Once in a lifetime we come across a song that defines an era, defines an artist, and defines a genre. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem was his glistening moment. The track was released as a single from ‘8 Mile’ movie soundtrack which is ‘loosely’ based on Marshall Mathers’ real life. Eminem gave life to the character of himself in the movie and he wrote and composed “Lose Yourself” while the movie was being shot. The song was released on October 28, 2002, prior to the movie being released.
Accolades of “Lose Yourself”
To this date, it is considered one of the best hip hop/rap songs ever produced. The single won The Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Original Song in 2003 and won Grammy awards for ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Solo Performance.’
“Lose Yourself” also peaked on top of charts around 18 countries and claimed number one spot on Billboard Hot 100 chart. Rolling Stones magazine named the song on their ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list-where only three hip hop songs made into the list.
The song is certified quintuple platinum on sales which is 5 million sales as per RIAA, but has been downloaded 6.7 million copies as per October 2015 in US alone.
Watch “Lose Yourself” Video by Eminem
The lyrical work on “Lose Yourself” has been praised by many due to it’s flow and amazing and complex rhyming schemes. Check out the video at the end of the article for an explanation on that. For now let’s get into some reviews of the lyrics.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
“Lose Yourself” is based on Eminem’s life from growing up as a troubled kid to fighting underground rap battles and making it out of the shackles that restricted him from greatness. Now put those lines into the amazing lyrical skills of Eminem and you get the following verses. Eminem begins the track with an intro;
Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
These few lines encapsulate the entire essence of the song. You are given those rare sparks of opportunities once in a while. But are you brave enough to grab them, use them and make them your weapons?
And we come to verse 1:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already: Mom’s spaghetti
Here, Eminem is describing about Jimmy Smith Jr.-the character of Eminem when he was doing rap battle in underground Detroit. Jimmy-B-Rabbit-Smith is preparing backstage to face off in the rap battles and his emotions are explained in these lines.
Why “mom’s spaghetti” though? For one thing it works marvelously with the rhyming scheme he has going on with words like ‘sweaty’, ‘heavy’ and ‘already.’ But this choice of food serves a special purpose too. It is a direct reflection on Eminem’s life growing up. He lived with his drug addict mom in a trailer park. They were poor and spaghetti was their choice food. So Eminem combines word play along with some severe hidden meaning in these seemingly funny lyrics.
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s choking, how? Everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over – blaow!
Eminem speaks about Jimmy Smith’s condition as he is about to go on stage. He is about to rap battle-a form of freestyle rapping performed in front of a roaring crowd and the winner is decided by the vote of the audience. So he is nervous. Back when these events were unfolding rapping was predominantly owned by African Americans. Hence, when Eminem takes the stage, he is basically the only white rapper out there. So he is pretty nervous.
Despite freestyling, Eminem can’t even remember the verses he practiced backstage. He is choking on his own words and he can hear the crowd booing. You can watch Eminem choke in the video below from the movie ‘8 Mile’.
Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity
This one line changes pretty much the entire fantasy he has been building up. He lost the rap battle and he has to face the harsh realities of his life now.
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked, he’s so mad but he won’t
Give up that easy nope, he won’t have it, he knows
His whole back’s to these ropes, it don’t matter, he’s dope
B-Rabbit is Marshall’s name from his childhood-his mom used to call him ‘rabbit.’ B-Rabbit choked on his first rap battle and it was his dreams that he choked on. But he is not one to give up that easy. He would come back and win it all, just not today. ‘back to the ropes’ is a wrestling reference when a player is cornered into the ropes.
He knows that, but he’s broke, he’s so stagnant, he knows
When he goes back to this mobile home, that’s when it’s
Back to the lab again, yo! This whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him
Eminem knows that he will succeed eventually, but eventually was not a time frame he had the freedom to tackle. They were broke, in debt and to add up to all of it, his mom was a drug addict.
His life is so stagnant, not moving anywhere but down. But he has a ‘mobile’ home, because, well, they lived in a trailer. See how he cleverly contradicts himself here.
“Rhapsody” means an epic piece of poetry. Eminem knows he has a gem with “Lose Yourself.”
The hook of “Lose Yourself”
The hook of the song is probably one of the most famous ones out there.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
Yo own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo-//
These empowering lyrics say that we have to seize every opportunity we are given to better ourselves and make it count. You do something, you do it with passion and you own the moment. Sometimes you only get one chance at making it great, like the moment Eminem got to meet with Dr. Dre, he made it count and got to recording with Dre.
Verse 2 of “Lose Yourself” unfolds…
The soul’s escaping through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking, make me king
As we move toward a New World Order
A normal life is boring; but superstardom’s
Close to post-mortem, it only grows harder
Homie grows hotter, he blows it’s all over
Eminem feels as if he is losing hope on this life. But if he doesn’t give up, the whole world is up for grabs. ‘New World Order’ is a conspiracy theory, but Eminem is not suggesting he is part of any Illuminati group, but he is merely sparking controversy. Eminem is talking about the new world he is moving on to once he becomes the breakout star of the rap game.
A normal life is boring, true enough, but Eminem says superstardom is as good as you being dead. There is no privacy, no rest, pressure on pressure and stress almost kills you. The more you climb to the top, the more enslaved you are and it only gets worse. That ‘homie’ from the block is a hot star now, but he is a ticking bomb, drawing closer to exploding from within.
Listen to this amazing cover of “Lose Yourself” by Andra Day
These hoes is all on him, coast to coast shows
He’s known as the Globetrotter, lonely roads
Eminem has had a busy career. He has been doing concerts all around the world. The money and women are just a day’s work. He calls himself a ‘globetrotter’ meaning a person who walks around the globe-may be more suitable as a person who is known all over the world. But they are lonely roads he walks on.
God only knows, he’s grown farther from home, he’s no father
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter
In the process of becoming the most successful rapper in history, Eminem has had trouble keeping up with his family. I doubt Marshall and his daughter Hailie even have any contact with him to this point.
But hold your nose cause here goes the cold water
These hoes don’t want him no mo’, he’s cold product
They moved on to the next schmoe who flows
He nose-dove and sold nada, and so the soap opera
Is told, it unfolds, I suppose it’s old, partner
But the beat goes on: da-da-dum da-dum dah-dah
When Eminem drops down from the seventh seven, so do all the perks that come with it. He compares it to be submerged in cold water. And he plays on words saying he becomes a ‘cold product’. The ‘fans’ move on to the next artist who flows nicely. ‘Nose dive’ means hitting rock bottom face first, he sold no albums and the drama unfolds. But the music goes on.
The third verse of “Lose Yourself” takes on…
No more games, I’ma change what you call rage
Tear this motherfuckin’ roof off like two dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed
Now Eminem takes us back to the B-Rabbit’s underground rap battle scene. He is outraged at the previous defeat, but he is going to change that. He took it lightly in the beginning, but he is about to change all that and tear the roof off that rap battle arena.
I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage
But I kept rhyming and stepped right in the next cypher
Marshall Mathers has had a rough life and an even tougher music career. He’s experienced it all. That is why he is feared by all. Through all the struggles he did one thing and that produced his music. He kept at it and emerged at the top.
Best believe somebody’s paying the Pied Piper
‘Paying the Pied Piper’ is a reference to wealthy people calling the shots.
All the pain inside amplified by the
Fact that I can’t get by with my nine-to-
Five and I can’t provide the right type of
Life for my family, cause man, these God damn
Eminem says he couldn’t get a job (nine-to-five working hours) and provide for his family the right way. He is a billionaire now, but maybe he regrets not being able to sit with his family at dinner. Wonder if he regrets not being able to tolerate a desk job.
Food stamps don’t buy diapers, and there’s no movie
There’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
Eminem plays with realities at these lyrics. “Lose Yourself” is the theme song for the movie ‘8 Mile’ which is loosely based on Eminem’s life. But in the song he says this is not a movie what he is singing about-this is his real life. Well, thank you Eminem for confirming that the movie is in fact about your life. Mekhi Phifer was a lead role in the movie who was Eminem’s good friend who ran ‘The Shelter’, the place where underground rap battle took place. Eminem says there’s no special reason he included that specific person, but just to continue the rhyming scheme. What luck!
And these times are so hard, and it’s getting even harder
Tryna feed and water my seed plus, teeter-totter
Caught up between being a father and a prima donna
When Eminem was becoming the next big thing in the rap business, his life was quite the mess. His wife was not by his side-split up with his daughter and all the feuds inherent to the rap game, and the death of his best friend Proof. It only got harder, trying to balance his work and personal life.
Baby momma drama, screaming on her too much for me to wanna stay in one spot, another day of monotony
All the drama with his wife, and being unable to provide for his family nearly made him suicidal. The daily routine got monotonous and his dreams starting to fade off. Probably, his biggest fear was not being able to make it out of the mess he had to grow up in.
Has gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail, I’ve got
To formulate a plot, or end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherfuckin’ option – failure’s not
This drove Eminem to the point where he almost made a rash decision which may have ended up him in jail or even shot dead. There was only one way out of this hell he grew in. And that is success. ‘Failure’ is not even an option for Marshall at this point. “Lose Yourself” is so motivating with lyrics like these.
Mom, I love you, but this trailer’s got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem’s Lot
So here I go, it’s my shot, feet: fail me not
This may be the only opportunity that I got
Eminem’s mother probably did the best she could to raise him up. He loves her for that, but he says the trailer they lived in has to go. Which means he wants better things for himself. ‘Salem’s Lot’ is not a real place in Detroit and there’s controversy regarding this, which is not yet resolved. Even Eminem has not told anything about this place.
Next line “Lose Yourself” switches back to the B-Rabbit’s underground rap battle scene from the movie. This is his opportunity-one shot to have it all-one shot to be it all. He asks his feet not to fail him and he goes on stage.
The hook continues for once more and the “Lose Yourself” comes to a dramatic end with an outro:
You can do anything you set your mind to, man
Well, there you go. This applies to anything, any situation and any struggle in your life. So keep it engraved on your minds and never let it go. Successful people are those who set their minds to a goal and worked towards it day and night. Mind is the most powerful tool in this world and make use of it.
How Close is “Lose Yourself” to Eminem’s Real Life?
It is important thing to remember is that Eminem composed this song for the soundtrack of ‘8 Mile’ movie. Eminem plays the role of Jimmy Smith Jr. who is a struggling white rapper making it out of the crappy life he is having. But the similarities of the story and Eminem’s real life are quite significant.
Eminem’s father left him when he was young and his mother brought him up. His mother was a drug addict and had a boyfriend who treated her and Eminem like white trash. Eminem lived in a trailer park. He rap battled in Detroit and he beat Papa Doc in the final battle. All of this is portrayed in the movie and by the laws of major significances (made it up), we have fair reason to believe that ‘8 Mile’ is ‘loosely’ based on Em’s real life. The extent of it is known by only Eminem.
So we close down this lengthy lyrics breakdown and meaning of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. You can contribute to the article by adding your own views and annotations to the lyrics by commenting below.
Almost forgot the video I promised in the beginning. Here’s a lady with a pretty voice explaining the complexity of the rhyming schemes in “Lose Yourself”.
After 18 years since Eminem won the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Score’ at the Oscars, the legend made a surprise appearance to perform this hit track live on stage. Watch the full live performance below.
Eminem also took to Twitter apologize to the world for being so late to the award ceremony.
After the Oscars performance, Eminem sat down with Variety magazine for an interview. In this interview, the Detroit rapper reveals how he was at home with his daughter Hailie when his name was announced the winner for “Lose Yourself” at the 2003 Oscars.
When asked if Eminem was disappointed that he missed receiving the award, he said; “I don’t know that I was disappointed, I was blown back by the fact that I won. I don’t even think I understood back then that you could get an Oscar for a song, and I remember being kinda confused about why I was even up for one, because as a kid with the Oscars, it was like a vacuum.”
Paul Rosenberg shared the story of Eminem writing “Lose Yourself” on the set of ‘8 Mile’ movie.
I know you guys have probably already seen or heard about this but I had to post it too. 🎬@eminem recorded and wrote “Lose Yourself” on the set of 8 Mile. Whenever we had a break or down time he would run into the studio trailer and get on the mic or tweak beats when most actors would have been catching up on their rest or having a meal. 🎥In fact, Marshall wrote lyrics in his notebook (or sometimes to the dismay of the continuity watchdogs on his palms)📽 while crouching in the corner with headphones on in between takes. 🎧Most artists don’t have the good fortune of writing a classic like this under ideal circumstances let alone those described above. 🎞Its success and longevity is a testament to the dedication and genius of a rare level of talent and artistry. Congrats, Marshall! Really impressive stuff!🎦