As of today, Eminem is officially over the hill. It’s Slim Shady’s birthday, and he is 40 years old.
But you’ve got to hand it to him: He’s just as relevant today as he was 13 years ago, when “My Name Is” declared this bratty asshole was going to be in our faces for years.
Oh, and that’s another thing. He’s not really a bratty asshole anymore. Back in his early days, I really hated Eminem’s music, especially because it was so homophobic it made my skin crawl. I even wrote a “response rap” about his hatefulness and ended up performing it at an event for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta. (True story. It was in a Barnes & Noble. The song was called “I Don’t Need Your Help to be Fabulous.” It was a crazy time.)
Recently, though, Eminem and his music have matured. He’s still plumbing the dark depths of his psyche—he’s been doing that since the beginning—but he’s stopped wildly insulting minorities as a means of dealing with his own anger. So to mark the occasion of his birthday, here are Eminem’s 4 best videos… the clips (and songs) that prove he’s gotten better with age.
(1) “Lose Yourself”
Obviously, right? This is not only Eminem’s best song, but also one of the best songs of the aughts. The titanic beat, the brilliant storytelling, and Em’s signature flow make this a novella in hip-hop form. It’s the theme to 8 Mile—where Eminem plays “Rabbit,” a character based on himself— but you don’t need to see the movie to dig the song’s story. In just a few minutes, we understand Rabbit’s desperate, occasionally wavering dream of using rap music to escape his terrible life.
Fun fact: This is the most recent song to win an Oscar and reach number one on Billboard’s Hot 100
Back in 2004, when George W. Bush was running for reelection, Eminem released a video for “Mosh,” a fiercely political song about why Bush needed to go. For the first time, Em used his anger and intelligence for a political cause, and the results were thrilling. The multimedia video, mixing live action and animation, makes the message even more powerful.
(3) “Not Afraid”
After a string of uninspired singles and a struggle with addiction, Eminem came back with “Not Afraid,” a refocused, re-energized single that found him directly addressing his demons, his recent lack of inspiration, and his decision to drop his reliance on silly accents. It sounds like an entry into the grown-up phase of his career, and it has the urgency of a man with something to prove.
(4) “Love the Way You Lie”
After “Lose Yourself,” this is my favorite Eminem song. It’s just incredibly perceptive about how a terrible relationship destroys both people with equal power. The second verse is especially striking, charting the moments when Eminem’s character becomes the angry, abusive man he never wanted to become. And then in the third verse, we learn how her craziness is hurting him. Meanwhile, Rihanna’s chorus helps us understand why this woman, who knows things are messed up, keeps coming back. It’s not a pretty song, but it feels incredibly honest. Oh, and the melody and beat make it catchy as hell.
Mark Blankenship is still dealing with the line “vomit on his sweater already/mom’s spaghetti.” That’s really specific and well-written, but it’s also gross. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.