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slim shady's best battle raps

Unless you’re an idiot, or, like, 13, you’ll know that Eminem started out in the battle rap arena. A phenomenally quick-witted rhymer, he may rarely descend into the field of freestyle these days (though he is just about to launch a new Pay-Per-View series called Total Slaughter), it’s incontestable that Marshall is one of the arena’s true champions. To mark the start of his Wembley tour, we pick our five favourite freestyles from the Blond Bomber, leaving an honourable mention to his (apparent) loss at the hands of Skinnyman at Subterranea in the early noughties. Can somebody please put that up on the Internets? Thanks

Text Hattie Collins

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  • Eminem x Proof: MTV Freestyle

    Recorded in 99 for Kurt Loder’s MTV News segment, the then fledgling MC took Loder on a tour of Detroit, before Em and Proof delivered a taut volley of rhymes live and direct from a Vauxhall Nova. Certain lines might be ‘pre-written’, but you can see from the veins popping in Em’s neck that his brain is searching for the perfect off-the-top sentence structure. The love of wordplay and deep friendship between Em and Proof, and the joy they get from making up the dopest shit ever, is palpable. “RIP DeShaun ‘Proof’ Holton".

  • ‘The Freestyle That Made Him Famous’ freestyle

    As legend has it, it was on the back of some off-the-top-rhymes that Dr. Dre signed a young white kid from the D and history was born. This clip sees three different battles from 97, the latter of which at the Rap Olympics has the worst sound ever, but is the one that impressed Dre, who signed Slim three days after hearing his rhymes. It’s around two minutes in, at an earlier battle, that Em drops this massive corker: ‘Everybody in this fucking place will diss you if you try to turn my facial tissue into a racial issue/ Nobody’s hearing you/ You’re a wack liar, damn, all your white jokes just backfired/ You’re barking up the wrong tree, now go tell all your boys you was beat by a honky.”

  • Westwood: Eminem and D12 Freestyle

    Captured by Westwood in 2001 after a show in London, D12 prove that there is no such thing as ‘too far’ when it comes to the art of freestyle, as the six spit the sickest, in every sense, lyrics we’ve heard in a minute. And, is it just us, or does a young Em look like his former label boss, Jimmy Iovine?


  • Freestyle Battle 1994

    This is short but sweet as the-then 20 year-old, with closely shaved brown hair (Mac Miller, anyone?), battles in what looks like a Kwik Fit garage. Encapsulating the spirit of the grimiest of grimy battles, this is sweaty, packed, and raucously appreciative of a superior spitter, who let it be known how much they’ve loved Slim’s parting jab: ‘Ok, my face is pale, but you look like you’ve seen a ghost’.

  • Westwood Freestyle with Kon Artist

    Now sober, Em’s proven that the drugs don’t always work when it comes to creativity. Since being clean, his raps may have lost (a little) of their controversy, but they have taken on a lucidity and sharpness that is oftentimes astounding. His ability to twist the English language to suit his own syllable formation, to cram three, four or even more mid-line rhymes into a sentence, to entredre the shit out of an entrendre, and to rhyme the same sound over multiple bars, is mind-boggling. And this is not mere smartarse dictionary spewing; the punchlines are always funny, sharp and take more than a minute to fully appreciate. This is also incredibly worth watching for the awkward Tim Westwood shoulder shuffle.