“Role Model” by Eminem

Celebrity entertainers, by default, are role models. Media, especially of the mainstream variety, is one of the primary socializing institutions which define the way that we conduct ourselves. And if someone reaches the upper echelons of superstardom, as Eminem has, then by all means there are going to be masses of people who are influenced by him.

But that does not mean that such individuals always embrace such a standing. Verily most entertainers are first and foremost artists (or athletes or what have you), using their natural talents to make a living in the world. Interestingly a lot of them are actually disinterested in serving as a role model. And such is the sentimental foundation behind this classic Eminem track.

Lyrics of Eminem’s “Role Model”

But of course, this is vintage Eminem whom we’re talking about here. So the lyrics have to be to some degree sarcastic and some can even say offensive. That is to say that he’s not going to simply state ‘I don’t want to be a role model’. Rather he’s going to show the audience why they shouldn’t follow him and mock the whole idea of them being compelled to do so in the first place.

For instance, during the intro of the song, the vocalist states that he’s “going to attempt to drown (him)self”. And even beyond that, he tells the listener that they ‘can try it at home’ in an attempt to ‘be just like him’.

However, the entire song does not feature such wiseassery. Rather Em uses the opportunity primarily to display his lyrical skills, i.e. his artistry, altogether. But in between a number of creative metaphors pointing to how exceptional he is on the mic or how nutty he is are allusions to the main theme. For instance, if the rapper wanted to, he can say that he “never did drugs” in the name of appearing as a viable role model. But such would be a flat-out lie, and he would rather keep it real than say go out like a dishonest politician.

Later he instructs the listener to do things such as “smoke weed, take pills, drop out of school [and] kill people”. This is not to say that he is truly advising them to do so. 

Rather he wants to see how stupid – for lack of a better word – they really are. Or put another way he is putting forth the idea, in a roundabout, mocking sort of way, that if somebody actually does let a musician literally tell them what to do then said individual(s) is lacking in intelligence.

Topic of 1st Verse

Then later on, still in the first verse, Eminem exaggerates just how off the rails he is. His purpose is to present himself as a shameless, unapologetic bad boy. And the point is that if he isn’t even remotely interested in conducting himself sanely, then likewise no one in their right mind should perceive him as a role model.

Topic of 2nd Verse

The second verse goes on to further illustrate that the homey is not playing with a full deck. In this passage he doesn’t mention anything specifically pertaining to the main theme. It’s more like, once again, a display of his lyrical skills, complete with a bunch of pop media references. But the underlying point is clear – Slim Shady is sort of a madman.

Chorus of “Role Model”

Then as far as the chorus is concerned, Em directly addresses those who ‘want to grow up to be just like him’, i.e. individuals who verily perceive him as a role model. And he tells them some of the crazy things he does to make sure if they really and truly want to go there.

For instance he sleeps with women “who got HIV” and has contracted a couple of STDs himself. Also he does things that are completely nuts, such ‘tying a rope around his manhood and jumping from a tree’. 

And yes, this is in fact a funny song – if you’re into that 1990s’, South Park sort of humor. But there is a point underneath all the spazzing. And that is the narrator, who knows he is an influential celebrity, advising fans not to follow his ways. 

Or more specifically, he is totally uninterested in doing things which people perceive as acceptable just because they may look up to him. Indeed under his estimation, if they were really smart they wouldn’t even hold him in such esteem. And in fact his goal is to convince them not to.

Lyrics of Eminem's "Role Model"

Release Date of “Role Model”

This track is from “The Slim Shady LP”, Eminem’s first true album, i.e. his first under major labels. And those labels would be Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records, who put the song out on 23 February 1999.

Later that year “Role Model” was also issued as a single. This was early in Eminem’s career, before he truly blew up per se (even though The Slim Shady LP did reach number 2 on the Billboard 200). And that would likely be part of the reason why the song didn’t really have an impressive chart showing. It was only able to peak at number 11 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. 

However, it is still considered to be one of Slim Shady’s greatest, as Complex ranked it amongst “The 100 Best Eminem Songs of All Time” (placing it at number 37).

Creation of “Role Model”

This track was co-produced and co-written by Dr. Dre.  The Doctor also co-directed the music video, working alongside Phillip G. Atwell in that regard.

The other producer of the track is Mel-Man, who worked extensively with Eminem and especially Dr. Dre back in the day. He is also one of the song’s co-writers, as is of course Slim Shady himself, who is the primary author of the lyrics.

Dre and Eminem were able to lay down this song (as well as “My Name Is” and a few other tracks) on the first day they began recording “The Slim Shady LP”.

Eminem had one album under his belt prior to “The Slim Shady LP”. That would be his 1996 offering “Infinite”, which was released by an entity called Web Entertainment. It was somewhat of a local project, if you will. For instance, Web Entertainment is based in Em’s hometown of Detroit. 

And under his own (perhaps sarcastic) estimation, Mathers has stated that the project sold less than a hundred copies (though some estimates place it closer to a thousand). So, the album didn’t chart. But of course history changed for the rapper – and verily for the music industry at large – after he hooked up with Dr. Dre circa 1997. 

And “Role Model” would be the third song they released together, after “Just Don’t Give” (1998) and “My Name Is” (1999), the latter of which really put Slim Shady on the map.

Apparently to further buttress the idea of Eminem being an anti-role model, the cover art to this song features an allusion to ‘the Mark of the Beast’, i.e. three sixes.

Role Model by Eminem

Famous Names and Characters Eminem mentions in “Role Model”

Eminem mentions a slew of celebrities and other famous people/characters in this song, in varying capacities. Amongst them we have the following:

  • Canibus (rapper)
  • Jerry Springer (talk show host)
  • Sonny Bono (1935-1998, musician)
  • Hillary Clinton (politician)
  • Vanilla Ice (rapper)
  • Lauryn Hill (musician)
  • Marcus Allen (NFL athlete)
  • Nicole Brown (OJ murder victim)
  • Ron Gold (OJ murder victim)
  • Garth Brooks (musician)
  • Chickenhawk (cartoon character)
  • Foghorn Leghorn (cartoon character)
  • Norman Bates (fictional murderer)
  • Cage (rapper)

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