the past behind us
Along with the small frys and average half pinters
While playa haters turn bitch like they have vaginas
Cause we see them dollar signs and let the cash blind us
Money will brainwash you and leave your ass mindless
Snakes slither in the grass spineless

Chorus:

That’s Rock Bottom
When this life makes you mad enough to kill
That’s Rock Bottom
When you want something bad enough to steal
That’s Rock Bottom
When you feel you have had it up to here
Cause you mad enough to scream but you sad enough to tear

That’s Rock Bottom
When this life makes you mad enough to kill
That’s Rock Bottom
When you want something bad enough to steal
That’s Rock Bottom
When you feel you have had it up to here
Cause you mad enough to scream but you sad enough to tear

Verse Two:

My life is full of empty promises
And broken dreams
I’m hoping things will look up
But there ain’t no job openings
I feel discouraged hungry and malnourished
Living in this house with no furnace, unfurnished
And I’m sick of working dead end jobs with lame pay
And I’m tired of being hired and fired the same day
But fuck it, if you know the rules to the game play
Cause when we die we know we’re all going the same way
It’s cool to be the player, but it sucks to be the fan
When all you need is bucks to be the man
Plus a luxury sedan
Too comfortable and roomy in a six
They threw me in the mix
With all these gloomy lunatics
Walk around depressed
And smoke a pound of cess a day
And yesterday went by so quick it seems like it was just today
My daughter wants to throw the ball but I’m too stressed to play
Live half my life and throw the rest away

Chorus

There’s people that love me and people that hate me
But it’s the evil that made me this backstabbing, deceitful, and shady
I want the money, the women, the fortune, and the fame
That means I’ll end up burning in hell scorching in flames
That means I’m stealing your checkbook and forging your name
Lifetime bliss for eternal torture and pain
Right now I feel like i just hit the rock bottom
I got problems now everybody on my blocks got ’em
I’m screaming like those two cops when 2pac shot ’em
Holding two glocks, I hope your doors got new locks on ’em
My daughter’s feet ain’t got no shoes or socks on ’em
And them rings you wearin’ look like they got a few rocks on ’em
And while you flauntin’ them I could be taking them to shops to pawn ’em
I got a couple of rings and a brand new watch you want ’em?
Cause I never went gold off one song
I’m running up on someone’s lawns with guns drawn

Chorus

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #263: ‘Rock Bottom’ – Eminem

  1. Dana says:

    I think it is the mark of a truly talented artist to handle both comedy and tragedy with equal skill and accomplishment. In the movie industry, that would include the likes of Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro among many others. In music, Eminem is certainly a good example, as are the ones you mentioned, and I would add Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett to that list.

    Eminem, in my view, tipped the balance too far in the comedy direction on the last album. I too am hoping he finds a better balance on the new one.

  2. Amy says:

    First, I’m hoping Mr. Shady doesn’t actually have superb “raping skills,” or he ought to have landed in the slamma long ago 😉

    Second, I agree that the lyrics you post above are quite powerful. He is an alarmingly good poet/ rap artist, with his abilitiy to effortless make rhymes such as circus net/Percoset/deserve respect and nicer/Pathfinder always bring an immediacy to his songs that place them in a particular place and time without dating them.

    I am looking forward to seeing what he’s come up with this time around.

  3. Clay says:

    It’s difficult to rape effectively… 😦 Thanks for pointing out that unfortunate typo, which has been corrected.

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