“Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is a widely acclaimed single by Eminem released from his album ‘The Eminem Show’ back in 2002. It is no secret that Eminem had a rough upbringing, with his father leaving him when he was little and his mother being what she is as described in this song. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is a confessional about how Eminem’s mother treated him as he grew up.The movie 8 Mile is loosely based on the life of Eminem and the movie shows how his mother treated him as a child. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” was nominated to be the theme song of the movie, but somehow got replaced with “Lose Yourself” and it worked out great for Marshall Mathers. We can see a lot of similarities between the 8 Mile movie and contents of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” lyrics.
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Although, one of the most successful and brutally honest lyrical works of Eminem, he himself has started to despise the fact that he even wrote “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.” However much his mother mistreated him, she was the only one who was ever there for him. Eminem releases “Headlights” from ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2′ album in 2013 and apologizes his mother for ever saying the things he says in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.”But I’m sorry momma for “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”At the time I was angry, rightfully? Maybe soNever meant that far to take it though – “Headlights” by Eminem
Watch Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” Music Video
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”
The intro to the song is actually an unplanned lyric line and Eminem himself has said that it actually happened.Where’s my snare?I have no snare in my headphones – there you goYeah… yo, yoSnare is the sound of drums in your headphones. Artists usually roll the instrumental tape in their headphones while recording the lyrics over it. So when Eminem got into his studio to record “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” in 2001, somehow the sound engineer had muted the drums. He quickly corrects it and the unplanned lyric line sticks in with the album version of the song.The first verse of the song kicks in, and Eminem is spitting smooth rhymes and plain truth.
Have you ever been hated or discriminated against?I have; I’ve been protested and demonstrated againstPicket signs for my wicked rhymes, look at the timesSick as the mind of the motherf*cking kid that’s behindEminem talks about the start of his hip hop career. Eminem has been brutally honest with his lyrics and he often had no problem attacking the broken parts of the society. This habit often got him in hot waters. There have been countless protests and hate speech against Eminem and his music. It has ceased now, but not completely vanished.And Eminem says his wicked rhymes are as good as the ‘sick’ mind of the young kid he was. He was exposed to street violence, not having a father and his mom doing drugs and other things. So he says his music is a good as how his mentality was shaped when he was a child.
Eminem in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” music video
The hook of the song is a direct address to his mother;I’m sorry momma!I never meant to hurt you!I never meant to make you cry; but tonightI’m cleaning out my closet (one more time)I said I’m sorry momma!I never meant to hurt you!I never meant to make you cry, but tonightI’m cleaning out my closetEminem has had it enough of piling up this anger inside of him. He must have been truly broken apart to go ahead and release such a song. In “Headlights” he tries to justify himself as at that time he may have been right to release such a song. But this song has haunted him ever since.Eminem slides in to the second verse of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”Ha! I got some skeletons in my closetAnd I don’t know if no one knows itSo before they thrown me inside my coffin and close itI’mma expose it; I’ll take you back to ’73Before I ever had a multi-platinum selling CDEminem doesn’t want to hide his past. “Skeletons in my closet” refers to some deep dark secret someone is keeping hidden. So before everyone else labels him a ‘bad son’ and locks him in that grave, he is going to expose his skeletons. For that he takes us back to his childhood, to 1973, Eminem (Born in October 17, 2972) was just couple of months old.
Eminem at a young age, with his mother, Debbie
I was a baby, maybe I was just a couple of monthsMy fagg*t father must have had his panties up in a bunchCause he split, I wonder if he even kissed me goodbyeNo I don’t. On second thought I just f*cking wished he would dieSome strong insults are thrown towards his father by Eminem in this verse. He says his father left him and his mother when he was just a couple months old. It may have been the struggles of life that pushed him out, but Eminem has held a strong grudge against him.Eminem wonders if his father even had a second thought about leaving his months old baby, but he highly doubts that.
Eminem and his wife Kim Scott
I maybe made some mistakesBut I’m only human, but I’m man enough to face them todayWhat I did was stupid, no doubt it was dumbBut the smartest sh*t I did was take the bullets outta that gunCause I’da killed him; sh*t I would’ve shot Kim and him bothEminem is not the best exemplary character or celebrity out there, but he has no porblem admitting his mistake either.The next few lines describe his confrontation of one named John Guerrera, who was caught kissing Kim Scott. Guerrera claims Eminem hit him with a gun, but Em insists it was just his hand. He knows it was a stupid move to attack that person. Luckily Eminem did not have bullets in his gun, or else he probably would have killed that person and his wife on the spot.It’s my life, I’d like to welcome y’all to “The Eminem Show”That’s just the tip of the iceberg for you and Eminem welcomes you to his album ‘The Eminem Show.’ “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” was the second single off the album following “Without Me.”
Watch Eminem Perform “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” Live
The hook of the track fills in again and we arrive at the third and final verse of the song.Now I would never diss my own momma just to get recognitionTake a second to listen for who you think this record is dissingEminem isn’t doing this song for glitz and glamour or glory. It’s a confessional that has been eating him inside. He pleads us to take a closer look at the song before we label him and close his coffin.But put yourself in my position; just try to envisionWitnessing your momma popping prescription pills in the kitchenB*tching that someone’s always going through her purse and sh*t’s missingEminem asks us to put ourselves in his position and he explains some horrific situations he witnessed as a child.Debbie was a drug addict and she used to get dozed on prescription pills when she couldn’t obtain drugs. It must not have been a nice sight to see as a child. She always blamed Em for things going missing from her purse, which is explained in the next lines.Going through public housing systems, victim of Munchhausen’s SyndromeMy whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’tMunchhausen’s Syndrome is a mental disorder where a mother harms their child or forces on to believe non-existent sicknesses to get attention and sympathy. All his childhood Eminem was made to believe he was sick when he really wasn’t. His mother fed him those horrible thoughts which must have cracked down Eminem really bad.Eminem and his mother did not have a proper house to live in. They lived in trailers and moved a lot from house to house.Em also does some genius word play by rhyming “housing systems” and “Munchhausen’s Syndrome.”‘Til I grew up, now I blew up, it makes you sick to ya stomachTill he grew up he was a victim of mental abuse by his mother. But now he is a super star and Em questions if that bothers her!Doesn’t it? Wasn’t it the reason you made that CD for me Ma?So you could try to justify the way you treated me Ma?Debbie Mathers made a song titled “Dear Marshall” with a group called ID-X. In this song Debbie tried to explain herself to Marshall in a voice over recording.
Debbie’s song “Dear Marshall” appearing on ‘Set The Record Straight’ CD by ID-X
But guess what? You’re getting older now and it’s cold when you’re lonelyAnd Nathan’s growing up so quick he’s gonna know that you’re phonyEminem wanted no aprt of that apology from his mother. He didn’t even respond to the song. He just left her be. Nathan is Eminem’s brother and he was still growing up with his mother. It wasn’t going to take long for him to realize she was a coward.And Hailie’s getting so big now; you should see her, she’s beautifulBut you’ll never see her – she won’t even be at your funeral!Hailie Mathers is growing with Eminem and Kim and Debbie would not be allowed to see her. Em is scared of exposing Hailie to the same things he was exposed to when he was a child. Eminem hits hard here saying that Hailie wouldn’t even be at her grandmother’s funeral. Eminem probably regrets these words now.See what hurts me the most is you won’t admit you was wrongB*tch do your song – keep telling yourself that you was a mom!In the second verse Eminem admitted that he has made his fair share of mistakes and he is man enough to admit it. So he is mostly mad about the fact that his mother doesn’t admit the abusive behaviour she inflicted upon young Eminem. In the song “Dear Marshall” Debbie tries to justify her behaviour, but Marshall is done with her lies.But how dare you try to take what you didn’t help me to getEminem’s mother sued Em for defamation of character. She sued him for $11 million and ended up winning $25,000 from which $23,345 was taken by her lawyer leaving her with just $1,655. Karma is a bi*ch!You selfish b*tch; I hope you f*cking burn in hell for this sh*tEminem cries in anguish at what his mother has done to him over the years. This is an outcry of releasing all the skeletons in his closet.Remember when Ronnie died and you said you wished it was me?Well guess what, I am dead – dead to you as can be!The struggle between Eminem and Debbie escalated when his uncle Ronnie dies in 1991. Soon after Debbie and Em were in a phone call arguing over something and Debbie tipped her point and said “I wish this was you instead of Ronnie.” Debbie immediately apologized Em after saying that, but Eminem has had enough too. Eminem might be alive and well, but he says he is as dead as can be to his mother.The brutally honest and spit fire lyrics of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” comes to an end with the above cold and steel-blade-through-the-heart kinda sentences. The hook repeats twice more and the song comes to a halt.Eminem really did experience all the things mentioned in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” and I can’t even imagine having a childhood like that. Maybe, just maybe, at that time the contents of the song could be justified. But Eminem has felt guilty about the song for long after. “Headlights” was his way of saying sorry for this song and trying to mend fences with his mother. He even goes as far as to thank her for all the troubles she went through to bring up Eminem the best way she could. He is grateful for that. Will he ever forgive his father? Quite unlikely.Do you have any opinions about the song? Do you have any interpretations or lyrics analysis of “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”? Make sure to comment them below.
Adam McDonaldHi! I am the founder and lead author and editor of nadechworld.com music community. A vast range of personal interests from Hip-Hop to Country to Hard Rock and Punk music will keep you entertained.