Track of the Week: “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem

Track of the Week “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem, a cut off of the “8 Mile” soundtrack, is a hip-hop song. Some guitarists may have turned their nose up at hip-hop, but they’re missing out. Here’s what I say to them: “Cut your mullet and get ready to for some hip-hop!”

As guitarists, we may think of the guitar as king of all instruments, playing second guit-fiddle to no other. But if you look outside of the rock genre to hip-hop, you’ll find that drums are king. In hip-hop, beats are everything and harmony and melody play a lesser role in the musical composition. Consequently, guitar is less important. It has to stand in line outside with the other instruments waiting to get into the hip-hop club. But when the guitar is used in this beat-oriented genre it is often used in a very rhythmic way.

The guitar in “Lose Yourself” doesn’t take a starring role. Instead, it plays an important supporting role, setting up the first verse with an incredibly catchy rhythmic groove. Notice how the groove is very percussive, with accents where the snare drum would hit? See, it’s all about the beat in hip-hop. This groove disappears for most of the song until after the last verse where it can be heard very quietly in the background.Why? Because it gets in the way of the drums.

Besides being a great song, “Lose Yourself” is a reminder to all guitarists that guitars play many parts in the musical theater and not all of them are front and center stage. So don’t be a “genre-snob” if you are one. Open your mind to all forms of music: you’re missing out if you don’t. And you’re likely to find guitars in places you might not expect if you do.

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6 responses to “Track of the Week: “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem

  1. I love this part: ” … guitar is less important. It has to stand in line outside with the other instruments waiting to get into the hip-hop club.” Clever writing! Well done.

  2. Nice step outside the box! Great video with very poignant lyrics, something quite rare in hip-hop. Knowing you as I do it’s obvious that percussion and timing are things that are very important. Guitar is the ultimate instrument as far as it’s versatility and expressiveness, but as Neil Pert was quoted as saying, drums are the most primitive and powerful tools in music. Instinctively we latch onto a drum beat and ride the groove!

  3. I often run to this song and am impressed with the way the guitar was integrated into the song – especially the intro. Great tone for the song – mean/angry but not searing (like a Buddy Guy tone) – more guttural. Between this and Sabotage by the Beasties, there’s some good guitar in hip-hop and rap.

  4. Good comments guys. I was sure that I was gonna get some fallout from hip-hop haters. Instead, I’m surprised how many other guitarists like this song. Not Martin (one of my students) though. He still hates it….

  5. Pingback: Track of the Week: “In the Gallery,” by Dire Straits. « EW Guitar Lessons, Glen Burnie, Baltimore area private guitar instruction. Blog about all things guitar.·

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