Relapse (released May 19, 2009)
For a few minutes, let me play the role of therapist.
This might be surprising to some, but I just acquired Eminem's sophomore album, 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP, a couple of months back. It has been five years since Em released a full-length studio album ('04's uneven Encore) so The Marshall Mathers LP reminded me just how skilled this guy is.
And how totally insane he is.
Even before his lengthy hiatus, Eminem seemed to slowly drift away from his psychotic Slim Shady persona, focusing more on thuggin' with 50 Cent and even delving into social commentary on a few songs.
But like many addicts, Em's regressing back into his destructive ways. Hense, his comeback album is a return to the crazy Eminem of old - Relapse is full of killin', druggin' and dissin' celebrities. Except this time he's rapping in a weird accent, for some reason.
Yep, Em still hates his momma, giving her grief on "My Mom," he's still picking on Christopher Reeve's corpse on "Medicine Ball," and he's still whining about Mariah Carey on "Bagpipes from Baghdad." But as much as you want to shake your head at this addict spiraling back into old habits, his flow and wicked sense of humor still grips you. I literally laughed out loud when he spit "This ain't dinner/This is paint thinner!" on "My Mom."
Tired of Eminem pretending to be a serial killer? I thought I was too, until listening to his vivid rampage on "3 a.m." and his lyrical dexterity on "Stay Wide Awake" - "Soon as my flow starts/I compose art like the ghost of Mozart."
Every addict has a supplier, and you can blame Dr. Dre for egging Em on. I've never been a big fan of Dre's production, but his typical dark, heavy beats actually adds to the album's somber mood.
While there is something to be said for familiarity, sometimes you just get tired of a crackhead acting like a crackhead. The video for "We Made You" might be goofy fun, but the concept is pretty stale at this point. Same for "Crack a Bottle," which sounds like a G-Unit song from 2003. And while a lot of people seem to like "Insane" (fish-stick loving Kanye West being among them), the shock value of Em being "raped" by his stepfather isn't very shocking. "Underground" may be the only track on the album that isn't a rehash of an older song, but Em's off-kilter flow clashed with the beat.
After being away from the spotlight for so long, I think it was much easier for Eminem to regress back into the persona that made him famous in the first place. And while there's much to love about Relapse, I wish there would have been more progression instead of regression.
Best tracks: "3 a.m.", "Medicine Ball," "Bagpipes from Baghdad"
3.5 stars out of 5