I remember the feeling I had when the credits rolled the first time I saw 8 Mile; I was pretty upset. The only reason I had watched the movie, at age 12, was to hear Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at some point in the movie. That’s right everyone, I watched an entire movie to hear a song that I could have just found literally anywhere else. That was the best mistake I ever made.
8 Mile is an astounding movie for many reasons: it has an excellent cast, a compelling story, and is directed and scripted beautifully. Director Curtis Hanson does an incredible job of building Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith’s redemption story up slowly and methodically, giving us small glimpses of the lyrical monstrosity that emerges by the movie’s end. Eminem also does an incredible job, playing a somewhat fictionalized version of his own true upbringing, at capturing Rabbit’s embarrassing moments, as well as his triumphant ones. It has a very believable supporting cast with the likes of Mekhi Phifer and Brittany Murphy, who provide very real and flawed characters themselves, who really bring to life the hardships of lost young adults trying to make it inner city Detroit.
However, the real reason we all remember 8 Mile is because of its legendary rap battles scattered throughout the film. These battles were generation defining, and you would be hard pressed to find someone in their mid twenties who hasn’t seen this movie. Not only that, but it also had a tremendous effect on the underground culture, and helped bring battle rap, a deeply underrated branch of the rap culture, to the forefront of the public eye. Its effects can still be seen in many of today’s top battle rappers.
That’s why I am here today, is to help distinguish the best from the worst, the memorable from the “I can say any line from this battle, and you will know immediately what movie I am talking about.” Let’s get started…
- Lil Tic vs B-Rabbit (Rabbit’s choking battle)
This battle falls victim to last place, mainly, because Eminem’s character never actually has the balls to say anything. Also, because Lil Tic (played by rapper Proof) has a couple of good lines, but his delivery and charisma are sub par. Let’s put it this way: If B-Rabbit had basically said anything at all, Lil Tic would have lost. He does have a couple of semi-decent lines like, “Rip the rabbit’s head off, toss it to Hugh Hefner/ cuz I don’t play boy, tell me who’s fresher,” or “My paws love to maul an MC/ cuz he faker than a psychic with caller ID.”
Like I said, nothing spectacular here. Lil Tic does make a reference to the band Everlast, which was decently funny. Again though, this was an easy first round knockout had Rabbit not caught the choke-job of the century before he said anything.
2. B-Rabbit vs. Cheddar Bob (Backstage before the last battles)
Although Cheddar Bob never actually says anything, can we just take a minute to discuss how badly B-Rabbit was ripping this dude apart?
“I can’t call it cheddar, where’s your wallet?/ you’re so drunk you can out drink alcoholics”
(Okay not bad)
“Instead of oh, I just shot my dick head/ and yes you do got a big head.”
“I’m B-Rabbit bitch, sting like a bee/float like a butterfly, what am I/ so what if I cut a guy? Did I st..stutter guy?”
“Garbage bag full of clothes, still pullin hoes/Rip you from head to toe, from leg to bullet hole…”
“Next gun pull it slow/ and aim it at the free world before you let it go.”
(Starts running down the street cackling)
This pseudo-battle would have probably continued had those Free World assholes not popped into the scene to make fun of Rabbit and Cheddar Bob. Not to mention, Rabbit is rapping over Wu Tang Clan’s “Cream”. WHEN ARE WE EVER GOING TO HEAR THAT AGAIN.
3. Rabbit and Vanessa vs. Mike from the Plant
Let’s be honest, Xzibit was a dick for starting some shit in the lunch line like that. It was about 25 degrees in that line, and all he had to do was let ole Vanessa kick her bars and leave it alone, but no. Yes, he came in with a couple of decent, extremely homophobic lines at poor Paul, but, overall, he was basically putting himself out there to get destroyed.
Then, like a ray of white light (no pun intended), Rabbit comes out of nowhere and puts the hurt onto unsuspecting Mike.
“You worked here longer than me, and I get paid more than you do.”
Right off the bat, and this isn’t looking well for Mike.
“You can’t hack it/ Paul’s gay, you’re a f—t” (The game is the game, Mike)
“And why you fuckin with the gay guy G?/ When really you’re the one who’s got the HIV.”
Think about this for a second. Rabbit was so good in this battle that he may have ended homophobic and sexist remarks in Detroit forever, AND got laid at the end of the battle. THATS how good he was.
4. Parking Lot Cypher (B-Rabbit vs. Himself)
This “battle” gets a higher ranking for two reasons. First, because it was the only instance in the movie in which we get to see Mekhi Phifer’s Future rap in the movie, and boy was he killing it. Second, this was the first glimpse of Rabbit’s actual talent. You put him in the right atmosphere, give him someone to warm him up, and build his confidence and all of a sudden you have a monster on your hands.
“Your style is generic, mine’s authentic made/ I roll like a renegade, you need clinic aid/ my technique is bizarre and ill, I scar and kill/ you were a star until I served you like a bar and grill.”
THAT’S JUST THE FIRST FOUR LINES.
“See me without a style’s like mustard without the Heinz/ I lead the new school, you a Busta without the rhymes.”
Enough said, Rabbit. Enough said. Finally, this scene ends with the completely incoherent “Chin Tiki Girls” song that they all start chanting. However, it just adds even more fuel to the hyped up fire that was already ablaze. It was a great scene of things to come.
5. Papa Doc vs. Shorty Mike
Quite possibly a higher ranked battle than some might agree with, but let’s just say Rabbit was lucky Papa Doc choked at the end of the movie, because this man had BARS. Poor Shorty Mike, whoever he was, stood no chance to whatever Papa Doc was on during this scene. Papa Doc managed to refer to Shorty Mike as the son of a “midget” father, called him a kid like Kriss Kross and to “jiggity jump” his ass off stage, and finished by saying his mom should have performed an abortion on him to avoid the embarrassment of the battle. He actually said that to another human being. Papa Doc knows no limits.
6. Rabbit vs. Papa Doc (Third Battle of the Final Battles)
Usually considered by the mainstream as the most memorable battle from the movie, as well as the climax we had all been waiting for, this is not the movie’s best rap battle and let me explain why. First, we never actually get to hear Papa Doc’s round, therefore we are left to a one-sided slaughter on all fronts by B-Rabbit. Second, Rabbit’s final lines where he goes offbeat come off as a contrived compared to the rest of his verse, and it almost feels a little anti-climatic compared to the other rounds in the way they were structured. Although, these are minor flaws, they do separate this battle from the other two in the pantheon of this movie.
Now that we got the flaws out of the way, let’s talk about this scene…
If you had a movie scene in your head that could instantly hype you up at any second the minute you thought about it, are you telling me that scene would not include Eminem battle rapping someone’s entire life to pieces while Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Pt.ll” plays over the speakers? Then, to top it off, it involves the world’s greatest fuck you chant of all-time with “Fuck Free World, 313” while Eminem and Brittany Murphy lovingly flip each other off? What else do you need?
You have Rabbit completely destroying stable marriages, the private school system, and the name Clarence all in the midst of 90 seconds (Seriously, has anyone ever been named Clarence again after this movie?). While this is the best SCENE in the movie, it is not the best BATTLE. But, dammit it if I’m not smiling just thinking about that scene.
7. Rabbit vs. Lyckety Splyt (First Battle of the Final Battles)
This was it. This was the scene we had been waiting for all movie; B-Rabbit’s redemption. Two hours of piles of shit raining down on our main character, and here he was on stage versus the Free World crew’s most obnoxious member in Lyckety Splyt. Just to add on, Lyckety had a great round using lines like, “Fuckin Nazi, this crowd ain’t your type/ take some real advice, and form a group with Vanilla Ice,” and “I’ll crack your shoulder blade/ you get dropped so hard that Elvis will start turning in his grave.”
However, then came Rabbit. With a great instrumental choice in Showbiz and AG’s “Next Level” playing behind him, he stares down Lyckety Splyt while the crowd and the viewer are chomping at the bit to hear him finally battle. I was essentially shaking my TV when I first watched this it became so frustrating. For a split second, you wonder if he’s even going to rap. And then it starts. These lines all happen in succession:
“This whole crowd looks suspicious/ it’s all dudes in here, except for these bitches.”
(There goes my shirt)
“So I’m a German, eh?/ That’s okay, you look like a fuckin worm with braids.”
(There went my pants)
“These leaders of the Free World rookies/ lookie, how can six dicks be pussies/”
(The room is spinning)
“Talkin bout shits creek/ bitch you could be up piss creek, with paddles this deep, you’re still gonna sink. You’re a disgrace/ ya they call me Rabbit, this is a turtle race.”
(Not perfect logic but okay, here go my boxers)
“He can’t get with me, spitting this shit wickedly/ lickety shot suspicious spickety split lyckety.”
(If someone asks me at this point what my name is, I am probably going to just giggle and drool).
In 45 seconds, Rabbit turns Lyckety into a walking Michael Jordan crying meme, and had a near perfect verse minus the small flaw of mooning him at the end of the round. Definitely the most satisfying battle of the movie, yet still not the best.
8. Rabbit vs. Lotto (Second Battle of the Final Battles)
One thing I never mentioned when I first saw this movie when I was twelve was that I watched it with my mom the first time. When we got to this battle, she was laughing along with it. My mom. In the middle of suburban Dallas. With her twelve year old son. Was laughing at a rap battle. That is how absolutely monumental this battle is.
The reason this ranks number one overall is mainly because Lotto actually gives Rabbit a run for his money and ALMOST stumps him on a comeback. Lotto uses lines like, “I spit a racial slur, honkey sue me/ this shit is a horror flick, but the black guy doesn’t die in this movie,” and, “Fuck Lotto, call me your leader/ I hate it that I gotta murder the dude from Leave it To Beaver.”
The white jokes were incredible in his round. He was cohesive, energetic, and witty with his rhymes. He was the hardest competition that Rabbit faced the entire movie, but he had one single thing going against him. That one thing, was that he would have to witness the Steph Curry heat check of battle verses. The Peyton Manning two minute drill of rhyming, and any other sport analogy that can best encapsulate the simultaneous perfection of chaos and grace. Rabbit began…
“Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver/ so was Eddie Haskal, Wally, and Ms. Cleaver.”
This one line alone might have done it, but then he kept going. At one point, Rabbit says:
“Is that a tank top or a new bra?/ look Snoop Dogg just got a fuckin boob job/
Didn’t you listen to the last round, meathead?/ Pay attention, you’re saying the same shit that he (Lyckety) said/
Matter of fact dawg, here’s a pencil/ go home, write some shit, make it suspenseful, and don’t come back until something don’t hit you/ fuck it, you can take the mic home with you/
Lookin like a cyclone hit you/ tank stop screaming lotto I don’t fit you!/
See how far them white jokes get you/ boys like how Vanilla Ice gon diss you?”
We all thought it was over. I was a twelve year old kid who knew almost nothing about rap and there I was standing on my couch cackling menacingly with my mom. I’ve seen that scene over 500 times and every time I watch it I get the same feeling. Eminem had just hit the movie equivalent of twelve full court buzzer beaters in a row in our faces. It was the perfect scene with the perfect pacing, and it wasn’t even over yet…
“My motto, fuck Lotto/ I’ll get the seven digits from your mother for a dollar tomorrow.”
GAME. SET. MATCH.