It’s been five years since controversial rapper Eminem released his last album Encore, a lackluster effort that had many declaring the King of hip hop’s career over. It seemed that Eminem had run out of material and was finding it hard to connect with an audience looking for fresh blood. However, over the last five years a number of things happened in the rappers life that have become the central focus of his latest CD, Relapse, a hard hitting album that harkens back to Eminem’s early material.
Relapse does what Eminem does best: examine his own life or as his hit single once said, cleaning out his closet. In his time off Eminem had another public falling out with his mother, attempted another reconcilation with on again off again wife Kim, lost his close friend and hypeman Proof to gun violence and fought an addiction to painkillers. Although he surely would have liked to skip all of the above, the situations became a inspiration for the new CD.
Relapse is a return to the wicked wordplay that Eminem became famous for on his first few albums. Many of the tracks on the album would fit in well with his 1999 fiery debut The Slim Shady LP. On his last couple of albums Eminem often let numerous guest appearances overshadow his work but besides a small appearance by 50 Cent and a couple of verses from his mentor Dr. Dre, Relapse is all Eminem.
The album jumps right in to controversy with its opening skit Dr. West. The skit revolves around Em’s last visit with his doctor before he is released from rehab. As he discusses his sobriety and the 12 step program the doctor tells him, “Take a drink. Take the edge off.” It is obvious that Eminem is about to take his fans on another bumpy ride and he uses the deranged doctor to showcase this.
The CD’s first track is the second single released 3am. The track is a dark free fall into the macabre world of a insane serial killer with a nod at Em’s hit single Stan. “I remember the first time I dismembered a family member, December I think it was.” The perversity of the song’s lyrics, the catchy chorus and the single’s quick flow add up to a single that appeals to both fans who enjoy Eminem’s dark side and those who like his comedic side. The song stands out for its vivid imagery.
Next up is another dig at Eminem’s favorite target: My Mom. This time he is addressing his drug use and his mother’s role in the situation. “My mum loves Valium and lots of drugs. That’s why I am like I am cause I’m like her.” The song is a hilarious take on the situation but there is also some true anger there as Eminem compares his mom’s drug use when he was a child to his own drug use in front of his daughter.
Insane is easily the most controversial track on Relapse. The song revolves around a disturbing tale of childhood molestation. “My stepfather said that I sucked in the bed…” Although a bit uncomfortable to listen to the track’s flow makes it hard to turn away from.
The album takes a turn with the Scottish inspired Bagpipes From Baghdad. Dr. Dre’s looping beats make for a interesting listen but the lyrics are a little stale. “I run the streets and mack like a madman holdin a glad bag.” Eminem uses the track to take some time to take a swipe at his ex Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon.
Next up is the dance flavored track Hello. The song works on many levels as it is Eminem’s reintroduction after his hiatus, a hello to all the ladies and a wave at the pills that caused him to relapse. “It’s been a long time. I’m sorry it’s been so long. My name is…(Shady) I never meant to leave you.”
After a short skit featuring a female kidnapping, Same Song and Dance picks up on the storyline with Eminem detailing a series of attacks. The song is pretty creative as the lyrics appear to revolve around picking up a girl until you realize he’s speaking to the bound and gagged one he’s got in his passenger seat. “Girl shake that ass. You ain’t ever gonna break that glass. The windshields too strong for you.”
The next track is the first single released off the album We Made You. Although the song has a strong beat the track is kind of weak and is easily the album’s low point. Eminem insists on uses the comedic voice he used on his old track Just Lose It. It didn’t work then and it still doesn’t now. The track also seems a bit dated with some of the celebrity pot shots a couple of years too late. “Oh Amy, rehab never looked so good.”
Fortunately, at this point the CD gets back on solid ground with the track Medicine Ball. The song features another great beat from Dr. Dre and features some great lyrics. In the past Eminem has dropped a lot of tasteless lines about Christopher Reeved and he takes a moment to go there again on this track with a twist allowing Reeves to get in the last word. “Eminem, I’m coming to kill you. I always hated you and I still do.”
Next up is a Paul Rosenberg skit. As usual he cannot handle the subject matter that Eminem has brought him to put out. Later there is a Steve Berman skit where he pulls a gun on Slim Shady for the same reason. The Berman skit alludes to the fact that there will be a second album coming out later in the year. “”You hide out in Detroit for almost five years while the music industry melts the f*ck down? You know how many people lost their jobs because of your f*cking vacation?”
Old Times Sake features Dr. Dre and is a throwback to his Chronic days. Dre kicks out one of his finest verses in years and Eminem’s lyrics are hilarious. “”I believe I can fly, while I pee on a girl, you won’t catch me C.S.I.”
Must Be the Ganja seems to be a throwaway track at first but after a couple of listens it grows on you. The track has a strange beat and does a nice job at looking at the lighter side of drug use. “Must be the Ganja it’s the marihuana that’s creeping upon me while I’m so high.”
DejaVu is the one of the most personal songs on the album. The song does a great job of traveling down the path of destruction that has been Eminem’s life over the last few years. His demons make for a powerful and painful track. “And maybe if i just drink half I’ll be halved buzzed for half of the time. Who’s that mastermind behind that little line? With that kind of rational man i got half a mind to have another half of glass of wine sound asinine.”
Beautiful is the only track on the album produced by Eminem; he only needed one. The track is a amazing mix of honest pain and inspiration. The song samples Rock Therapy’s Reaching Out and was written by Eminem while he was in rehab. “Now I could have either just stayed at home sit on my ass and pissed and moaned or take this situation with which I’m placed in and get up and kick my own.”
Crack A Bottle features 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. The track features strong verses from Eminem and Dre but is overshadowed by 50’s lazy and uninspired lyrics. “So crack a bottle. Let your body waddle. Don’t like act like a snobby model you just won the lotto.”
The album closes with it’s strongest track Underground which features a ending appearance from Eminem’s gay ultra ego Ken Kaniff. The song has a amazing beat and killer lyrics. The single wraps up Em’s entire journey as he details why he’s stayed in hiding since his last CD. “Here comes the rain and thunder now. No where to run, to run til now. I disappeared, you wondered how. Looking for me, I’m underground.”
Overall Relapse is a masterful look at the dark world of substance abuse. The album is truly a comeback for Eminem as he channels his hate and pain into his music.