Eminem’s Best Live Performances
Live performances in hip-hop are a shaky subject to discuss, often resulting in conflicting opinions of what a “good” show actually consisted of. Where one rapper will orchestrate an entire production with their live shows—making them as cinematic as possible—another artist will stand on stage with a mic yelling, with their hype men friends yelling as well. Truth be told, Eminem stands in the middle of those two worlds.
An adept lyricist, Eminem tends to ensure that every word is heard and felt when he spits them live. Other times he aims to shock, by way of a million clones or surprising collaborations. Much like the nature of his music, you never really know what will happen when Em steps on a stage. We’ve compiled 15 of Eminem’s best performances. From professional concert cameras to carefully shot award show performances, here are some live vids that prove Marshall Mathers is the quintessential showman. --KI
“White America,” 2002 MTV Video Music Awards
A full Presidential setup surrounds Eminem as he appears to be giving a State Of the Union address. He’s addressing someone all right, as he stands at the podium in front of a gaggle of mock politicians who are all whispering to each other while he rhymes – kind of like they do in that televised CNN or MSNBC footage. It’s funny in that “Politics are stupid” way, but with a song like “White America,” Em is delivering his message loud and clear and he found the perfect visual setup to express those views.
Live From New York City / Madison Square Garden 2005
If you have a spare hour and some change and are willing to see the scariest George Bush mask in history, then peep this relic from 2005. Eminem – flanked by D12 in a number of moments (plus the late Proof) – rolls around the stage in all of his bleached hair glory. The shots are professionally done – including some backstage footage. Detroit took over NYC that evening for sure.
“Stan” Featuring Elton John, 2006 Grammy Awards
Eminem had a very tumultuous relationship with the media, in that he would blurt out opinions that weren’t welcomed by certain groups of people. His use of the other F-word with regard to homosexuals brought him into some hot water, especially with Elton John. The two shocked the masses when they showed up together at the Grammy’s in ’06 for a riveting performance of “Stan.” Em’s poignant bars plus Sir Elton John’s intense vocals equals a total win.
“The Way I Am” Featuring Marilyn Manson, 2002 All Access Europe Tour
There’s a bad dream somewhere waiting in the backs of your minds where you’ll be on a stage performing and Marilyn Manson comes a’creepin’ from the side of the stage scaring everyone. If you haven’t had that dream yet, then you’ll probably have it tonight watching this video. Eminem is chillin’ in Europe delivering his “proud to be me” manifesto, and by the middle of the song Manson comes out in full make-up and bare chested offering some assistance. It’s the best worst feeling.
“The Real Slim Shady” / “The Way I Am,” 2000 MTV Video Music Awards
There was a time when everyone looked like Eminem. Well not everyone, but any angsty young white guy whose mother was totally fine with him taking a bottle of peroxide to his head. Eminem recruited every single one of those angry suburbanites and brought them to New York City to march the streets before entering Radio City Music Hall, as he delivered his anthem to the lemmings. “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?” he asks. Well, he had several to choose from that evening.
“Lose Yourself” Featuring Proof, 2003 Grammy Awards
People were still riding off the fumes of Eminem’s semi-biopic 8 Mile and its flagship single “Lose Yourself.” When Em arrived at the Grammy’s to deliver the song/performance, he came with the late Proof and danced in the lime green lights on the stage as he rhymed with the passion of a battle rapper about to approach the platform. That’s the beauty of a song like “Lose Yourself.” Performing it live can feel like the first time you’re performing, every time you perform it.
Live Rap Battle Circa 1994
If this doesn’t scream 8 Mile, then what does? Like the title states, this was the battle that put Eminem directly on the radar. He’s a total chatterbox as he sizes up his competition and chops him right back down. For an artist who was bred from the battleground, it’s no wonder why Em is so good at delivering punchlines off the top. He was born to do it.
“Forgot About Dre” Featuring Dr. Dre, Boston Up In Smoke Tour 2001
Okay, so this is Dr. Dre’s song. Sure, but what would “Forgot About Dre” be without Em’s ricocheting hook? Somehow a whole song that’s supposed to be about remembering Dr. Dre results in us forgetting about him because of his protégé. The Up In Smoke Tour had a whole audience full of pleasantly stoned fans, but Eminem brought everyone back to life once he hopped on stage to deliver this one.
“Love The Way You Lie” / “I Need A Doctor” Featuring Rihanna, Dr. Dre, and Skylar Grey, 2011 Grammy Awards
When Eminem dropped Recovery in 2010, he offered two singles with two intoxicating hooks. The writer of both? Skylar Grey, who gave Rihanna’s chops a chance on “Love The Way You Lie” and brought her own vocals to the table for “I Need A Doctor.” As both songs were performed side-by-side live during the Grammy’s, it was arguably Skylar’s moment. She was the reason people remembered those songs, and Eminem didn’t forget that. Cut to the end of the performance, where Skylar stands alone on stage singing, getting that moment she probably hoped for since her days as Holly Brooks.
“Mockingbird,” Madison Square Garden NYC 2005
We mentioned the entire concert a few slides back, but if you don’t have that kind of time then at least check out the part where Em performs “Mockingbird.” His voice breaks at the beginning of the song, proving he has human emotions. Kidding, we already knew that, but it’s interesting to witness a vulnerable moment on stage, once Shady went to discuss his daughter. Some things you just can’t hide beneath a rugged exterior and a couple of fart jokes.
“Beautiful,” Jimmy Kimmel Live 2009
The title of the song is apropos after watching Em kill it on Kimmel. This particular period in Eminem’s life/career was an emotional one and he conveyed it through almost every performance that year. Here he sings the hook, carries his bars and does the damn thing before a live audience. Beautiful indeed.
“Stan” featuring Dido, Live in London 2001
When Dido crafted her single “Thank You,” she probably had no idea that one day a rapper from Detroit would grab a sample from it and turn it into an stalker’s anthem. Well that happened, and when Em traveled to Dido’s stomping grounds in the UK during his European tour, he made sure the songbird got on stage to help him usher in his hit. Sure, she sang over a backing track, but Dido still did the damn thing and Eminem’s robotic flow during the parts starring Stan made this story somehow come to life. Kind of like Pinocchio, only not.
Tim Westwood Freestyle 2009
Alchemist provides the sound bed for Eminem to lay on as he clobbers every beat that’s thrown at him. Sure this isn’t exactly a concert, but it’s still a live performance with Eminem freestyling better than most dudes in the game. Who else but Eminem could travel over eight minutes with bars that cover everything from wooing the ladies to accidentally snorting a nose ring in the midst of cocaine use? It’s one thing to drop a couple of fancy lines and call yourself a freestyler, but it’s quite another to be given several songs and riding each like a total champ. There’s a reason why they call Em the best, you know.
“Renegade” Featuring Jay Z, 2010 David Letterman Show
Correct us if we’re wrong, but in the competition of who bodied their “Renegade” verse, Em won right? Well, around a decade later he and Jay Z hopped on a rooftop stage at the David Letterman Show to remind everyone why their collaborative track was so great. “Renegade” is timeless in and of itself, yet watching these two kings grab their mics with the same ferocity as they did at the turn of the century makes you remember why certain artists succeed and others don’t.
“Shock The World” NYC Hammerstein Ballroom, G-Shock 30th Anniversary Party 2013
All crackly speakers aside, this whole performance from the G-Shock 30th Anniversary this past August (ignore the video error stating 2012) was a rebirth of sorts for Eminem. Fans had been waiting for this return to happen and the waiting game felt like forever. Then we get a few teaser singles and this performance right here. With pure adrenaline, rage, and the talent Em’s had forever, he brought a show that was supposed to be a simple marketing event concert and turned it into a stellar comeback.