Diversions


Music Review: Eminem by uncdiversions
June 3, 2009, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Eminem

Relapse

(Aftermath/Interscope)

In 2006 Marshall Mathers “stans” wondered if a guest verse on Akon’s “Smack That” was the last they were to get from the emcee better known as Eminem. There was a greatest hits compilation after four albums and future releases were absent from the Aftermath docket. Eminem stayed silent on his future.

Then, early in 2008, reports surfaced that Em had been admitted to the hospital over the Christmas holiday with pneumonia and gossip that his weight had ballooned to over 200 pounds was rampant. Slim Fast fueled the chatter with an offer for Eminem to act as a company spokesman. He was back on the radar, yet the man himself was mum.

It took 10 more months, but in October of last year Eminem appeared on Shade45 radio announcing his return, not one but two new albums and brought a new track filled with characteristic nasally vocals, violence and drug references. One of rap’s most polarizing characters was back.

Slowly the truth behind Eminem’s four year hiatus since his last studio album surfaced. No, there was no pneumonia. Yes, there was some weight gain. But most importantly, Eminem’s battle with prescription drug dependence was fully revealed, as was his recently accomplished soberness.

Now the only question about Em’s immediate future that remained was this: Could the man who has for years relied on narcotics to proliferate his rhymes and help him achieve the level of “best rapper alive” still be the same after such a lifestyle change?

Released May 19th after months of relentless marketing , Relapse ‘s tracklist and production credits bill itself as a formulaic Eminem album. Dr. Dre, with the exception of one track, mans the beat helm, Paul Rosenberg provides an irate phone call, guests are limited to a select few, mom gets called out and Ken Kaniff from Connecticut sleazes up a couple minutes. At its best it would be compared to 2000’s classic The Marshall Mathers LP; at its worst, 2004’s lackluster Encore. Either way, it promises to be a better use of $13 then a case of Busch Light.

Immediately it’s evident that the maniacal Slim Shady persona unleashed in 1999 had suffered neither loss of perversion nor its ability to shock and repulse. Before lead single”We Made You” plays at track nine, Eminem has already gone on a murderous rampage through fast-food establishments, describes the pharmaceutical binges that he shares with his mother and chastises the current Mrs. Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey. And on “Insane” he out doeseven himself as he takes his rhymes into pedophilic incest rapping, “I want you to feel like my stepfather felt me.”

The first half of the album is pretty standard Eminem fare. It’s the “I can’t believe he said that” lyrics that made people pay attention ten years ago. However, in the case of current Marshall Mathers’ affairs following the prolonged sabbatical from rap, it seems like too easy an outlet for Eminem to bypass more complicated matters such as his new-found sobriety or death of fellow Detroit rapper Proof, one of Eminem’s good friends..

There’s in obvious shift after Rosenberg’s appeal to decency midway through the album. The Eminem that has garnered critical praise for lyrical depth and transparency relieves Slim Shady as leading man and thus begins the airing and clarifying of past tribulations that has surrounded the album.

It takes 45 minutes, but the listener finally gets treated to Relapse’s “The Way I Am” with “Déjà Vu.” Chronicling all the hot button issues, Em details the ‘script addiction, hospital visit and even mentions the death of Proof on one song. It’s evident that Eminem uses his lyrics as an outlet as he spits, “Wouldn’t even be taking this shit if DeShaun didn’t die/Oh yeah there’s an excuse you lose Proof so you use/There’s new rules it’s cool if it’s helping you to get through.”

Following suit, the backing instrumentation also picks up steam. Dr. Dre brings the haunting, string-infused, piano-driven bars that have come to characterize Eminem’s work, wit a good example being the best Slim-Shady-style effort, “Stay Wide Awake,” which is a true return to turn of the century Eminem.

And the one time that Dre does step away from the mixing board, Eminem brings his best production chops with the only song that was recorded prior to his sobriety. “Beautiful,” In the same vein as “Déjà Vu,” is a pill-fueled ballad that works as a perfect outro (though it’s not the final track) by acting as a real-time, journal-like examination of a struggling Marshall Mathers.

Relapse is not The Marshall Mathers LP. It is highly unlikely there will ever be another such outing from Eminem. But that is the burden that now sits on this rapper. Relapse is an album that will eclipse 95 percent of hip-hop releases this year but still be considered a slight disappointment. But judging by the increase in solid content nearing the conclusion of the release, Eminem is nearing top form, which should raise anticipation for his second new album due later this year.

By Diversions Staff Writer Benn Wineka

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