4 Storytelling Secrets To Write Raps Like Eminem
Today we’re going to explain storytelling secrets to write raps like Eminem (for beginners) using four lyrical secrets that none other than Slim Shady himself uses.
We’ll be breaking down exactly how he executes some of his best lyrical tricks…
…And a few of the main reasons why he is often considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.
So, without further ado… let’s get into how to rap like Eminem for beginners using his lyrical secrets!
Write Raps Like Eminem: Overview
1. Struggle-Success Storytelling
Eminem uses a format of storytelling we like to term as “struggle-success storytelling” where he is as descriptive with his struggle as he is with his successes. This is one of the first steps to write raps like Eminem on his motivational songs.
2. Recurring Characters
Another common tactic Eminem uses is to have “recurring characters” (or put more plainly, made-up voices) come up again and again in his lyrics. Think of these characters like a TV show where they show up once every three episodes. When you write raps like Eminem, you should find ways to add characters.
3. Entertaining Enemies
A trick that I haven’t seen mentioned very much online is how Eminem creates imaginary opponents in his music who either a “viral” sensation at the time of the song, or somebody, real or imagined, who entertains the audience and becomes an antagonist that Shady (and thus the audience living through him) must conquer.
Roleplaying is a concept taken from drama and theatre, and almost like a “modern day Shakespeare” as he would put it, Eminem consistently impersonates, with full voice and speech, characters in his songs.
1. Struggle-Success Storytelling
One of the first things Eminem does to make his lyrics relatable is use a format of storytelling we’ll called “struggle-success storytelling”.
While in Hip-Hop when fans say that a rapper is a good “storyteller”, they are often referring to the ability for the rapper to construct an entertaining fictional narrative…
Often about some form of a heist or robbery like in Notorious B.I.G.’s “Warning” or Nas’s “Blaze A 50”…
Eminem has perfected the ability to first bring the audience fully into his struggle, make them live there for a while…
So that by the time they reach the heightened joy of success, usually embodied by the chorus or the second to third verse…
They feel an expanded sense of joy, much like Eminem himself would after escaping that feeling of pain.
We can first look at the first verse of “Lose Yourself”. While the song itself is heralded as one of the most motivational songs in rap history…
The first images we see are of someone in a serious mental and emotional struggle:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
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
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
Think of how descriptive he is being about his STRUGGLE from an emotional and physical standpoint:
- Loss of Memory
This sounds like a series of symptoms on WebMD that could be anything from a fever to full blown AIDS! Talk about struggle!
By the time we arrive at the triumphant chorus, we have truly been through the struggle with him so we can emotional share the taste of victory with B. Rabbit.
For you as a beginning artist, if you want to write raps like Eminem…
Especially if you deal with any form of not knowing what to rap about or writer’s block…
Consider writing more bars describing the struggle from an emotional or physical standpoint so that when you finally ARRIVE at the triumphant chorus, the audience can share the joy with you.
(NOTE: If you struggle with writer’s block, check out our writer’s block course out now which walks you through exactly how to get out a writing slump, every time in under an hour. It even comes with Eminem storytelling examples like “Stan”. You get a free book just for checking out the link by clicking HERE)
2. Recurring Characters
Another tactic Eminem uses to flesh out his raps is creating “recurring characters” in his songs to help flesh out the “universe” he has his listeners inhabit.
You can think of a recurring character as somebody who shows up on a television show once or twice a season…
And while not a MAIN character, they often have an integral part of the plot on certain episodes.
Old school examples might include Newman from Seinfeld, Bruhman from Martin, or Jazzy Jeff from the French Prince of Bel-Air.
A notable example from a major show recently would be Bronn from Game of Thrones.
As a side note… what was up with his sudden turn to darkness in that last season 8? That whole season sucked.
In the early days, one of the most overt examples of this was Ken Kanniff, a loner pervert who would terrorize Eminem and his friends with prank calls and sexual innuendos.
This wasn’t the only time that Eminem would bring back a character, however… we can see the presence of paralyzed actor Christopher Reeves consistently over Eminem’s career from 2000’s “Who Knew” to Relapse’s “Medicine Ball” all the way to a few years ago in 2016 on “Campaign Speech”.
With Em’s recurring characters, he doesn’t just mention them in songs, he even impersonates them and at times has them rap full bars, as he does with Christopher Reeves on “Medicine Ball”.
For you as an artist, you may consider either picking a celebrity that gives you an emotional reaction or is easy to impersonate and make them somewhat of a recurring character in your songs.
That doesn’t mean you have to necessarily INSULT them, but they can be a part of the universe you’re building with your songs.
However, if you want to have a little fun and make them sound ridiculous, go ahead… Eminem ALSO made quite a career off of that.
3. Entertaining Enemies
Which brings use to secret #3…
You have to get some enemies.
Not enough people talk about this, but Eminem was one of the first artists to use name-dropping “viral influencers” to get more attention to his album.
You remember how much controversy he stirred around the release of the Marshall Mathers LP when he named dropped Christina Aguilera in “The Real Slim Shady”?
You remember how his Moby diss in “Without Me” caused a viral buzz, even for 2002, for a hot second?
What Eminem has done here is create fictional enemies in his raps in order to create an entertaining sphere for his characters to inhabit.
Even when not mentioning celebrities, he also creates enemies like D’Angelo Bailey, the bully from his middle school days who terrorizes him in “Brain Damage”… or the “lady of the night” in “As The World Turns”...
As enemies that he must conquer throughout the story. And by creating enemies that are entertaining and get a reaction out of the audience…
We as the listeners actually MELD into the same mentality as Eminem and want to viscerally see him succeed.
For you as an artist, especially you young artists that feel you don’t have an “interesting life”…
You should start identifying people in your life who are like a D’Angelo Bailey or someone who bothers you regularly…
And feel free to make them your entertaining enemy for your music. You don’t have to use their real name or even make the description perfectly accurate, but make sure that the audience can relate and understand your frustration with them.
As a hilarious side-note, D’Angelo Bailey IS the real name of Eminem’s bully and attempted to squeeze some money out of Shady after Mathers made his millions, but the case was dismissed.
What makes this even more ridiculous however, is that the judge in the court case decided to RAP OUT her dismissal of the case in RHYME form…
“Mr. Bailey complains that his rap is trash
so he’s seeking compensation in the form of cash.
Bailey thinks he’s entitled to some monetary gain
because Eminem used his name in vain.
The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact
they’re an exaggeration of a childish act.”
In closing, she stated,
“It is therefore this court’s ultimate position, that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.”
Only in Michigan, folks. Only in Michigan.
Eminem has said that some consider him a “modern-day Shakespeare”, which may have some merit to it… but then again, so has Kanye West…
In any case, one technique Shady has lifted from drama is his ability to roleplaying to liven up the story.
If you want to write raps like Eminem, this step is crucial.
When I say roleplay, I specifically mean his willingness to have characters SAY things and interject into his songs to help build story as opposed to just overtly describing how the people he’s describing feel.
Consider this section of “The Real Slim Shady” where he describes how feminists feel about his music:
Feminist women love Eminem
“Chicka, chicka, chicka, Slim Shady, I’m sick of him
Look at him, walkin’ around, grabbin’ his you-know-what
Flippin’ the you-know-who, ” “Yeah, but he’s so cute though.”
In just that song alone, he also impersonates journalists, Tom Green, and Christina Aguilera herself, which set off the aforementioned “entertaining enemies” beef.
Once you notice this tactic that Eminem uses, you can’t unhear it.
Songs like “Criminal”, “Medicine Ball”, and “Rain Man” have almost entire verses done in roleplay format.
For you as an artist, the technique you must first master is finding times in which you can have a character actually SAY a response or question to you as the rapper rather than just describe it.
For more examples of this technique from other rappers, check out classic “roleplaying” songs like DMX’s “Damien”, Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimmin’ Pools”, and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme The Loot” which had a recent resurgence in popularity due to Travis Scott’s mention over it on “Sicko Mode”.
Write Raps Like Eminem Conclusion:
Let’s go over the tricks we mentioned here to help flesh out your next steps on how to rap like Eminem for beginners:
1) Struggle-Success Storytelling
Bring your audience into the STRUGGLE as much as the SUCCESS of a song by using emotional and physical descriptions vividly to help liven up the song.
2) Recurring Characters
Use characters like a TV show to help the audience anchor themselves to the universe you’re building. For Eminem, ‘characters’ like Christopher Reeves and D’Angelo Bailey are a good place to start studying.
3) Entertaining Enemies
Use viral celebrities or people from your past (or made-up versions of them) to help the audience want to identify with you and DEFEAT your enemies, placing you as the protagonist.
Take a note from the “modern day Shakespeare” and find “roles” for yourself to play within your songs.
(If you’d like more in-depth training on Eminem’s storytelling, click HERE and then enter your email to check out our Writer’s Block course)
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