Eminem's 8 Solo Albums Ranked Worst to Greatest
Eminem has sold more albums than any other rapper - ever.
More than Tupac Shakur, more than Kanye West.
In fact, if you combine the claimed worldwide sales of Kanye & Tupac, Em still has a couple million record sales on them.
What's Your Favorite Eminem Album?
So which of Eminem's solo work was the best?
Let's begin with #8...
#8) Infinite [March 12, 1996]
Eminem's very first album originally had 1,000 copies pressed.
Some of those copies were sold by Marshall out of the trunk of his car.
Infinite was Marshall polishing his lyrical ability while attempting to find his own style. Obviously influences to a young Shady, he was compared to AZ and Nas. Sure, that's not bad right? Those dudes can spit.
As Em explains, no rapper wants to be told he sounds like this guy or that guy. Even if that guy is Nas.
These criticisms and remarks from others were a large part of what sparked the flame that ignited inside of him. The flame that brought out all of his anger and frustrations and funneled them through raw rap energy. Of course I am speaking of the events that led to the formation of his notorious alter ego, Slim Shady.
Infinite is not a bad album, at all. The album was almost entirely produced by fellow D12 member: Mr. Porter. The self titled track "Infinite" is the best track on the record in my opinion, but overall it was a valiant first effort from a hungry MC.
You can definitely feel the raw talent that this man had from the very beginning.
"I remember getting mad. I was like, “I’m gonna rap like I don’t care anymore. F**k it.” I started to write angry songs like “Just Don’t Give a F**k.”— Eminem recalling his reaction to the way that critics described him on Infinite.
Infinite Recommended Listening
- 313 - An ode to his hometown of Detroit, specifically the part covered by the 313 area code.
Infinite - A very lyrical song shows Em at his earliest stages trying to find his own unique sound. He has no problem spitting some intricate multiple syllable rhymes as he murders the instrumental despite attempting to repent from similar past events.
- It's OK - A nice and happy song, the type most people aren't used to hearing from him. Extremely optimistic and positive, it would be a long time before we heard a song like this from him again.
#7) Encore [November 12, 2004]
Many consider Encore to be the worst of Eminem's solo projects.
It most definitely was not up to par with his first three major label releases. I mean, honestly it's really not a bad album by any means, but two things gave listeners a lasting impression of this one.
#1) It came right after The Eminem Show... that's an extremely hard act to follow.
#2) The singles. It has been remembered by songs such as; "Just Lose It" & "Ass Like That".
Shady was having fun with this album, it's obvious with a few of the tracks but not all of them. I mean really, how much did he have to talk about at this point? He had ran out of controversy, everyone in the US if not the world could already recite the story of his past. Sleeping pills and pain killers didn't appear help the situation too much.
Although it may not be on the same caliber as most of his releases, there are some hidden gems on it.
- RIAA Certified - 5x Platinum
- Grammy Awards - Nominated for: Best Rap Album*, Best Rap Performance by a Duo, and Best Rap Solo Performance.
*The only one of Eminem's solo studio albums not to win the Best Rap Album Grammy award.
"Like Toy Soldiers" Official Music Video
Encore Recommended Listening
- Never Enough Featuring (Nate Dogg & 50 Cent) - An aggressive and lyrical showing from Eminem and 50 Cent. They are describing their addiction to Hip Hop supremacy. At the time they were the reigning champs.
- Curtains Down (Featuring Dr. Dre) - A great way to close out the album with Marshall's guru Dre.
- Spend Some Time (Featuring Obie Trice, 50 Cent, & Stat Quo) - A song about women and the powerful grip they can have on a man's heart.
- Crazy In Love - A ballad of betrayal and deceptive behavior between a man and a woman who are "Crazy In Love"
#6) The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [September 20, 2013]
The sequel to what many consider Em's best album, was definitely an incredible project.
Did it come anywhere near the first installment? Well, time will tell I suppose? I don't see it doing so, but that's because the first one was a certified classic, an impossibly difficult piece to top.
On MMLP2 Shady attempts to recapture the emotion he poured into the first of the series, but it's impossible. Not because he has gotten worse, his lyrical ability is sharper than ever before.
The thing is MMLP was a manifestation of his rapid rise to super stardom. Just a year beforehand he was spending the day figuring out how to scrape up enough change to get some food off of the dollar menu and still get the diapers for his baby daughter.
He still had the raw determination of an Emcee yet to gain national recognition. Being relatively new to the rap game, he also had to prove that just because he is white there is no reason to take him lightly. With so many white rappers in the game today, people forget that he was the first to do it at the highest level.
Thirteen years later he is unable to completely recreate that because his life is so much different.
His work ethic is still unmatched, but he has grown older, more mature, and has everything he could ask for. That's why I believe naming it as a sequel was a mistake. If anything the only thing that makes this piece look bad is the comparison to the first installment.
Like any of his projects, there are an abundance of dope tracks to listen to.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Accolades
- RIAA Certified 2x Platinum
- Billboard Music Awards Best Rap Album
"Rap God" Official Music Video
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Recommended Listening
- Wicked Ways - Marshall reflects on his career and the effect it has had. It also marks the return of Ken Kaniff from Connecticut, last seen on Relapse.
- Love Game (Featuring Kendrick Lamar) - Kendrick is the only other Rap Artist present on the MMLP2. Love game has them expressing their love for women and their failed attempts to escape the "love game".
- Brainless - Probably the most lyrical song on MMLP2, he examines himself and proclaims that despite some sort of mental dysfunction, he overcame the odds to be famous.
- Legacy - Shady going over his life, his career, and everything with a lovely hook to compliment the melodic piano heavy instrumental.
#5) Relapse + Refill [May 15, 2009 + December 21, 2009]
Marshall's drug addiction kept him from releasing a solo album for nearly five years.
I between 2004 and 2009 nobody heard anything from Em, no albums, not a peep.
Somehow, incredibly, he was awarded with the Billboard "Artist of the Decade" award.
Did you read that!? Artist of the Decade.. and he took HALF of the decade off...
Relapse was the output of Eminem relearning how to learn rap music (and every other part of life) over again, this time sober.
Most songs were basically Shady telling horror stories, he just tells them in a very lyrical way.
With the exception of a couple tracks, most songs were pretty good.
I really wasn't a big fan of his singles, although Beautiful was, well, beautiful.
Overall, if you include Refill, it is a pretty solid project.
Relapse + Refill Accolades
- Grammy Awards Best Rap Album
- RIAA Certified 2x Platinum
"Beautiful" Official Music Video
Relapse + Refill Recommended Listening
- Déjà Vu - Hands down the best track on Relapse. Eminem reveals the struggle he had with prescription opiods, trouble with sobriety, and the devil in his ear that just wont leave him alone. Extremely emotional song that anyone with an addiction of their own can relate to.
- Underground - The closing track which shows similarities to "Still Don't Give A F**k" and "Criminal", specifically the start of the song "A lot of people ask me..."
- Same Song & Dance - Shady uses his imagination and describes the way he would kidnap and eventually murder certain celebrities. Em shows his horrorcore hip hop roots in this one.
- Hell Breaks Loose - Another classic track where Dre & Shady spit back & forth over a dope beat.
Do You Like Relapse/Refill?
#4) Recovery [June 18, 2010]
Originally titled Relapse 2, the title was later changed to Recovery.
Em felt that the music recorded for it was entirely different than it's predecessor.
He was not wrong for feeling that way, himself saying "I had originally planned for Relapse 2 to come out last year. But as I kept recording and working with new producers, the idea of a sequel to Relapse started to make less and less sense to me, and I wanted to make a completely new album. The music on Recovery came out very different from Relapse, and I think it deserves its own title."
Rather than his usual formula of mostly in-house production, this album features a variety of producers.
The standard album only features one other rap artist, Lil' Wayne.
The iTunes bonus tracks include a song produced by Dre, and a Just Blaze instrumental with verses from 3 members of Slaughterhouse, Joe Budden the missing piece.
Showing that he went in a complete different direction for Recovery, he worked with Pop artists Rihanna & Pink, along with R&B artist Kobe on the hook.
This was extremely unusual seeing as their peers were usually his targets.
It turned out to be a good decision for the MC returning to form.
Love The Way You Lie is his best selling single to date, and has spawned two more songs with Rihanna. This includes a cut from MMLP2 titled "The Monster" which was also huge. The music videos to those two songs have over a billion views on Youtube. Two songs!
What a triumphant comeback for Eminem, who spent years isolated without releasing any material.
Many critics, fans, and many people in general just don't like Recovery.
I personally think it is amazing, inspirational, and complete. More comparable to his first three major releases rather than his previous two solo projects.
- RIAA Certified 4x Platinum
- 10,000,000 sold worldwide.
- Grammy Awards Best Rap Album
- Billboard Music Award Top Billboard 200 Album & Top Rap Album
- RIAA Certified Diamond (Not Afraid)
- RIAA Certified Diamond (Love The Way You Lie)
Recovery Recommended Listening
- Cold Wind Blows - A vicious intro to the album. Em is not pleased with the way he is welcomed back into the rap game.
- You're Never Over - A beautiful tribute to D12 member, and Marshall's best friend, Proof.
- Won't Back Down - A fun song where Eminem performs lyrical acrobatics over an electric guitar.
- Session One (Featuring Slaughterhouse) - An upbeat, lyrical, fun, and just all around dope song featuring the super group Slaughterhouse before he signed them to his label.
- 25 To Life - Em speaks on his relationship with the rap game as if it was a woman, in fact until the end a first time listener would assume that it was about a female. Very powerful and emotional track.
- Talkin' To Myself - Marshall opens up about what was going through his mind during his five year hiatus from the rap game. He vividly paints the picture of his struggles with the help of Kobe singing the hook. Such an amazing song.
"Space Bound" Official Music Video
#3) The Slim Shady LP [February 23, 1999]
Raw, uncut, Slim Shady
Shady's Major Label Debut was his only major label album to not peak at #1, instead peaking at a mere #2.
Some of the verses present on The Slim Shady EP are recorded onto the Slim Shady LP as well, just over different instrumentals. For example, SSEP track "Just The Two Of Us" was later renamed "97' Bonnie & Clyde".
This album was Marshall's introduction to the world.
He clearly had a mastery of lyrical ability from his first release onward.
This would be a great peak for any other rapper, but instead he topped it just a year later.
The album ranges from serious songs of financial woes, to dark songs where the listener can clearly visualize his story.
A ton of his trademark dark wit and humor is sprinkled in between a set of tracks containing a few very depressing stories.
The first truly complete album from Slim Shady.
I see it being considered a classic if it is not already.
The Slim Shady LP Accolades
- RIAA Certified 5x Platinum
- Rolling Stones Magazine #273 on "500 Greatest Albums of All Time
"Just Don't Give A F**k" Official Music Video
The Slim Shady LP Recommended Listening
- Guilty Conscious (Featuring Dr. Dre) - An incredible concept song where Dr. Dre tries to convince the character not to go through with the illegal actions they are considering. As the devil on the opposite shoulder, Shady plays the antagonist attempting to convince them not to do as Dre suggests.
- Bad Meets Evil (Featuring Royce Da 5'9) - A self titled track from the rap duoBad Meets Evil. Shady and Royce both show off their lyrical ability. Their rap styles match together and transition between one another flawlessly.
- Role Model - A remarkable instrumental has Eminem explaining why he is the perfect role model (sarcastically of course.)
- Still Don't Give a F**k - Shady reminds us all that he still does not give a.. hoot?
#2) The Marshall Mathers LP [May 22, 2000]
Marshall Mather's autobiography in essence.
Widely considered his best work, Marshall is an open book, using rap to tell his story and express his frustrations.
Not only is it very deep and personal, it can be funny at times too, and he lyrically destroys no matter what mood the track.
The rapper spills his soul and heart onto what is an all around complete album, and is already considered a classic.
This album is a combination of everything he was dealing with at the time and the story he still had to tell. That's what made it so great.
The first album was a showcase of his lyrical ability, a stake to claim his part in the rap game. It was an album not by Marshall, but by Shady.
Obviously, this one is Marshall.
This was his first time really opening up to the world and telling everyone the tales of his struggle.
He vented his frustrations with the world.
The fans, the other artists, the friends and family, his woman, the label.
Seriously, it was Eminem versus the world.
Well, good news! He won.
The Marshall Mathers LP Accolades
- 1.76 Million sold in it's first week made it the "Fastest Selling Album by a Solo Artist of All Time".
- Grammy Awards "Best Rap Album"
- RIAA Certified Diamond (10 Million Records)
- 29,000,000 sold worldwide.
- Rolling Stones Magazine #7 on "100 Greatest Albums of the 2000s
- Rolling Stones Magazine #244 on "500 Greatest Albums of All Time
"The Way I Am" Official Music Video
The Marshall Mathers LP Recommended Listening
Stan (Featuring Dido) - One of his most well songs is the story of an infatuated fan. As time goes on Stan grows more and more displeased with Marshall not responding to his biggest fan, and takes actions into his own hands.
- Marshall Mathers - A mellow yet aggressive track, Marshall talks about how life changes once reaching stardom especially at such a quick pace. He also responds to a diss track from ICP with two very powerful lines.
- The Way I Am - Shady expresses his frustration with the record industry, the media, and pushy fans.
- B**ch Please II (Featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg & Xzibit) - Four legends, one track. This one is a good one, just like every other Dr. Dre & Eminem collaboration.
#1) The Eminem Show [May 26, 2002]
Songs like “White America” and “Cleanin’ out my Closet,” those aren’t really Shady. So I thought, “I’m going to call this album The Eminem Show. This is me as the rapper, not as the character.”— Eminem via Rap Genius
Eminem at the peak of his career.
So why did Shady's fourth album beat his third for the top spot?
Well first off even Eminem himself believes it's his best work. Well he did in 2002, but his opinion likely hasn't changed.
A complete album with not one bad moment, the tracks flow effortlessly together. It is not a concept album, but Em is still telling you a story.
This album has a track for any mood you may be in.
On The Eminem Show he had found the perfect balance between a lyrical rap track and a smooth song.
It's not often that rappers can make songs that even people who don't like rap listen to. This is the moment when an emcee makes the transition from a fan base consisting purely of Hip Hop heads, to a global fan base with fans of all genres listening. This is what makes Jay-Z and Kanye West the superstars that they are today. The same thing that is happening with Kendrick Lamar today. First "Stan", then "Sing For The Moment", Shady was building an impressive catalog of hits that were appreciated by lovers of Hip Hop, Rock, Pop & more.
The Eminem Show's subject matter ranges widely. From his influence on the suburban youth, promiscuous women and the diseases that come from mingling with them, the love he has for his daughter, his industry beefs at the time, and so much more. The first of his major label studio albums to begin without a public service announcement was one track after another of 100% pure Detroit Hip Hop. Highlights include an incredibly uplifting and triumphant record with Nate Dogg, an ode to lunacy with guest vocals from his daughter, the back and forth track with Dre we have come to expect, and of course a silly song to be the single "Without Me"; continuing a trend set by "My Name Is" and continued with "The Real Slim Shady".
This is Eminem on top of the game. Just before starring in 8 Mile and releasing "Lose Yourself" while reaching the peak of his career. The fire burning in his heart was never fueled as much as it was when he created this masterpiece.
The Eminem Show Accolades
- RIAA Certified Diamond
- Rolling Stones Magazine #317 on "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"
- Rolling Stones Magazine #84 on "100 Best Albums of the 2000s"
- Grammy Awards "Best Rap Album"
- MTV Music Video Awards Best Male Video, Video of the Year, Best Direction, & Best Rap Video
- Billboard Music Awards Album of the Year & R&B/Hip-Hop Album
"Without Me" Official Music Video
The Eminem Show Recommended Listening
- Till' I Collapse (Featuring Nate Dogg) - Shady transfers the powerful energy put into creating this song into the listener. Excellent song to play at the gym. One of his best songs ever.
- Square Dance - A shot at Canibus has Slim spitting fire and tearing that beat apart.
- Sing for the Moment - A beautiful song has him lashing back at critics who said he was an unfit father. Very passionate piece.
- When the Music Stops (Featuring D12) - A dark feeling and deep emotional subject matter as Eminem and his crew mates tell us just how serious they take this occupation.
- Say What You Say (Featuring Dr. Dre) - Em and Dre respond to their recent beef with Jermaine Dupri, even bringing producer Timbaland in for a cameo appearance at the end of the song.