Like Toy Soldiers

Like Toy Soldiers

Eminem

Sampling a children’s choir from Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” for the chorus, “Like Toy Soldiers” finds Eminem emphasizing the importance of friendship and his duty/respect to those he holds in high esteem during times of conflict.

In his early career, Eminem’s controversial lyrics, namedropping, and outspokenness—often delivered through his Slim Shady alter ego—got him a lot of publicity and involved in a lot of beefs. In fact, in June 2019, Hip Hop By The Numbers calculated that he’d dissed 137 people on his solo albums, with this album, Encore, featuring the most, with 39.9% of the lyrics devoted to targeting people.

Therefore, this song was in stark contrast to his more unruly persona of only a few years prior, demonstrating considerable growth in his character, and a desire for pacifism that didn’t require him to submit to the will of his competition. He was no doubt hoping to prevent further loss of human life by setting this example.

This desire to rise above violence and jadedness to direct conflict was likely attributable to his maturing perspective of it, and his maturing in general. Hip-hop had lost—and has continued to lose—many icons and promising artists to needless violence. Three such icons were immortalized at the end of the song’s visuals, namely Big L, The Notorious B.I.G., and 2Pac—all artists that Eminem greatly admired. One other lesser-known artist is also immortalized. Bugz, who was a founding member of Eminem’s group D12. Bugz was murdered in May 1999, getting shot in the back whilst walking away from a physical altercation.

Eerily, the video depicts Proof being shot and subsequently dying, which went on to become a reality less than a year-and-a-half later. Though there are still conflicting reports around what exactly happened, it is known that Proof was murdered in a bar during a drunken altercation over a game of pool.