Revisit the greatest hits of Eminem's extensive and unique production discography.
Though he’s widely regarded among the game’s greatest lyricists, Eminem has amassed a sizeable repertoire of production work during his lengthy tenure. Having worked with The Bass Brothers, Luis Resto, and of course the legendary Dr. Dre, Em’s willingness to learn the process kept his musicality honed behind the boards. A journey beginning with co-production on The Slim Shady LP, it wasn’t long before Em was laying down beats for Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent, G-Unit, The Game, Jadakiss, Redman, Lloyd Banks and more.
Though the bulk of his instrumental work was reserved for his own material, Em’s unique sound and style made him an interesting producer to follow. Like his mentor Dre, Em’s inclinations veered toward the darker sound, though his instincts often skewed closer to mischievous. His creative relationship with Luis Resto, a guitarist and pianist, ensured those elements remained fixtures of Slim’s toolkit. In truth, it’s unclear how his vast production repertoire has been received in the greater hip-hop conversation. Yet given the volume of quality he’s laid down throughout the years, Em’s input deserves to be highlighted with a renewed sense of appreciation.
Now, a little over a year removed from Eminem stepping into the producer’s chair on Kamikaze, here are his twenty-five best beats of all time.
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25. EMINEM - SOLDIER
One of Eminem’s biggest strengths as a producer is his ability to translate his emotions through music. His third studio album, 2002's The Eminem Show found Em handling the majority of the production, his first leading turn in the director’s chair. Contextually speaking, the album served as an explanation; The Marshall Mathers LP told us what pissed him off, whereas TES highlighted why. The layers were unfolding before our eyes, and Em made sure to let his music speak accordingly. “Soldier,” the first part of the album’s thematic center, was an outlet for Marshall Mathers frustrations - not Slim Shady, but the man behind the curtain. With up-tempo and tense atmosphere, his melancholic melody suggests a sense of hopelessness. A testament to Em’s ability to reiterate his point in dual mediums, and one of the most personal beats of his career.
LISTEN: Eminem - Soldier
24. JADAKISS FT EMINEM, STYLES P, & SHEEK LOUCH - WELCOME TO D BLOCK
“Till I Collapse” made it abundantly clear that Eminem held Jadakiss in high regard, so their collaborative partnership in 2004 was hardly surprising. Given that Em spent that era on somewhat of a production tear, it seemed inevitable that he’d be lacing his first journey into D Block’s territory. Sonically, “Welcome To D Block” found Em operating in the headspace he’d carry into Obie’s Second Rounds On Me later that year. Sparse arrangements, bleak and angry in nature; a man bearing the scars of wars against Ja Rule and Benzino. Perhaps emboldened by D Block’s street pedigree, Em’s desolate Kiss Of Death banger retains his unique musical characteristics while still capturing the unfamiliar qualities of Jadakiss’ fabled home turf.
23. OBIE TRICE, EMINEM, & 50 CENT - LOVE ME
Perhaps an unconventional selection, 8 Mile’s “Love Me” remains one of the quintessential posse cuts in the Shady Records canon. Originally presented in a Kay Slay freestyle, Em took the original skeleton and expanded upon it. With a methodical and spooky arrangement, “Love Me” is simultaneously frantic and hypnotic; as Em appropriately puts it, it’s like “trying to smoke crack and go to sleep.” The drums are as simple as they come, barely-there kicks and a clockwork snare, a far cry from the instrumentation of today. Yet Em was always at his best when tailoring beats to his flows, and the ghostly drift of “Love Me” proved that less can most definitely be more.
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22. D12 - WHEN THE MUSIC STOPS
A collaborative effort between Eminem and Kon Artis, currently known as Mr. Porter, “When The Music Stops” deserves due credit for bringing a harpsichord into the hip-hop fold. An instrument favored by Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter, the medieval-sounding contraption lays the foundation for one of The Eminem Show’s heaviest track. Driven by an unrelenting build, Em and Porter’s patience in sustaining the drop add additional weight to Slim’s verse. “When The Music Stops” feels particularly poignant as one of The Eminem Show’s darker tracks, a spiritual thematic successor to “The Way I Am.” Whether you appreciate Em’s musical instincts or not, nobody is crafting instrumentals quite like this.
LISTEN: D12 - When The Music Stops
21. XZIBIT FT EMINEM - DON'T APPROACH ME
Still gaining his foothold as a producer, one of Em’s formative tracks was “Don’t Approach Me” off Xzibit’s Restless. His fourth official collaboration with X, Em allowed his myriad frustrations to bleed into the beat. An explosive therapy session, Em’s somber beat included one of his eventual staples -- the muted guitar riff -- as well as his best imitation of Dr. Dre’s signature percussion. What makes this track stand out is its minimalist nature, complimenting the cadence and effortless flow of both emcees. The harmonic elements present arrive exactly when each verse calls for it, culminating in a cinematic synth string to drive home their sorrow. Also, bonus points for being one of Eminem’s first beats outside of his immediate Shady/Aftermath umbrella.
20. OBIE TRICE - AVERAGE MAN
In the run leading up to Obie Trice’s debut album Cheers, the musical chemistry between Em and his newest protege was still finding its footing. While tracks like “Rap Name” found Em implementing his own stylistic inclinations onto Obie, it was unclear how Em might soundtrack an entire project from the Detroit lyricist. Come “Average Man,” the introductory cut off Cheers, it soon became clear. The guitars came out in a badass arpeggio, encouraged by the recurring presence of gothic keystrokes. Though he never quite adopted a production tag, Em’s trademark strings make an appearance for added emphasis. Occasionally prone to cartoonish violence, “Average Man” revealed a maturity in Em’s production; some might even consider 2003 to be his beat-making prime.
LISTEN: Obie Trice - Average Man
19. NAS - THE CROSS
In a bonafide hip-hop tragedy, a rapped Nas and Eminem collaboration never manifested; it's said that Nas reached out for Eminem to rap on "Daughters," but Em felt he had already covered that ground. “The Cross” is the next best thing. Yet another co-sign from a GOAT tier lyricist, Nas stepped firmly from his comfort zone on the Em-laced God’s Son track. In some ways, it feels like a cousin to “Moment Of Clarity,” boasting a similar tempo and production. Fuelled by an ascending piano riff and emphatic brass hits, “The Cross” succeeds in giving Nas ample pockets to flow. Striking a tone of melancholic martyrdom, Em’s production brought out a powerful performance from Jones, one in which his frustrations were coaxed out and encouraged.
LISTEN: Nas- The Cross
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18. D12 - GIT UP
Though D12 World arrived during the height of Eminem’s battle with addiction, the album was not without its bright points. One such high would set the project ablaze, the introductory “Git Up.” A deviation from Em’s expected percussive pattern, his chosen groove encourages unconventional flow-schemes; he himself opts for a robotic delivery, exposing the depth of his nursery-rhyme appreciation. Perhaps he designed the instrumental for that very reason. In true Shady fashion, the progression is dark, the atmosphere ominous. One of the hardest tracks he’s ever laid down, complete with his most intricately arranged percussion.
LISTEN: D12 - Git Up
17. D12 - AMERICAN PSYCHO
While Em’s hand for production was tried on The Marshall Mathers LP, he truly came into his own on 2001’s Devil’s Night. The first of two D12 albums found Eminem stepping into the producer’s chair; revisiting it showcases some of his musical habits being formed. Though many are quick to praise “Fight Music” as the opus, “American Psycho” edges it out through sheer atmosphere. A full-scale horrorcore masterpiece, the track finds Em laying down a chilling instrumental befitting of the macabre lyrical subject matter. A song that features Bizarre devouring a miscarried fetus needs an appropriate beat. Speaking with HNHH in 2015, Swift McVay went so far as to call “American Psycho” his favorite Devil’s Night track. “When I heard Em’s verse, Kon Artis, Biz’s verse, I went off the roof,” he reflects. “It gave me chills...That was one of the songs I couldn’t wait for the audience to hear.”
LISTEN: D12 - American Psycho
16. EMINEM - SUPERMAN
Though songs “for the ladies” have often been thrust upon many an unsuspecting major-label studio album, Eminem has always bucked the trend in his own unique way. As “Steve Berman” once cautioned on The Marshall Mathers LP, the bulk of Slim’s content centered around “homosexuals and Vicodin.” And yet here he was crafting a bawdy sex jam, boldly likening himself to the Man Of Steel leaping “tall hoes in a single bound.” Aside from subverting expectations on a character level, “Superman’s” beat remained entrenched in Em’s wheelhouse, with western-style guitar arpeggios and a triumphant main theme. Nor does the anthem stagnate, with new elements entering into the mix as the (nearly) six-minute opus soars to its smug and satisfied post-coital climax.
LISTEN: Eminem - Superman
15. EMINEM - WITHOUT ME
There are distinct advantages to self-producing. For starters, it allows an artist to add another layer of expression to their track, to enhance their desired sense of character. For Eminem circa 2002, coming off the back-to-back tandem of The Marshall Mathers LP and the grotesquely goofy Devil’s Night, “Without Me” was not without an aura of mystery. The first glance at a man ready to expand on his own narrative, The Eminem Show’s lead single served as Eminem’s informal introduction to his new sound. Cartoonish synthesizers ooze in a slick disco loop, embellished by occasional bursts of Rhodes riffs and sultry sax. On a rhythmic level, the drums and bass form a perfect marriage of danceability, keeping momentum with Em’s steroid-infused mischief bars. In some ways, it covers the same ground as “The Real Slim Shady,” albeit with less unease; on this go-around, Em isn’t shaking his fist at those above him, but rather spitting from the balcony on those below. While “Without Me” might not be your cup of tea, the sheer impact it would go on to have on his production moving forward reserves it a place within this list.
LISTEN: Eminem - Without Me
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14. EMINEM - TILL I COLLAPSE
A solid introduction can often go unsung. It’s rare to see a hip-hop track begin with thirty-seconds of uninterrupted music. On “Till I Collapse,” Em’s main themes are foreshadowed in the opening segment, only to be later enhanced by militant percussion and chugging electric guitars. The brilliance of Em’s earlier guitar-based work is in its subtlety, eschewing rock-rap traditions by using them as complementary ingredients. Multi-instrumentalist Luis Resto deserves due praise, one of Em’s chief collaborators behind the boards. Together, they crafted The Eminem Show’s definitive track, a late-game adrenaline shot that has yet to wear off.
LISTEN: Eminem - Till I Collapse
13. EMINEM - LOSE YOURSELF
It’s impossible to deny the impact of “Lose Yourself.” Not only did the 8 Mile Soundtrack’s lead single net Slim an Oscar, it went on to galvanize his status into a full-blown cultural icon complete with parental approval. On a production level, “Lose Yourself” found Eminem exploring groundwork laid by “Sing For The Moment,” a clever reimagining of rock-and-roll's expected elements and qualities. Rather than repurposing an Aerosmith sample, he, Jeff Bass, and Luis Resto crafted a tense and melancholic original arrangement, tailored to mirror the emotional ebb-and-flow of Em's lyricism. Barely restrained electric guitars mirrored boiling blood, while soft piano flourishes captured vulnerability. Though it would be one of Em’s earliest forays into “rock-rap” territory, it would likewise be one of his most sophisticated.
LISTEN: Eminem - Lose Yourself
12. D12 - PURPLE PILLS
It’s difficult to talk about Eminem’s production without dipping a toe into the cartoonish. One has to wonder whether there would be a “Without Me” without D12’s lead single “Purple Pills.” Where the former is more overtly playful, there’s something sinister bubbling beneath the latter’s hallucinogenic synthesizers. Evocative of the laced drug trips the Dirty Dozen hazily recounts, “Purple Pills” goes so far as to implement a harmonica solo in its closing moments. And this isn’t a mere fragment - it’s a full-blown minute of pure harmonica bliss. Shout out to Ray Gale for that one. Before you cry afoul that "Purple Pills" was placed higher than "Lose Yourself," consider the circumstances surrounding its release. Not only did he have to spark immediate public interest in his loyal crew, but he also had to provide a musical canvas befitting of their outlandish modus operandi. And damned if the resulting acid-trip through Dali's Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening didn't succeed in nailing that rare bird double homicide.
LISTEN: D12 - Purple Pills
11. 50 CENT - I'M SUPPOSED TO DIE TONIGHT
50 Cent has always been a threatening force on wax. A dominant presence in gangster rap, prone to doling out beatings and drawing the firearm without remorse. When he teamed up with Eminem, however, his proclivities toward violence developed an additional layer. Spurred by Em’s inclinations toward the haunting, a quality that he shares with mentor Dr. Dre, Fif found himself veering into existential territory going so far as to deem himself “Satan’s Angel” on “I’m Supposed To Die Tonight.” Urgent despite its dirge-like pace, this early The Massacre highlight is tense enough to maintain chills for its duration. Another instance in which Em takes nursery rhyme qualities and injects them with a syringe of nightmare fuel.
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10. 2PAC & THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G - RUNNIN (DYING TO LIVE)
Before winning over Afeni Shakur with a handwritten request to produce her son's posthumous album Loyal To Tha Game, Eminem laid the backdrop for a collaboration between 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. Aside from the legendary pedigree, “Runnin” manages to sound sonically appropriate to both artists, neither of whom strayed from darker music. A pitched up flip of Edgar Winter’s “Dying To Live” anchors the song with a vain sense of hope, only to be subsequently eroded by Em’s goonish strings. The influence of Dr. Dre bleeds through “Runnin,” though Eminem’s general ear for chord progressions and preferred sounds ground him in his own distinct realm.
9. EMINEM, OBIE TRICE, & DMX - GO TO SLEEP
Like Dre, the man from which he likely learned several tricks of the trade, Em has never shied away from the horror genre. And while some of his earlier material found him donning the killer’s overalls, his anger would occasionally run beyond the conceptual. That would prove the case on “Go To Sleep,” a collaboration with DMX and Obie Trice penned in the midst of the Ja Rule & Benzino feud. It’s no wonder he pulled out medieval instruments for the torture session; both church organs and the harpsichord are dusted off. The end result was one of Em’s most aggressive beats, a quality reflected in his and X’s rabid performances; Obie was always content to play the restraint, calculated killer with the ridiculous vocabulary.
8. JAY-Z - MOMENT OF CLARITY
“I made beats for Jay-Z for free, page me,” flexed Eminem, on a freestyle circa 2003. And that he did, with “Moment Of Clarity” earning a spot on Jay’s retirement lap The Black Album. An extra-special feat, considering that Jay was tailoring the entire project around the work of his favorite producers. The prestige alone earns “Moment” a spot on this list, especially given the infrequency with which Em blesses outsiders; the pedigree of those seeking his production, from Redman, Nas, and Jay, should inherently put credit on his name. In essence, “Moment Of Clarity” features a straightforward synth riff and a varied take on boom-bap drums. It’s the sounds themselves that reveal Em’s meticulous ear, transforming something simple into something memorable.
LISTEN: Jay-Z - Moment Of Clarity
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7. EMINEM - MOCKINGBIRD
Where Em’s affinity for lullabies is generally used in the name of evil, “Mockingbird” marks a deviation from the expected. Marking the emotional centerpiece of Encore, Em’s homage to his daughter Hailie Jade makes for a compelling journey even without the lyrics. Driven by a lovely piano line and the occasional string section, “Mockingbird” pulls at the heartstrings without diving into sentimentality. Once again, Eminem and Luis Resto strike gold with simplicity, crafting a strong melody and allowing it to paint a stirring portrait. At once sad and regretful, loving and triumphant, Em’s reflection on fatherhood is one of the most revealing tracks of his career.
LISTEN: Eminem - Mockingbird
6. LLOYD BANKS - TILL THE END
Though never officially signed to Shady, Eminem’s touch was certainly felt on Lloyd Banks’ debut The Hunger For More. Producing three of the albums highlight tracks, Em made sure to bless Banks with one of the most haunting beats of his career. To make a distinction, “Till The End” resonates through wistfulness rather than menace. The air of tragedy having struck, the fallout that only comes with time. A soft, lullaby-esque piano riff is the main backdrop, a staple of Eminem and Luis Resto’s modus operandi. Subtly arranged with hints of underlying trauma, “Till The End” is a cinematic addition to Em’s production discography.
LISTEN: Lloyd Banks - Till The End
5. EMINEM - THE WAY I AM
A monumental moment in Eminem’s journey behind the boards, “The Way I Am” was the first beat he ever crafted on his lonesome. Em has always thrived producing for himself; it allows him to best express his highly conceptual songs, capturing whatever emotion might be the driving force. Here, it’s none other than sheer frustration, appropriately mirrored by a maddening loop of delayed piano. Hallmarks of Eminem’s ever-building toolkit are present: slightly overdriven guitars, minor-key riffs, shuffling hi-hats, and subtle gothic accouterments. A simple arrangement in theory, “The Way I Am” succeeds as a direct reflection of a man at his most embroiled. Not to mention, it marked his introduction into the game as a multitalented force, which in itself gives this Marshall Mathers LP highlight extra gravitas.
LISTEN: Eminem - The Way I Am
4. OBIE TRICE, LLOYD BANKS, EMINEM & 50 CENT - WE ALL DIE ONE DAY
One must envy a fly on the wall in this particular studio session. A Shady Records posse cut fueled by piss and vinegar, violent cockiness, and the swagger of those sitting atop the rap game, “We All Die One Day” may very well be the hardest track in Eminem’s discography, period. Encapsulating both their disdain for their opponents and their pride in their own dominance, Em, G-Unit, and Obie Trice absolutely obliterate a merciless beat from the Shady ringleader. As he is wont to do, Em keeps his percussion relatively simple, kicking up the intensity with a deep, slightly distorted synthesizer. The main melody unfolds with a descending minor scale reaching its natural conclusion, almost playful in its simplicity. Yet there are no games being played here. This beat encourages aggression from all participants, who are happy to oblige.
3. EMINEM - STAN
One of the earliest Eminem beats to incorporate a sample, the 45 King collaboration “Stan” remains one of Slim’s most enduring musical moments. A deviation from his sound of the time, acoustic guitar chords and a bittersweet bassline unite, only hinting at the depravity to come. Those familiar with the Dido song from which the hook is taken might recognize her track's progression into a major key lift. Em and the 45 King swerve that direction entirely. There’s something self-fulfilling about the “Stan” instrumental; a progression that doesn't quite commit to melancholy, keeping the fainted hint of optimism alive. The concept of an obsessive fan driven to madness might have teetered on comedic in a lesser writer’s hands. Yet thanks to Slim and King’s masterfully crafted beat, the tragic story is imbued with the power it deserves.
LISTEN: Eminem - Stan
2. 50 CENT & EMINEM - PATIENTLY WAITING
“Patiently Waiting” is the embodiment of the killer from Relapse tiptoeing to your doorstep. Where pizzicato strings can sound almost whimsical in the right hands, Em flips them on their heads, creating an atmosphere of simmering tension closer to the opening dissonance of a horror movie. A recurring, deeper element reminiscent of a muted guitar keeps the pace lively, as occasional slow-burning synth strings creep into the mix. Prior to its release, the sample size of 50 Cent’s Eminem-laced songs remained too small to draw any conclusions. After “Patiently Waiting,” however, immediate musical chemistry was forged. With many still touting Get Rich Or Die Tryin as a classic, it’s likely they’d have much to say about its legendary third track.
1. JAY-Z & EMINEM - RENEGADE
Curiously enough, Jay-Z’s Blueprint did not include a single guest appearance, save for a lone contribution from Slim Shady. Emerging at a time in which Em was public enemy number one, “Renegade” came equipped with an inherent sense of urgency. At the helm were Em and frequent Shady collaborator DJ Head, who conjured up a haunting beat complete with several signature staples: gothic choirs, minor-key piano arpeggios, a slick bassline. A noted departure from Blueprint’s sonic aesthetic thus far, “Renegade” proved to be new territory for the Jigga Man, who ably bodied the beat. More importantly, it made for the first collaboration between the rappers, a relationship that would ultimately secure Marshall a placement on Jay’s exclusive “retirement” send-off.
LISTEN: Jay-Z & Eminem - Renegade