In Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, the rap artist exposes himself by addressing topics such as the protests against him, his fatherless childhood, and his damaged relationship with his mother. The whole motivation of this song is revealed in the hook, and the line “I’m cleanin’ out my closet” actually has a deep double meaning. The first is in reference to the common expression of having skeletons in your closet. Eminem is no longer going to hold his tongue; he is bringing out all of his issues in this track. The second meaning is that he is moving out of his mother’s life for good and leaving nothing behind because of the way she treated him. Although he reveals some of the many horrible things she and others had done to him through his lifetime, nevertheless, Eminem swears he “never meant to hurt” her.
The structural strategy that Eminem takes is quite simple. He uses different verses to address different scars and separates each with the now infamous hook. The first he addresses is those who protested against him in 2001 for his hateful lyrics. He says they are as sick as the one they are protesting against and that he will continue to “Give ’em hell long as [he’s] breathin’.” In the second, he reveals he has nothing remotely kind to say about his father for abandoning him as an infant. Eminem argues that even he tries his hardest as a father for his daughter’s sake.
The track builds to the third and final verse, where Eminem brings out possibly the biggest skeleton of them all, his mother. It is now where he puts meaning behind the hook, which makes it so much more powerful once it comes around to conclude the song. One especially strong lyric worth pointing out is the line “…going through public housing systems / Victim of Münchausen’s Syndrome…”. Münchausen’s Syndrome is a mental disorder where a caregiver, usually a mother, harms their child or describes non-existent symptoms in order to get sympathy and attention. Eminem’s mother made him believe his whole life he was sick, when it was her who was truly sick. This line is another one of Eminem’s signature double entendres; Münchausen’s Syndrome sounds like “Much Housings Syndrome” implying that Eminem never stayed in one home as a child and was constantly moving from place to place for his mother to find a job. Moving a child often makes it very difficult for a child to make friends, which was inevitably the case for Eminem.
In my opinion, the strongest line in this song is one the combines all of his issues by saying “It’s my life, I’d like to welcome y’all to The Eminem Show” (41). “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” was the 2nd single from his 4th studio album, The Eminem Show. The meaning behind it is that Eminem feels like his entire life has just become entertainment for his fans. It is also morbidly ironic because he refers to all these issues including domestic abuse, abandonment, and murder as a show for the listeners’ entertainment. No song of his drives this point more than “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, where Eminem reveals all of his issues in three verses for all to hear. This is Eminem’s personal exposé, and he is so effective that one would think that his closet is now clean of all skeletons. Yet the four studio albums to ensue would argue otherwise.