Eminem’s ‘Southpaw’ Soundtrack Channels the Film’s Spirit
The cryptic movie Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a young boxer who loses everything, setting off a downward spiral that only expands as he tries to regain his life through an improbably journey back to the top. The film's soundtrack, executively produced by Eminem and put out through his Shady Records imprint via Interscope, follows that formula, playing off the rollercoaster of pain and triumph that mirrors the main character's quest for a comeback.
And talk about a diverse soundtrack. "Kings Never Die" featuring Gwen Stefani alongside Eminem is the second of 14 tracks, a wildly haunting cut with Gwen singing its hook about inner strength and pure resilience. It's a narrative Em knows well, one that he delves into repeatedly when choosing who to feature on the album. Plenty of the usual Shady suspects come through—Slaughterhouse for "R.N.S.," Bad Meets Evil for "Raw" and "All I Think About," individual turns from Slaughter's KXNG CROOKED ("Beast (Southpaw Remix)" with Busta Rhymes and Tech N9ne) and Denaun ("This Corner")—and Em pulls former Shady/Aftermath MC 50 Cent, who also stars in the film, on "Drama Never Ends." But he also reached out to MCs like Action Bronson—signed to Paul Rosenberg's Goliath Management, it should be noted—Joey Bada$$ and Rico Love for "What About The Rest Of Us," The Weeknd for his previously-released "Wicked Games" and a phenomenal collab between PRhyme (Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Premier) and Maryland MC Logic.
Logic drops diamonds on “Mode” with Royce Da 5'9" viciously rapping about being in beast mode alongside him. Bad Meets Evil's "Raw" disguises the grittiness of being a hardbody with its up tempo vibe, while 50 Cent displays his versatile talents on his solo cut "Drama Never Ends," rapping, “I get that dirt you know that blow and baking soda be the recipe/Fasho' I make that .40 cal blow, you get the best of me/The drama's gonna never end/Never end/Keep thinkin' I'm playin'." The mellow, inspiring track ”This Corner” is the setup for a comeback with lyrics about second chances, while the production throughout the LP produces a constantly-shifting dynamic.
Eminem's "Phenomenal," the soundtrack's lead single and the anchor of the project, still stands alone among the LP's original selections; of the previously-released tracks, the iconic Notorious B.I.G. collab with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, "Notorious Thugs," still stands as one of the best showcases of pure rapping ability that hip-hop has produced. It's been clear by now that Eminem knows how to craft an album and the Southpaw LP boosts his soundtrack credentials once again. —Sarah Salston