In “Rap God” by Eminem, the Detroit rap maestro embarks on a six-minute lyrical odyssey that solidifies his place among the pantheon of greatest emcees. He flexes his lyrical prowess and incredible flow, taking his audience on a nostalgic tour through the evolution of hip-hop, acknowledging his inspirations, and asserting his dominance in the rap game.
The song opens with Eminem metaphorically saying he’s going easy on other rappers, giving them a chance, but things are about to change. “Something’s wrong, I can feel it” insinuates that he senses a change in the hip-hop climate – it’s his time. As he begins to feel like a ‘Rap God’, the song delves into bravado territory, stating his superiority in the rap game and contemplating the idea of anyone being a match for him. He uses boxing metaphors to express this – “long enough arms to slap box”, a challenge to his peers. The reference to ‘Robot-Rap’ and ‘rap-bot’, is a clever self-deprecating response to critics who have commented on his technical precision.
He delves into his journey, rapping about how he made a killing since his start during the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal era, a nod to his 1999 breakout with the controversial “The Slim Shady LP”. Eminem also pays homage to his influences – Rakim, Lakim Shabazz, 2Pac, N.W.A, etc. – asserting that they shaped him, and he aspires to be in a position to induct Run-D.M.C. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, underscoring his respect for the hip-hop pioneers.
The verses are replete with references to his history, failures, and eventual growth into a rap god. Terms like ‘White Trash God’ and the ‘Dale Earnhardt of the trailer park’ are self-inflicted labels steeped in his trailer-park upbringing and his bad-boy persona. We see Em wrestling with his fame, his past and current critics, and his inner demons. References to being ‘superhuman’, ‘immortal’, ‘coming through the portal’ denote his out-of-this-world skills and his evolutionary progress in the game.
In the last verses of the song, Eminem candidly addresses his controversy-ridden career. He admits to his past misdemeanors, his controversial lyrics about women and his general provocation in the media, expressing a struggle with the angel-devil dichotomy within him. Yet, he maintains his aggressive stand against the criticism he faces, fighting discrimination with discrimination, and asserting his place as a god in the rap game.
From the start to the end, Eminem’s “Rap God” paints a crystalline picture of his path to becoming one of the most influential figures in hip-hop, while also showcasing his uncanny ability to weave complex narratives, potent metaphors, and razor-sharp responses to his critics; the embodiment of his claim to the ‘rap god’ title.