“The Way I Am” by Eminem
Many of us fantasize about what it would be like to be a rich, successful, adored entertainer like Eminem. But along with Slim Shady’s fame and success came its fair share of frustrations. In fact “The Way I Am” was borne out of such an emotion.
At the time Marshall was already famous, we can perhaps even say more so than many had anticipated. Yet and still he was under professional pressure to match the achievement of “The Slim Shady EP”, his second album, which in its own way changed the course of rap music.
In fact by the time he had finished recording the complete draft of his third album, “The Marshall Mathers LP” (upon which this song is featured), the execs in charge of the project did not feel that it possessed a proper lead single. And it was such an opinion which prompted Shady to write this very song.
At the time it wasn’t only over-critical fans who were causing dude to ‘tear out’ his own hair. His marked stress was also due to the fact that his label bosses were putting a considerable amount of pressure on the rapper. But at least we can say, at the end of the day, he responded well to the tension by dropping one of the most-honest, relevantly-personal and socially-encompassing rap songs ever written.
Lyrics of “The Way I Am”
In fact as lengthy as it is, “The Way I Am” is one of those types of tracks in which if you were to go to its Genius page, virtually every line is annotated. In other words, there is a lot going on throughout which many people can identify with, understand and even formally study.
And the rap starts off with Eminem finna roll up some spliffs in the name of giving him the inspiration to be “the most-meanest MC on… Earth”. Or stated alternatively, getting high allows him to be freer artistically.
He then lets it be known that this track does in fact serve as a form of stress relief, i.e. giving him a means to get certain things ‘off his chest’.
And the first group of people he spazzes on are over-zealous fans.
To him, these are the type of individuals who just don’t know when to say when. Or more specifically he could be out spending time with his small daughter, yet people he doesn’t even know would “come and speak to” him.
Well, Shady lets it be known that he isn’t on it like that. He’s not one of those types of musicians who is compelled to always have a smile on his face and treat admirers kindly in the name of appeasing the public.
To the contrary, at times he “can be a pr-ck”. And as stated later in the song, he is “thankful for every fan” that he has. But at the same time he doesn’t feel as if he is indebted to them.
So this sentiment reads sort of like if you’re a follower of the rapper and approach him in the wrong way or at an inopportune time, then the response you’re going to receive will be less-than-favorable.
And if, as someone people tend to do, you try to sue him in the aftermath, he has enough dough to entertain such petty pursuits anyway.
In the second verse Shady addresses negative criticisms of the content of his music. These days we’ve grown accustomed to Eminem saying crazy things. But back during the turn of the century, he was more akin to a cultural phenomenon (i.e. highly influential). And many people were, once again, alarmed by the subject matter of his lyrics.
Well his response is that he “don’t give a f–k”. And this is not to imply that he is some type of insensitive a-hole. Rather it’s more like he feels there are more important things such critics should be concerned about.
And to illustrate the point, he references the infamous Columbine shooting and the fact that some people tried to blame the incident on Marilyn Manson.
But Eminem is like “where were the parents at”? In other words, why are the actions of the Columbine murderers being put on a musician as opposed to the people who were actually responsible for raising them?
On Drugs and Violence
And he feels the same way in terms of drugs, i.e. her–n, being attributed for unruly youth. Or the way he sees it is that analysts of such behavior are more focused on the periphery influences as opposed to tackling the root causes of such problems. And in his eyes, the root cause is parents not raising their kids properly.
But of course unruly, even murderous youth were nothing new. So the rapper is further able to perceive that the reason the powers that be suddenly became so interested in such is because these tragedies have now hit “Middle America”.
Or stated otherwise, kids weren’t just wildin’ out in America’s minority ghettos anymore. Now the middle-class White communities were also experiencing their own fair share of out-of-control children.
And at the end of day, Eminem (in his own eyes, being just a musician) doesn’t want to be identified as the cause of this phenomenon. Indeed doing so just pisses him off and inspires him to write additional controversial raps.
Amalgamation of All
Then it’s like the third and final verse deals with all of the above. In fact the thesis sentiment of the track is along the lines of an idea akin to Eminem growing weary of being stereotyped by all parties involved.
Fans tend to admire him as some sort of pop musician, even though by his own admittance he is not. The music industry is compelling him to play a similar game, portraying your standard White music star so to speak. However, he doesn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” into a certain persona.
Then you have all these people always questioning his origins and trying to stereotype him yet again, considering that he is a Caucasian who has adopted African-American culture (i.e. “some wigger”). And simply put, he’s tired of all the sh-t.
Meaning of Song’s Title (“The Way I Am”)
That brings us to the title and chorus of the song. Eminem is willing to accept any label or criticism that you put on him. That does not mean that he agrees with nor will conform to any of these notions.
Rather it’s more like he really doesn’t care what other people think of him. And underneath it all, we can also say the title can also be interpreted as Slim Shady recognizing ‘he is who he is’. And in respect of such, he is not keen on the idea of changing his style to please anyone.
When was “The Way I Am” released?
This track originally came to us via “The Marshall Mather LP”, which was Eminem’s third album, on 23 May 2000. It was said project’s second single, coming after “The Real Slim Shady“. And the labels that put it out are Interscope Records alongside Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment.
“The Way I Am” was both written and produced by Eminem. In fact it is noted as being the first of his tracks which he actually produced by himself.
Em’s Signature Song
This is one of Eminem’s signature songs, even though it didn’t fare as well on its own as some of his other singles.
It did make it onto the Billboard Hot 100, though peaking at number 58, which isn’t necessarily impressive as far as vintage Slim Shady is concerned.
However, the track has been certified platinum in the United States (as of 2018) and made it onto the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart.
Also Eminem actually dropped an autobiography back in 2008. And said book was named after this song. Indeed at the end of the day, this is one of those cases where the chart showing of a tune is not indicative of its overall impact.
More Interesting Facts about “The Way I Am”
Just to note, the aforementioned pressure that was put on Slim Shady to come out with a lead single for The Marshall Mathers LP not only resulted in the creation of “The Way I Am”. For afterwards he and Dre also put together “The Real Slim Shady”, an even bigger hit which did in fact serve as the lead single from the project.
There is an official remix of this song, produced by Danny Lohner, which actually features Marilyn Manson.
“The Way I Am” features one of the few, if not only instance in Eminem’s catalog where the rapper mentions his father without dissing the damn out him.
In fact in this case Marshall is even comparing himself to his dad in that like his pops, he “hate(s) to be bothered”. But some analysts have even interpreted this as sort of a diss, i.e. his father hating to be bothered so much that he actually deserted his family.