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Eminem: Relapse (Review)

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“It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a strong rhyme to step to.” – Rakim

The art of the comeback is a time-honored tradition of Hip-Hop—a rarely perfected rite of passage for artists aspiring to attain immortality. Eminem is fresh off a four-year hiatus, a sabbatical that has included an acute drug addiction and the loss of his best friend and mentor Proof. The Detroit native has seen more highs and lows in the last 15 years than the United States economy, but now he forges his own version of the Hip-Hop comeback with his fifth album Relapse.

The ominous piano on “3am” is the perfect reintroduction to Slim Shady’s twisted world. Five minutes of breathtaking word play and imagery so graphic it would make Stephen King blush should placate any doubts as to whether or not Eminem still ‘has it.’Through his trademark dark humor, Eminem’s “Insane” depicts stories of a child being sexually abused by his stepfather. And the uncomfortable laughter ensues on “Same Song & Dance” which details the artist’s “kidnapping” and “murder” of Lindsay Lohan and career Shady target, Britney Spears. The album is not without its faults, however. The Dr. Dre featured “Old Time Sake” is the kind of hokey-chorused dribble we’ve heard from the pair far too many times and “Must Be the Ganja” seems a little tame after 11 tracks of prescription drug musings. Eminem recovers with the self-aware “Déjà vu” and the tear-jerking “Beautiful.” On the latter, Em lets us inside his mind. “I don’t know how or why or when I ended up in this position I’m in I’m starting to feel distant again, so I decided just to pick this pen/ up and try to make an attempt to vent but I just can’t admit or come to grips with the fact that I may be done with rap, I need a new outlet.”

It is moving stuff. And therein lies the problem with Relapse. While it’s a truly enjoyable listen from beginning to end, it’s slightly unbalanced. The exclusion of a couple of Slim Shady’s murderous flow-fests in favor of more heart-wrenching reflective gems could’ve have made Relapse the perfect album Marshall has yet to craft.The beauty of Relapse is the fusion of Eminem’s styles from his four previous albums. The evolved wordplay and borderline horrorcore imagery of the Slim Shady LP, the pop-star-bashing and pill-popping banter of the Marshall Mathers LP, the soul-bearing honesty and precise flow found on The Eminem Show, and the playful accents Em dabbled in on Encore are all encompassed. With Relapse, Eminem has reminded listeners what captivated them about him 10 years ago and what held their attention for the subsequent six years. The vibe is fresh yet nostalgic—the ideal arrangement for a successful comeback. Em’s new album is a potent product, its time we all relapse.

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