(1) We don the professor's hat and provide detailed exegesis on Eminem's (hereafter simply M's) little-appreciated but sublime tune IF I HAD. We encourage you to listen to this song at least 5-10 times. This majestic song is now securely in our top 5 tunes all time.
(2) If I Had is a very serious, very profound meditation on the nature of abject poverty, repeated disappointment, and the allusion that riches provide for persons in such a condition. While a humorous aside is thrown into the mix here and there (with M wishing he had an ass "big enough for the whole world to kiss") the song contains very little of the flippant funny, violent, and X-rated lyrics that dominate many of M's other tunes. Heroically embracing pessimism out of a respect for the utter and total miserableness of his personal reality, M refuses to "be positive" when he doesn't "see shit positive." This is a very rare quality then and- even more so- now.
(3) At least a third of IF I HAD is devoted to M repeatedly emphasizing how TIRED he is of being broke and poor. The poverty M is rapping about is serious almost dangerous abject poverty, not the bullshit upper-middle class "I'm poor because I can't afford to send my kid to Harvard" or-even pathetically worse- "I'm poor compared to my law school classmates." The abject poverty M identifies is a reality where (a) you can't afford a phone, (b) must collect bottles and return them to the store for the 10 or 15 cent "bounty," (c) violence appears an appealing alternative to jobs that pay "$5.50 an hour," (d) wearing the same ugly hat and shoes everywhere you go is what you do, and (e) borrowing a dollar or two for gas and eating with plastic silverware is how you get by.
(4) Although M provides numerous explicit details about the abject poverty he has endured for many years, he tellingly goes silent on why he wants a million dollars so badly. Dreams of riches he certainly has but why he has them, what he will do with his million dollars, and all the rest are matters left entirely to a very nebulous imagination. Importantly, M offers no concrete plans of what he will do with this money besides the obvious (escaping abject poverty); and M doesn't even begin to explain why he would need a million bucks to escape abject poverty. M raps that if he had a million bucks he would first buy a brewery and "turn the planet into alcoholics," next he would wave a magic wand and secure various sexual favors, and then concludes that even a million bucks wouldn't be enough for him to stop "robbing armored trucks."
(5) We are now ready to tackle the most interesting part of the song: the beginning. M begins IF I HAD with the truly remarkable, jaw-dropping, insanely philosophical insight about life:
(7) IF I HAD thus becomes a fascinating locus-point for the function, allusions, and imaginings of wealth in nearly all contemporary human societies. People rightly fear and detest abject poverty and seek to acquire sufficient wealth to escape its many bads. In the process of doing so and benefiting from this escape, many then continue to fixate on wealth and believe in vague, nebulous, and ultimately false ways that wealth is somehow the "ticket" out of all their difficult problems, problems that literally have no connection with money. These imaginings are never rationalized, never shown to be worthy of the serious effort and pursuit that actually drives the pursuit of wealth. Still, the chase for wealth continues, fed every step of the way by foolish/silly allusions that are usually only a wee bit better than the ones M helps us laugh at in IF I HAD.
(8) These reflections must terminate somewhere. And so they will end here: "What is money? Money is what makes a man act funny."