eminem Cleanin' Out My Closet review song meaning

Eminem – Cleanin’ Out My Closet (Lyrics Review & Song Meaning)

“Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is a widely acclaimed single by Eminem released from his album ‘The Eminem Show’ back in 2002. It is no secret that Eminem had a rough upbringing, with his father leaving him when he was little and his mother being what she is as described in this song. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is a confessional about how Eminem’s mother treated him as he grew up.

The movie 8 Mile is loosely based on the life of Eminem and the movie shows how his mother treated him as a child. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” was nominated to be the theme song of the movie, but somehow got replaced with “Lose Yourself” and it worked out great for Marshall Mathers. We can see a lot of similarities between the 8 Mile movie and contents of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” lyrics.

Although, one of the most successful and brutally honest lyrical works of Eminem, he himself has started to despise the fact that he even wrote “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” However much his mother mistreated him, she was the only one who was ever there for him. Eminem releases “Headlights” from ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2′ album in 2013 and apologizes his mother for ever saying the things he says in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.”

But I’m sorry momma for “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”
At the time I was angry, rightfully? Maybe so
Never meant that far to take it though – “Headlights” by Eminem

Watch Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” Music Video

Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”

The intro to the song is actually an unplanned lyric line and Eminem himself has said that it actually happened.

Where’s my snare?
I have no snare in my headphones – there you go
Yeah… yo, yo

Snare is the sound of drums in your headphones. Artists usually roll the instrumental tape in their headphones while recording the lyrics over it. So when Eminem got into his studio to record “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” in 2001, somehow the sound engineer had muted the drums. He quickly corrects it and the unplanned lyric line sticks in with the album version of the song.

The first verse of the song kicks in, and Eminem is spitting smooth rhymes and plain truth.

Have you ever been hated or discriminated against?
I have; I’ve been protested and demonstrated against
Picket signs for my wicked rhymes, look at the times
Sick as the mind of the motherf*cking kid that’s behind

Eminem talks about the start of his hip hop career. Eminem has been brutally honest with his lyrics and he often had no problem attacking the broken parts of the society. This habit often got him in hot waters. There have been countless protests and hate speech against Eminem and his music. It has ceased now, but not completely vanished.

And Eminem says his wicked rhymes are as good as the ‘sick’ mind of the young kid he was. He was exposed to street violence, not having a father and his mom doing drugs and other things. So he says his music is a good as how his mentality was shaped when he was a child.

Eminem with his mother, Deborah Rae Nelson
Eminem with his mother, Deborah Rae Nelson

All this commotion emotions run deep as ocean’s exploding
Tempers flaring from parents just blow ’em off and keep going

Eminem caused quite the stirr in music industry when he made it up as white hip hop artist in a time when hip hop was dominated by African American artists. He was hated and often shunned down. Eminem says it did affect him-hurt him, sometimes deep like oceans. At his home things were worse. His parents often fought in temper tantrums and he used to grow up scared. However, he made it out of that shadow.

Not taking nothing from no one give ’em hell long as I’m breathing
Keep kicking a*s in the morning and taking names in the evening
Leave ’em with a taste as sour as vinegar in they mouth
See they can trigger me, but they’ll never figure me out

Eminem has been going on strong for so many years now. He was abused as a kid but he still made it out of that ‘home’ in one piece. So he is not ready to take any sh*t from anyone-he has been through it all. He has teared down his opponents-according to 8 Mile movie, Eminem rap battled his way out of the Detroit’s underground music society. And he has been piling up successes ever since.

Not everyone can tolerate the lyrics of Eminem. Even today, there are people who still can’t swallow Eminem’s lyrics like tasting vinegar. They all say different things to trigger him, and he does respond sometimes, but they will never figure out the life he has had.

Look at me now; I bet ya probably sick of me now ain’t you momma?
I’mma make you look so ridiculous now

“Cleanin’ Out My Closet” music video shows Eminem’s mother treating the young Eminem very poorly. She often screamed at him, scolded about his worthlessness. Now, that Eminem is a legend, he asks if his mom has had enough of him? He has turned her word against her and he is ready to make her look silly.

Eminem in
Eminem in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” music video

The hook of the song is a direct address to his mother;

I’m sorry momma!
I never meant to hurt you!
I never meant to make you cry; but tonight
I’m cleaning out my closet (one more time)
I said I’m sorry momma!
I never meant to hurt you!
I never meant to make you cry, but tonight
I’m cleaning out my closet

Eminem has had it enough of piling up this anger inside of him. He must have been truly broken apart to go ahead and release such a song. In “Headlights” he tries to justify himself as at that time he may have been right to release such a song. But this song has haunted him ever since.

Eminem slides in to the second verse of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”

Ha! I got some skeletons in my closet
And I don’t know if no one knows it
So before they thrown me inside my coffin and close it
I’mma expose it; I’ll take you back to ’73
Before I ever had a multi-platinum selling CD

Eminem doesn’t want to hide his past. “Skeletons in my closet” refers to some deep dark secret someone is keeping hidden. So before everyone else labels him a ‘bad son’ and locks him in that grave, he is going to expose his skeletons. For that he takes us back to his childhood, to 1973, Eminem (Born in October 17, 2972) was just couple of months old.

Eminem at a young age, with his mother, Debbie
Eminem at a young age, with his mother, Debbie

I was a baby, maybe I was just a couple of months
My fagg*t father must have had his panties up in a bunch
Cause he split, I wonder if he even kissed me goodbye
No I don’t. On second thought I just f*cking wished he would die

Some strong insults are thrown towards his father by Eminem in this verse. He says his father left him and his mother when he was just a couple months old. It may have been the struggles of life that pushed him out, but Eminem has held a strong grudge against him.

Eminem wonders if his father even had a second thought about leaving his months old baby, but he highly doubts that.

Eminem and his daughter, Hailie Jade Mathers. On the right is Hailie Mathers graduating from college
Eminem and his daughter, Hailie Jade Mathers. On the right is Hailie Mathers graduating from college in 2014

I look at Hailie, and I couldn’t picture leaving her side
Even if I hated Kim, I grit my teeth and I’d try
To make it work with her at least for Hailie’s sake

Hailie Mathers is Eminem’s daughter and he can’t even picture leaving her-he wonders how his father did it. Despite the abusive childhood, Eminem had a worse marriage with Kim Scott. He hated her, but he bite through it all for the sake of Hailie.

Eminem and his wife Kim Scott
Eminem and his wife Kim Scott

I maybe made some mistakes
But I’m only human, but I’m man enough to face them today
What I did was stupid, no doubt it was dumb
But the smartest sh*t I did was take the bullets outta that gun
Cause I’da killed him; sh*t I would’ve shot Kim and him both

Eminem is not the best exemplary character or celebrity out there, but he has no porblem admitting his mistake either.

The next few lines describe his confrontation of one named John Guerrera, who was caught kissing Kim Scott. Guerrera claims Eminem hit him with a gun, but Em insists it was just his hand. He knows it was a stupid move to attack that person. Luckily Eminem did not have bullets in his gun, or else he probably would have killed that person and his wife on the spot.

It’s my life, I’d like to welcome y’all to “The Eminem Show”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for you and Eminem welcomes you to his album ‘The Eminem Show.’ “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” was the second single off the album following “Without Me.”

Watch Eminem Perform “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” Live

The hook of the track fills in again and we arrive at the third and final verse of the song.

Now I would never diss my own momma just to get recognition
Take a second to listen for who you think this record is dissing

Eminem isn’t doing this song for glitz and glamour or glory. It’s a confessional that has been eating him inside. He pleads us to take a closer look at the song before we label him and close his coffin.

But put yourself in my position; just try to envision
Witnessing your momma popping prescription pills in the kitchen
B*tching that someone’s always going through her purse and sh*t’s missing

Eminem asks us to put ourselves in his position and he explains some horrific situations he witnessed as a child.

Debbie was a drug addict and she used to get dozed on prescription pills when she couldn’t obtain drugs. It must not have been a nice sight to see as a child. She always blamed Em for things going missing from her purse, which is explained in the next lines.

Going through public housing systems, victim of Munchhausen’s Syndrome

My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t

Munchhausen’s Syndrome is a mental disorder where a mother harms their child or forces on to believe non-existent sicknesses to get attention and sympathy. All his childhood Eminem was made to believe he was sick when he really wasn’t. His mother fed him those horrible thoughts which must have cracked down Eminem really bad.

Eminem and his mother did not have a proper house to live in. They lived in trailers and moved a lot from house to house.

Em also does some genius word play by rhyming “housing systems” and “Munchhausen’s Syndrome.”

‘Til I grew up, now I blew up, it makes you sick to ya stomach

Till he grew up he was a victim of mental abuse by his mother. But now he is a super star and Em questions if that bothers her!

Doesn’t it? Wasn’t it the reason you made that CD for me Ma?
So you could try to justify the way you treated me Ma?

Debbie Mathers made a song titled “Dear Marshall” with a group called ID-X. In this song Debbie tried to explain herself to Marshall in a voice over recording.

Debbie's song
Debbie’s song “Dear Marshall” appearing on ‘Set The Record Straight’ CD by ID-X

But guess what? You’re getting older now and it’s cold when you’re lonely
And Nathan’s growing up so quick he’s gonna know that you’re phony

Eminem wanted no aprt of that apology from his mother. He didn’t even respond to the song. He just left her be. Nathan is Eminem’s brother and he was still growing up with his mother. It wasn’t going to take long for him to realize she was a coward.

And Hailie’s getting so big now; you should see her, she’s beautiful
But you’ll never see her – she won’t even be at your funeral!

Hailie Mathers is growing with Eminem and Kim and Debbie would not be allowed to see her. Em is scared of exposing Hailie to the same things he was exposed to when he was a child. Eminem hits hard here saying that Hailie wouldn’t even be at her grandmother’s funeral. Eminem probably regrets these words now.

See what hurts me the most is you won’t admit you was wrong
B*tch do your song – keep telling yourself that you was a mom!

In the second verse Eminem admitted that he has made his fair share of mistakes and he is man enough to admit it. So he is mostly mad about the fact that his mother doesn’t admit the abusive behaviour she inflicted upon young Eminem. In the song “Dear Marshall” Debbie tries to justify her behaviour, but Marshall is done with her lies.

But how dare you try to take what you didn’t help me to get

Eminem’s mother sued Em for defamation of character. She sued him for $11 million and ended up winning $25,000 from which $23,345 was taken by her lawyer leaving her with just  $1,655. Karma is a bi*ch!

You selfish b*tch; I hope you f*cking burn in hell for this sh*t

Eminem cries in anguish at what his mother has done to him over the years. This is an outcry of releasing all the skeletons in his closet.

Remember when Ronnie died and you said you wished it was me?
Well guess what, I am dead – dead to you as can be!

The struggle between Eminem and Debbie escalated when his uncle Ronnie dies in 1991. Soon after Debbie and Em were in a phone call arguing over something and Debbie tipped her point and said “I wish this was you instead of Ronnie.” Debbie immediately apologized Em after saying that, but Eminem has had enough too. Eminem might be alive and well, but he says he is as dead as can be to his mother.

The brutally honest and spit fire lyrics of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” comes to an end with the above cold and steel-blade-through-the-heart kinda sentences. The hook repeats twice more and the song comes to a halt.

Eminem really did experience all the things mentioned in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” and I can’t even imagine having a childhood like that. Maybe, just maybe, at that time the contents of the song could be justified. But Eminem has felt guilty about the song for long after. “Headlights” was his way of saying sorry for this song and trying to mend fences with his mother. He even goes as far as to thank her for all the troubles she went through to bring up Eminem the best way she could. He is grateful for that. Will he ever forgive his father? Quite unlikely.

Do you have any opinions about the song? Do you have any interpretations or lyrics analysis of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”? Make sure to comment them below.

Just a cool Marshall Mathers poster.
Just a cool Marshall Mathers poster.

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