Producers: Alex da Kid, Boi-1da, Emile, DJ Khalil, Dr. Dre, Havoc, Jim Jonsin, Just Blaze, Denaun Porter, Supa Dups, Script Sherpherd
In the case of a writer, there is no such thing as his own worst critic other than the conscience that lies within and it appears Eminem was not satisfied with 2009’s comeback album, Relapse, his first official release after years in seclusion. Scrapping what was initially deemed a double disc concept album, Eminem headed back into the studio and began crafting an entirely new opus in the place of Relapse 2 titled Recovery in which he proclaims “the new me’s back to the old me”. Eminem’s newest project operates as his first “real” studio album, the first album he’s crafted in sobriety and it certainly shows from the onset. The guitar-riddled “Talkin’ 2 Myself” finds a brutally honest Marshall Mathers recalling a time where he questioned everything, even his own rhyming abilities as he contemplated recording a diss record against mainstream superstars Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne (who even makes an appearance on Recovery) simply out of jealousy of their success:
“I almost made a song dissing Lil’ Wayne
It’s like I was jealous of him, cause of the attention he was getting
I feel horrible about myself, he was spitting and I wasn’t
Anyone who was buzzing back then could of got it
Almost went at Kanye too
I’d of had my ass handed to me, and I knew it
But Proof isn’t here to see me through it
I’m in the booth popping another pill, tryna talk myself into it
Are you stupid? You gon’ start dissing people for no reason
Especially when you can’t even write a decent punchline even”
Black Sabbath’s “Changes” contributes to a jewel on Recovery as well: the somber “Going Through Changes”, which finds a self-loathing Eminem berating himself while in the darkest bowels of his depression, enhanced both by his prescription pill addiction and the loss of his best friend, DeShaun “Proof” Holton; in turn, Eminem comes to terms with his issues and apologizes to his fanbase for the lengthy hiatus on the uplifting Boi-1da-conceived lead single “Not Afraid”. A great deal of the album is evidence Eminem had regained his competitive fire including the album’s hard-hitting opener “Cold Wind Blows”, which shows remnants of Mathers not seen since the days of The Slim Shady and The Marshall Mathers LPs.
Lil’ Wayne links up with Eminem on yet another collaboration and is eviscerated once again by another of Fire Marshall’s potent multisyllabic quotables (including a hilarious reference to the Kanye West-Taylor Swift incident) on the Haddaway-sampling “No Love”. From his touching tribute to his best friend Proof (“You’re Not Over”) to chronicling his ascendancy through the underground on up to working with Dr. Dre on “Almost Famous”, Eminem tackles each track with a passionate display of ferocity that has lay dormant in him for some time. He even goes as far to experiment with a wider spectrum of content and concepts including a paranoid and destructive love (“Space Bound”, “Love The Way You Lie”), seducing the opposite sex with razor sharp rhymes on “Seduction” as well as the oft-used “hip hop as a metaphor” concept as he seizes control of his career and relationship with hip hop on “25 To Live”.
Eminem largely abandons the tired flatulence noises that watered down Encore and the horrorcore tactics that engulfed much of Relapse to purge himself of demons through his very own catharsis in Recovery. There are moments where Eminem seems to be rapping for the sake of rapping, motivated by his desire himself worthy of reclaiming the crown he once held so firmly; it certainly does not harm his case as he is still vastly ahead of a great deal of the competition and ultimately, proves therapeutic for the veteran emcee. Amazingly, the good Doctor contributes only one track (the dry and fittingly titled “So Bad”), but this aids Eminem rather than hindering him as he is allowed to run rampant over canvass of a lighter tone. Eminem is more confident, more assertive on Recovery and that focus allows for his finest rhyming exhibition since 2002’s The Eminem Show. Ultimately, there’s still a long road to go to recovery, but for now, King Mathers has returned and the future of hip hop music gleams just a little brighter.
4.5 mics (out of 5)
Written by Rakeem Johnson (“Mr. Genius”)