Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ defines the rapper more than any other song that he’s released. It shows the tribulations in life that he had to push through to become the man he is.
The track featured in the semi-autobiographical film, 8 Mile, and for the role, Eminem forced himself to revert to the battle rapping self of his youth who gave blood, sweat, and tears every time he stepped up onto the microphone.
The film’s protagonist, Jimmy Smith, shared many similarities to Marshall Mathers. They both grew up in abject poverty in trailer parks in Detroit, struggled against a tide of hood life, and the one thing that offered him solace was rapping.
Like Eminem, the character found himself on the brink of fatherhood when his life was in an imperfect position. By creating the narrative for 8 Mile, ‘Shady’ allowed himself to deal with thoughts and feelings that previously plagued his mind before his fortunes changed.
Explaining the story behind ‘Lose Yourself’, the rapper told Genius, “Because the movie is not me, the movie is Jimmy Smith Jr. So I’m playing this character, but I have to make parallels between my life and his, in this song. I gotta figure out how to reach a medium. It would sound so corny if I was just rapping as Jimmy Smith Jr. How is that going to come from a real place?
“If I’m telling you that my daughter doesn’t have diapers, I need this amount of money to pay my bills this month, and it’s some real shit I’m telling you, then you know that it’s just coming from me. That was the trick I had to figure out – how to make the rhyme sound like him, and then morph into me somehow, so you see the parallels between his struggles and mine.”
‘Lose Yourself’ became Eminem’s first single to top the Billboard Charts, and while he was already a huge star before 8 Mile, after the film’s success, ‘Shady’ was stratospheric.
Eminem’s honesty about his upbringing and the adversity that he faced along his way endeared him to people who saw him in a different light after watching 8 Mile, with ‘Lose Yourself’ playing a crucial role in Mathers getting to tell his truth.
The fragility that Mathers shows on ‘Lose Yourself’ comes even closer to the forefront, and the textured emotions that he delivers intensify when heard isolated.