Eminem: Relapse (Album Review)

“Dr. West” finds Mr. Mathers preparing to exit rehabilitation and having a brief interaction with Dr. West, who encourages him to take a drink and give in to his dependence on drugs, before transforming into his own devil, Slim Shady. Waking from what was only a nightmare segues into the serial killer thriller “3am”, which acts as Marshall Mathers‘ relapse into his alter-ego Slim Shady. Slim Shady runs rampant throughout the track, methodically stalking his victims as well as acknowledging a likely massacre he took part in grotesque fashion for the duration of the record.

“Bagpipes From Baghdad” showcases one of Shady’s best wordplay performances on the album as he takes aim at celebrities Mariah Carey (and Nick Cannon, who gets caught in the crossfire) over Dr. Dre’s noticeably evolving production, this time enlisting the use of Irish bagpipes. The poppy “We Made You” finds Shady taking his comedic shots at female celebrities with his frantic flow bouncing all over Doc Ish’s production. The thumping “Medicine Ball” sees Shady inviting the world to continue to hate him (again), his lyrics engulfed in multiple syllables and graphic as ever: “Drop kicked the bitch before her second trimester / Performed a home abortion with Dexter then I guess I’ll / Dig her fetus out with a wire hanger then digest her”.

A brief attempt by Paul at being the voice of reason advances into the menacing gem “Stay Wide Awake” as Slim Shady lyrically dazzles and paints his own twisted mural (“Soon as the flow starts, I compose art like the ghost of Mozart”), inviting listeners into his own maniacal thoughts. The short “Mr. Mathers” reveals why Slim Shady has returned so suddenly: it is due to Marshall Mathers‘ overdose on sleeping pills as a result of his insomnia.

Eminem makes his way to the forefront, allowing listeners into the depths of his mind on the melancholy “Deja Vu“. “Deja Vu” sees him reliving his pill addiction as well as touching on his absence from hip hop and potential death as the result of an overdose on methadone (previously reported to be simply a bout with pneumonia). Aided by a beautifully morose sample, the aptly titled “Beautiful” signals the return of Marshall Mathers, hip hop’s own “tortured artist”, assessing his career as well as contemplating life outside of hip hop and questioning whether anyone would want to walk a thousand miles in his shoes as he would truly “be one tough act to follow”.

First single “Crack a Bottle” acts a harbinger, signaling the return of the “platinum trio” (Eminem, 50 Cent & Dr. Dre) with 50 offering only a whimper from the self-proclaimed 3-Headed Monster before Relapse concludes and reaches its pinnacle with “Underground”, signaling Eminem’s theatrical resurrection (“Dre, I’m down here / Under the ground, dig me up / Broken tibias, fibias, yeah fix me up”) as well effectively acting as the calm before the storm, the release of Relapse 2 later this year.

Relapse acts as a concept album as Eminem relapses into his alter-ego and his true self, detailing the void his absence left in hip hop, what he’s been up to as well as his bouts with pill addiction. The cinematic feel of the album allows it to flow well as a whole (the only mishap being the questionable inclusion of obvious Detox reject “Must Be The Ganja”). Lyrically, Eminem is as sharp as ever, proving that the lackluster Encore was a fluke (or an intentional brick) and showing no signs of complacency while his experimentation with different flows on cuts like “Stay Wide Awake” and “3am” aid the argument that his is arguably the best in the business.

In an interview leading up to the release of Relapse, Eminem defined the concept of the album as a relapse back to his first two albums and Relapse largely stays true to form as it features Slim Shady’s playful antics as well as Marshall Mathers confronting his inner demons and planning his return to hip hop. In the end, Relapse serves as only half the piece of the puzzle as well as a tasty appetizer before Eminem relapses again later this year.

5 mics (out of 5)