The rap song so big George Clooney mentioned it in an Oscar acceptance speech. Eminem is easily one of the best rappers of all time, and he’s got several songs that qualify as GOATs, but I landed on this one because it’s got everything that makes hip hop such a powerful genre. It’s an underdog story. It’s autobiographical. It wraps braggadocio in a veil of humility. It’s funny, touching, and suspenseful. And it builds, from those opening notes and that question, “If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted—one moment–would you capture it, or just let it slip?” to the explosion when the chorus first hits.
Structurally, “Lose Yourself” really can’t be beat. The opening bars have a complex rhyme scheme where no word is wasted and no word is made up or mispronounced (something even extremely skilled rappers like Kanye West resort to when they’re stuck on a word).
It was the first rap song ever to be nominated by the Grammys for best Song of the Year (it lost, but it did win multiple Grammys). It was the first rap song to be nominated for an Oscar (it won). It’s been used as themes in all kinds of sports, from hockey to rugby to American football to wrestling. It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Single at Number One for a Rap Song.
Simply put, it’s one of the best rap songs of all time and one of the greatest of all tunes. THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
Layla has had the top spot ever since I started this feature and countdown. Today, that changes.
- Lose Yourself by Eminem (2002) <—
- Layla by Derek and the Dominoes (1970) (link)
- Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana (1991) (link)
- Surrender by Cheap Trick (1978) (link)
- Better Things by The Kinks (1981) (link); and: Covers of the top 30 Kinks songs here and here
- Be Thankful for What You’ve Got by William DeVaughn (1974)(link)
- Juicy by Notorious B.I.G. (1994) (link)
Yeah, as of right now, this is the Greatest Tune Of All Time.
Further listening: Other Em tunes that could make the GOAT list include The Real Slim Shady, Without Me, Love the Way You Lie, Headlights, Cleaning Out My Closet, Renegade (in which Eminem actually serves Jay-Z himself), and Stan.
Covers (mostly spoofs and mashups): I’m starting with Vienna Teng, because she mashes up two GOATs: This song and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”