The Touching Meaning Behind Eminem’s “Mockingbird”

In November 2004, already-renowned Detroit rapper Eminem released his fifth studio album Encore, ending a two-and-a-half-year hiatus between LPs. For the sixteenth track on Encore, which included appearances from 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Nate Dogg, Em wrote one of the “most emotional” songs he ever had, dubbing it “Mockingbird.”

Videos by American Songwriter

Interpolating the famous bedtime lullaby “Hush Little Baby,” “Mockingbird” saw Em directly address his daughter Hailie, as well as his niece Alaina who he adopted. Hoping to ease their minds about his widely-publicized drama with his wife Kim, as well as the difficulty their family had when dealing with his fame, Em traded in his traditionally raunchy, angsty approach for a soft, forlorn tone.

“[There’s a Hailie love song on Encore.] A song called ‘Mockingbird,’ to Hailie and Alaina,” Em told Rolling Stone in a cover story published two weeks after Encore‘s release. “When Mom was on the run they didn’t understand it, and I’m not the greatest talker in the world, especially when I’m trying to explain to two little girls what’s goin’ on with someone who’s always been a part of their life and just disappeared. So that was my song to explain to them what was goin’ on, probably the most emotional song I ever wrote.”

As noted before, the hook of “Mockingbird” sees Em alter the traditional Hush little baby, don’t say a word chorus that mothers sing to their babies worldwide. Instead, he tweaks it by making it more applicable to his situation with Hailie.

Now hush, little baby, don’t you cry
Everything’s gonna be alright
Stiffen that upper lip up, little lady, I told ya
Daddy’s here to hold ya through the night

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind Eminem’s Vengeful “Kim”]

Throughout the song’s verses, Em appeals to his daughter’s senses with raps over the piano-driven instrumental, where he touches on his struggles with Kim as well as with his newly affluent lifestyle.

Hailie, I know you miss your Mom, and I know you miss your Dad
When I’m gone, but I’m tryin’ to give you the life that I never had
I can see you’re sad, even when you smile, even when you laugh
I can see it in your eyes, deep inside you wanna cry
‘Cause you’re scared, I ain’t there, Daddy’s wit’ you in your prayers
No more cryin’, wipe them tears, Daddy’s here, no more nightmares

Upon Encore‘s arrival, “Mockingbird” peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Currently, it sits at 5x certified platinum by RIAA, the highest-selling song off of the now-iconic album.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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