Today’s Song: “Phenomenal” by Eminem

Considerable excitement grew at the news that Eminem was set to star as a redemption-hungry boxer in Southpaw, his would-be return to acting over a decade after his fictionalized biopic, 8 Mile. What an ideal follow-up to the movie often regarded as rap’s Rocky, the thinking went. Plus, this movie could very well come with a smash hit theme song in “Lose Yourself” style, which would formidably cap off his Hollywood comeback.

Although the lead role in Southpaw ultimately went to Jake Gyllenhaal, hope for the second part of the equation remains alive with the release of the soundtrack’s lead single, “Phenomenal.” While this song is unlikely to reach the same heights as “Lose Yourself”— how many songs can win an Academy Award on the heels of a 12-week run at #1, after all?— “Phenomenal” still does its job as a gritty piece of audio drama which proves that few can still fuel a workout quite like the eternal face of the Detroit rap scene.

Just as “Lose Yourself” vividly revealed the deadset aspirations of 8 Mile’s protagonist, B. Rabbit, “Phenomenal” proves that Southpaw’s main character, Billy Hope, is a man who, well, will not miss his chance to blow. “With every ounce of my blood, with every breath in my lungs, won’t stop until I’m phenomenal,” Eminem whispers in the refrain, in chilling contrast to the proud and angry rapping with characterizes the rest of the song. The tried-and-true tradition of interspersing a series of intense and fast-paced verses with a much mellower chorus— see “Marshall Mathers,” “Soldier” and “Not Afraid” for other instances of Eminem pulling this off— works considerably well in “Phenomenal.”.

Like much of his output has been since Eminem returned to the limelight around 2010, following a half-decade hiatus, “Phenomenal” is a patchwork of various rapping elements, with the rapper’s flow bouncing from medium to fast to dizzyingly fast and back, and his puns ending up varied in quality. Messy though this may feel at times, enough of the content sticks for the song to merit a sturdy recommendation.

As is the case in even his less memorable songs, Eminem achieves a series of impressive polysyllabic rhymes of a nature which very few other emcees could conceivably conjure. “I’ma knife this will/ Sometimes I feel just like B. Real from Cypress Hill/ How I can just kill a cypher, survivor’s guilt,” is a standout example, taken from the album’s third, final, and best verse. “I write with the left, same hand I hold the mic with as I fight to the death.”

“Phenomenal” succeeds where other Eminem songs have occasionally faltered in that the rapper manages to connect those rhymes to a concrete and meaningful central theme. The song encapsulates the feeling which an underdog must feel in overcoming the pain and turmoil of his everyday life and achieving the stardom which he so craves and deserves. “Lose Yourself” succeeded spectacularly when the person fitting that description was a trailer park battle rapper from 8 Mile; “Phenomenal” also does its job by conjuring the image of crushed but still-poised boxer Billy Hope within Eminem’s overall outstanding wordplay.

The results here won’t be as chart-topping and culture-dominating as they were in “Lose Yourself,” but the rhymes in “Phenomenal” are still worth more than the sum of their parts, and that ultimately makes this one a keeper.

Watch: Southpaw – Official Trailer

:: “Phenomenal” – Eminem ::

lyrics

[Hook]
I am phenomenal
With every ounce of my blood
With every breath in my lungs
Won’t stop until I’m phe-no-menal
I am phenomenal
However long that it takes
I’ll go to whatever lengths
It’s gonna make me a monster though
I am phenomenal
But I would never say, ‘Oh, it’s impossible’
Cause I’m gonna be phenomenal

[Verse 1]
Unstoppable, unpoppable thought bubbles
Untoppable thoughts, fuckin’ juggernaut that’ll

Stomp you in the verse, obstacles I’m drawn to ’em
When the going got rough
Show ‘em what I done thought that was the worse, little sissy

Who the fuck taught you how to persevere?
There ain’t no situation that you ever had to respond to that’s adverse
The messiest thing you’ve ever gone through is your purse

Yeah, I don’t try like hell, then I might as well
Hang it up like a shelf, gotta keep growin’ with it, evolve
Cause you can keep throwin’ shit at the wall
But you’re gonna find that nothing’s gonna stick until you apply yourself

Time to slip in that zone till’ I find myself
Inside the realm where the unknown and boldly go
In the waters where nobody else has gone before
Or willing to go, uncharted, feeling is so
Bomb, I’m feelin’ myself, I’m a giant
Sometimes I gotta remind myself that I am…

[Hook]
I am phenomenal
With every ounce of my blood
With every breath in my lungs
Won’t stop until I’m phe-no-menal
I am phenomenal
However long that it takes
I’ll go to whatever lengths
It’s gonna make me a monster though
I am phenomenal
But I would never say, ‘Oh, it’s impossible’
Cause I’m gonna be phenomenal

[Verse 2]
Let me self-empower you
When you’re down and they’re tryin’ to clown the fuck out of you
When you feel like you’re runnin’ out of fuel
I’ll show you how to use doubt as fuel
Convert it to gunpowder too

Now what you do is put the match to the charcoal fluid
Put a spark to it like Martha Stewart barbecuing

Ah screw it, feel like you want to hit that wall then do it
Punch through it, just cock back, put your all into it

Now you gon’ take that rage and make that what you raise
Never take back what you say

If you stay trapped in your brain, engage in this fueled cage match
Ready to scrap asap
Take your fists to his bones

Show Biggie who’s smallest you’re Christopher Wallace
Yeah I picture ’em all as plastic and foam
Lays flat, where you put your dinner plates at
And set it on it like a placemat

(I am phenomenal)
And I want you to say that

[Hook]
I am phenomenal
With every ounce of my blood
With every breath in my lungs
Won’t stop until I’m phe-no-menal
I am phenomenal
However long that it takes
I’ll go to whatever lengths
It’s gonna make me a monster though
I am phenomenal
But I would never say, ‘Oh, it’s impossible’
Cause I’m gonna be phenomenal

[Bridge]
Step into the unknown
And find yourself your glory, free the ignoring person

[Verse 3]
Got a fuckin’ mouth with no shut-off valve
Can’t even cut the power to it, but it’s what allowed
Me to come up out from under the fuckin’ ground

Cause I worked my butt off now
It’s a subject that I don’t know how to shut up about

Cause I stuck it out
Like a motherfucking tongue to tie, I responded when I got shoved around

You’re gonna have non-believers
But when you’re beyond belief, you probably shouldn’t wonder how

Get it how you live
But are you prepared to give more than you get?
And put in twice what you get back from this shit
Though what you sacrifice barely is half, never give

Rap is my shiv
But it’s like my shield at the same time I wield, I’ma knife this will

Sometimes I feel just like B. Real from Cypress Hill
How I can just kill a cypher, survivor’s guilt

I rhyme like life is still an uphill climb
Ready to face it, each challenge waitin’
Can taste it, it’s salivation, I’m wagin’ retaliation

Look what I have built, reputation is validation
The only thing I’m capable of makin’ is amazing
Only thing you’re capable of makin’ is a false statement
An accusation… I am legendary status, in fact
That is the only way you’ll ever be able to say
Your legend is makin’ an allegation

I write with the left, same hand I hold the mic with
As I fight to the death, ’til my last breath
Managed to prove who the best man is

Surveil it, all cards be the only ones left standing
In the end, but I ain’t gonna be the only one with the advantage
Of knowing what it’s like to be southpaw
Cause you can bet your ass you’ll be left handed

Cause I am

[Hook]
I am phenomenal
With every ounce of my blood
With every breath in my lungs
Won’t stop until I’m phe-no-menal
I am phenomenal
However long that it takes
I’ll go to whatever lengths
It’s gonna make me a monster though
I am phenomenal
But I would never say, ‘Oh, it’s impossible’
Cause I’m gonna be phenomenal

Southpaw (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)

Southpaw (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)

Learn more about Southpaw online

Discover more at AtwoodMagazine.com

Josh Weiner

I am a Washington, DC native and graduate of Tufts University and Georgetown University. I have been a contributing writer for Atwood Magazine since spring 2015.