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I’m going to make you feel old. The Eminem classic, 8 Mile came out almost 20 years ago. I’m going to repeat that. 8 Mile, and in turn, the 8 Mile soundtrack, is nearly 20 years old. That said, even as old as it is, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” can still be heard blasting from car speakers across America, and probably across the world. Seriously, I have a 12-year-old student in my class who calls Eminem the G.O.A.T. Not only that, but he can recite every single lyric to the hit song. And I mean it. Every. Single. Lyric.
But here’s the thing. While my student knows all of the lyrics to “Lose Yourself,” a lot of it is actually lost on him. And I don’t mean because the lyrics are above him or anything like that. He's a really smart kid. I mean, it’s because he’s never seen the movie 8 Mile, and actually didn’t even know that it existed until I told him about it (which I kind of regret now since the movie is Rated-R). I think some of the lyrics might actually be lost on a lot of younger listeners though since the song is directly connected to the film. So, I’m here to break down some of the lyrics that may fly over the heads of some of the younger hip-hop heads who have never seen the once-popular flick. And no, I won’t be mentioning the famous “Mom’s spaghetti” lyric. That beauty can still stand on its own.
Some vague 8 Mile spoilers ahead! The film is currently available streaming on Max Go.
"He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out…”
Upon a first listen, the song seems general enough. Eminem opens the track by asking if you had one shot of reaching your dreams, would you take it? And yes, anybody can relate to that. But in actuality, this idea is directly tied to the narrative of the film, as Eminem’s character wants nothing more than to be a world-famous rapper, and he’s cutting his teeth on the underground, freestyle circuit. But one lyric in particular stands out in regards to that narrative thread:
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud. He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out. He's chokin', how, everybody's jokin' now.
Early in the film, Eminem’s character is at a rap battle, but he freezes. Part of it is because he’s a white rapper, and his opponent really plays upon that. But the other part is just sheer stage fright, and the crowd literally chants “Choke! Choke! Choke!”, which is where the whole, “He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now” part comes from.
“Ope, there goes Rabbit, he choked…”
I already went over the whole “choked” aspect of the story, but another lyric that somebody really listening to the song might raise an eyebrow to is the mention of a rabbit. In fact, the lyric goes as follows:
Snap back to reality, ope there goes gravity. Ope, there goes Rabbit, he choked. He's so mad, but he won't give up that easy? No.
Eminem’s character’s name in the movie is Jimmy, but his MC name is B-Rabbit, or Bunny Rabbit, to be specific. He got the nickname from his mother in the film, played by Kim Basinger, because she said he had buck teeth like a rabbit when he was a child. So, there you go. That’s the “Rabbit” in question who choked. It’s not an actual rabbit like this is Watership Down or something.
“He's so stagnant, he knows, when he goes back to this mobile home…”
This is another lyric where you could probably just shrug it off, but this actually played a major part in the film as well. In the movie, Eminem is living in a mobile home kind of like Frances McDormand in Nomadland. Instead of living alone, though, he’s living with his mother, his little sister, and his mother’s abusive boyfriend, played by Michael Shannon. The lyric in question is as follows:
It don't matter, he's dope, 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. Better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him.
This plays directly into the plot of the film, as Eminem is working a dead-end job during the daytime at a car factory to help support his family, who is sharing a mobile home together. And the mobile home is where he writes his lyrics, as he’s going “back to the lab.” "Back to the lab" is a common saying, with "the lab" being your home, as that’s where the mad science, i.e., the dope lyrics, are created.
“Make me king, as we move toward a New World Order…”
Is Eminem a part of the Illuminati? Or maybe he’s just a big wrestling fan. I’ll tell you that the definite answer to the former is no (but I honestly have no idea if Em is into the nWo). What I do know though is that the “New World Order” line directly connects to the antagonists of the film. The line from the song is as follows:
His 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 borin', but super stardom's close to post mortem.
In the movie, Rabbit’s main antagonists are a rap collective called “Leaders Of the Free World,” and it’s led by a rapper named Papa Doc (played by Anthony Mackie). The whole, “We move toward a New World Order” line is a swipe at the Leaders of the Free World, as Em’s character is rising to the occasion and taking them all down, one by one, on the mic.
“And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer…”
Lastly, a lot of younger people might wonder who Mekhi Phifer is. And if they do know him (likely from Divergent), they’ll likely wonder why Eminem is talking about him. The line goes like this:
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 goddamn food stamps don't buy diapers. And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer. This is my life and these times are so hard, and it's getting even harder tryna feed and water my seed.
Mekhi Phifer plays Rabbit’s best friend, Future, in the movie. In this section of the song, Em is saying that this is the verse where he wasn’t even talking about the movie anymore, and was instead just talking about his own life and the struggles he had to go through to get to where he was at that time. The movie was semi-biographical anyway, and there was “no Mekhi Phifer” on his actual journey. This was real life, yo.
And that’s it. There’s more to the lyrics, but those are a few of the most glaring ones that today’s fans of the song might wonder about. But what are your thoughts on the lyrics? Have you ever seen 8 Mile? Answer in the poll below. And To learn more about 2021 movies rather than movies from 2002, make sure you stop by here often!