Before we talk about relapsing let’s take a journey back to 1997. A little known freestyle emcee from Detroit is discovered after releasing an independent masterpiece called The Slim Shady EP. To most, this emcee changed the game forever. Whether it was his intricate word play, his demented subject matter, or his all-around “I Just Don’t Give a Fuck” attitude, a new breed of emcee was born. He hooks up with the most famous producer in history, and the book is written. It’s now been 9 years since Eminem has made anything worth writing about. Sure, he had a couple albums in between The Marshall Mathers LP and Relapse, but let’s be honest those where lackluster at best.
So we pose the question, how does Relapse stand up in today’s microwave EZ-bake rap landscape? Not only does it stand up, but once again Eminem is at the top of his game, despite a few minor missteps. Not only is this Eminem’s first album in four years, but the album is completely produced by Dr. Dre (aside from “Beautiful”). Relapse starts with a skit that delves into what Eminem has been going through the last few years, with his much publicized addiction issues, with him checking out of rehab. As the skit progresses, you can already tell this album will take a personal look at not only the emcee, but the man known as Marshall Mathers and the demons he faces. “3am” opens the album on a dark note, with Eminem spitting raps about murder and drinking bath water filled with blood. “My Mom” sounds like “What’s the Difference Pt 2″ with Em talking about a subject matter we have all heard before, his mom. This time Em has related his mother’s addiction to pills to his own, which leads us to further believe his mom may be the devil incarnate.
“I was born with a dick in my brain/yeah, fucked in the head/my stepfather said/I sucked in the bed” are Em’s brilliant opening lines for “Insane” a song all about the incest from his step-father. We all know Eminem is an outrageous emcee who can rap about anything and make it interesting to 90% of the brain dead public, but this topic is more disturbing than most and begs the question, did this really happen? Furthermore the song insinuates that his mother knew about what was happening and did nothing to stop it.
Up to this point Dr. Dre’s production has been far from impressive, sounding as if he grabbed what wasn’t used for 2001 and sliding them to Em, until “Bagpipes from Baghdad”. The bagpipe sample is genius and Em going in on Mariah and Nick Cannon this song is one of the true gems of Relapse. Dre comes through again with “Hello”, Eminem snapping over a dope piano sample and a scratched chorus. This is exactly what we were hoping for when we heard Dre and Em were in the studio together. The track fits perfectly with Em’s flow and Em’s flows so nicely on the track. Literally, this is the perfect combination. Once again Em re-introduces Slim Shady back into the rap world, which once again makes the listener wonder, is he playing a character or did all these things he is talking about actually happen? “Same Song and Dance” is a small twist and old subject matter. This time putting Eminem in the mind of a serial killer who is picking up women and killing them. It’s not a random collection of ladies, its pop stars, like I said, new take on old subject matter.
With “Same Song and Dance” and the horrific single “We Made You”, you start to get the feeling the LP is going downhill fast, but once again Eminem reinvents himself with “Medicine Ball” over what maybe the best beat on the album. “Welcome to the Slim Shady Mecca Rebecca/It’s a village in New York right next to the tribeca/it’s my sector, homosexual dissector/come again rewind selecta/I said nice rectum/I had a vasectomy hector/so you can’t get pregnant if I bi-sexually wreck ya”. Wordplay like this has been absent for so many years we forget that emcees used to be able to weave words in and out so effortlessly. Even the over the top verse from the pseudo Christopher Reeves is outstanding. In usual Eminem fashion there is a Paul Rosenberg skit where even Paul can’t deal with the incest and Christopher Reeves subject matter.
“Stay Awake” has Eminem once again playing the role of a killer while “Old Time’s Sake”, which features a nice 16 by Dr. Dre (obviously written by Eminem) reminisces on the “early days”. “Must be the Ganja” is a pointless ode to weed, which may garner new fans, but the 30-plus-crowd-with-jobs have heard this many times before. “Deja Vu” is an introspective song about Eminem’s near overdose, and struggle with weight that came along with it. Every verse dealing with a different addiction. First overeating, next alcohol, and finally pain killers and sleeping pills. The only non-Dr Dre production comes from Eminem himself on “Beautiful” which samples “Reaching Out” by Paul Rodgers. “Beautiful” deals with the pressure of success and what it’s like it’s like to walk in his shoes. Finally “Underground” is the raw, uncut, emcee we were all looking for over the last 4 years. The minimalistic Dre production allows Eminem to snap on the track like it was 1997 all over again.
Relapse isn’t Eminem’s best album, but it certainly his best since The Marshall Mathers LP, giving us a lot of hope for the future. Eminem shows what is like to be a “sweet emcee from the 313″, with all the ups and downs that go along with it. “Relapse” is Eminem’s most personal album to date – and the same time his most demented. Despite a few minor flaws, Relapse could one day be looked at as a classic. With Relapse 2 dropping in December (supposedly) this album should tide you over until the next chapter in the Eminem saga begins.
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