Behind The Scenes Of ‘Lose Yourself’ And Eminem’s Starring Role In ‘8 Mile’

Prior to 1999, most of the country just knew New York City and Los Angeles as hip-hop epicenters. That all changed in the late 1990s when a white kid named Eminem (AKA Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, Em, and M&M) from a poor area of Detroit burst onto the rap scene. Then in 2002, the semi-autobiographical movie 8 Mile hit the big screen. The movie produced a song called “Lose Yourself,” which would become one of the biggest crossover rap songs in music history.

8 Mile tells the tale of B-Rabbit, a white rapper trying to make a name for himself in what is a predominantly Black genre of music. The movie was an enormous financial success, bringing in $240 million at the box office and introducing the world to the underground rap world. Additionally, the song “Lose Yourself” from the movie's soundtrack was not just a massive Billboard hit - it also earned a prestigious award that no other rap song ever had. 

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the production of both “Lose Yourself” and the movie 8 Mile.

Photo:

  • Eminem Recorded Each Verse Of 'Lose Yourself' In Just One Take

    "Lose Yourself" is a complex song with a lot of rapid-fire lyrics. However, Eminem is a pro and was able to record each verse of the track in just one take. And, he did so on his lunch break while playing the main character in his acting debut. The rapper talked about how he got it right on the first try: 

    We were on lunch break, and I needed to finish the track. I don’t think it was one take all the way down, but it was one take each verse. "Got the first verse, okay, punch me in at the second. OK, the whole third verse." For some reason, I just captured something there that I didn’t want to change. I remember trying to change it and go back and re-do the vocals, and I was like "Yo, let me listen to the old ones? Just keep the old ones, f*ck it."

  • It's Anthony Mackie's First Film Role

    The role of Papa Doc went to an unknown actor (at the time) named Anthony Mackie. Papa Doc was part of Tha Free World group of battle rappers. In West Side Story terms, they were the Sharks to B-Rabbit's Three One Third Crew Jets. B-Rabbit and Papa Doc square off for the final rap sequence in 8 Mile.

    Papa Doc was Mackie's first big-screen role, and it was an intimidating experience for the green actor. He explained, "It was crazy for me because it was my first job. When we started, I didn’t really have no lines. Motherf*ckers would be like, 'Yo, your character sucks, so we just added this. Do this.' My biggest thing was just trying to be on the same level as Mekhi f*cking Phifer."

    Craig G, who served as a rapper consultant on the film, did not think that Mackie's performance was originally very good. He said, "Anthony Mackie, I just thought he was kind of flat. I pulled him to the side and I told him he sucked. I just told him he sucked. My purpose was to make him mad. And then when he got mad, he knocked it out."

    Mackie responded to the criticism and the intimidating real-world rappers that were on the film set by getting pumped up. "I’m supposed to play a rapper, and there were all these real rappers on set. So I was like, “I have to beef my machismo up; I can’t let these dudes pump me," said Mackie. "And I was like, “I’m real! Grrrrrrrrr!"

  • An Extra Won A Rap Battle To Earn A Cameo With Eminem - Which Was Deleted

    Marv Won was just one of the dozens of Detroit rappers hired as an extra on 8 Mile. Won said a rap competition was held "in order to keep the morale of the extras." The winners would get a chance to appear in the film’s silent montage sequence of Rabbit competing in various rap contests.

    The montage sequence was completely silent. Eminem was told to rest his voice because he was sick. During Marv’s scene, he was supposed to pretend to rap. However, Marv decided instead to rap a few written verses. But, Eminem wasn't just going to stand there and take it. Em said, "I was told that the mics were going to be off when we were doing the montage scenes of Rabbit coming up through the ranks and we were supposed to pantomime. For some reason, some of the others’ mics were on and they started going at me in front of the crowd."

    Marv further explains the situation, "After I spit my verse, the crowd was loving me. So, the competitor in him just couldn’t let that go. I wish he wasn’t as petty and I wish he was a bigger man and let me have my damn moment, but he didn’t."

    Eminem ended up pretty much destroying Marv in the rap battle and ultimately silenced any of the other rappers in the crowd who were looking to take advantage of a silent Eminem. Gerald L. “Strike” Sanders, who played Lyckety-Splyt in the movie, said, "That was it. People was actually scared. I looked in the crowd, I see the rappers that would normally go up and battle - they was like, 'I’m not doing that. Nah, I’m cool.'"

    Marv’s scene and the entire montage sequence of the local rappers competing against Rabbit were ultimately cut out of the final edit. However, thanks to the DVD release of the movie, Marv's scene did see the light of day. In fact, the scene was key to launching the rapper’s career. “It was really huge for me because that was one of the main scenes they sold the DVD on," Marv said. "That was the footage they sent to 'Entertainment Tonight,' 'Extra' and 'Access Hollywood.' It really helped my visibility."

    Adding to the happy ending is that Marv and Eminem became buddies after the movie’s DVD release. According to Marv, the two rappers remain friendly and hang out regularly.

  • 'Lose Yourself' Became The First Rap Song To Win An Oscar
    Video: YouTube

    'Lose Yourself' Became The First Rap Song To Win An Oscar

    "Lose Yourself" made music history in 2003 at the 75th Academy Awards when the song became the first hip hop tune to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. Eminem was not present at the ceremony to collect the award. Instead, the song's co-writer Luis Resto accepted the Oscar, which was handed to him by Barbra Streisand. 

    The Academy Award was not the song's only accolade. "Lose Yourself" also took home the Grammy Award for Best Rap Song, and Eminem won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Additionally, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Lose Yourself" 166th on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Also, the American Film Institute ranked "Lose Yourself" No. 93 on its list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs

    The 2002 track was also a monster commercial hit. It earned Eminem his first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on the top of the charts for 12 straight weeks. The video, which featured clips from the movie 8 Mile, was also a success. It won the MTV Video Award for Best Video from a Film. 

  • Eminem Wrote The Lyrics To 'Lose Yourself' Between Takes

    There is a lot of downtime on a film set, even for a movie's lead actor. Eminem had previously recorded a demo of "Lose Yourself" two years prior to making 8 Mile. The rapper was able to pull a beat out of some chords played on guitar by Jeff Bass that spurred his inspiration. 

    The film's director Curtis Hanson asked Eminem to write music for the movie from the perspective of his character B-Rabbit. The artist wrote the song "Lose Yourself" in between takes of the movie. Em explained, "I ended up doing the new version on the set of the movie, just writing between takes. I think 'Lose Yourself' was the only thing I worked on specifically for the movie."

    Taryn Manning, who played B-Rabbit's ex-girlfriend in the movie, described Eminem's on-set work ethic:

    He's the lead. He's in every single scene. He just knows he has the power to create something that could have a lot of longevity. He can feel it inside. He's focused. He's intense, but he's also really goofy. A couple of days I was there, any downtime, he was writing. You could just see him formulating stuff in his head. I thought it was the coolest thing.

  • 'Lose Yourself' Took A Year And A Half To Complete

    It took the songwriting team of Eminem, Jeff Bass, and Luis Resto a year and a half to complete "Lose Yourself." The track started when Bass came up with the song's opening guitar riff. He explained, "I picked up the guitar and started playing that little chord progression, not knowing if it was a song or not."

    From the guitar riff, Eminem constructed a drum beat. Bass added a bass line and more guitar parts. Then months passed. They knew that they had the makings of a song, but it wasn’t really coming together. 

    "We kept pulling it out of the computer and saying, 'We gotta do something with this,'" Bass said. "But we were stuck. It took a long time for him to write the lyrics. But the rhymes weren't flowing easily. Em would come up with words, but they wouldn't be right for the beat. It took him months to author the perfect lyrics."

    The real magic of "Lose Yourself" sparked when Eminem read the script for 8 Mile. He began to write the song from B-Rabbit’s point of view. 

    The three composers wrote "Lose Yourself" in between scenes, and they worked in a makeshift studio in Eminem’s trailer. They finally composed the song’s beat and the rapper was able to start crafting the lyrics.  

    "It flowed pretty easily once he got a grip on it," Bass said. "He had the beat together and could sit down and concentrate on building the best song he could."

    Bass revealed that he believes that "Lose Yourself" is Eminem’s best song. "The lyrical content and delivery are so intense. The first time I heard it, I sh*t in my pants. That's the tune we were doing for the last year and a half! We knew the track was good, but it was a matter of writing the right song."