Eminem season continues with 2009's 'Relapse'. Following a 5 year hiatus, the loss of his best friend, an addiction to pain killers and a near fatal overdose - Eminem had well and truly hit rock bottom. With the support of rehab and Elton John, Eminem got clean - and decided to burst back onto the scene after his hiatus with a horror themed, drug inspired album - one that was sure to divide fans.
The production on this album is immaculate from start to finish. It's Dr. Dre at his best, the actual quality of beats is so high and they sound so good. The haunting instrumentals, bouncy drum patterns, fun melodies and eerie atmospheres are key components to an impeccably produced album. 'Same Song & Dance' has arguably the best beat on the album as it's really high quality with haunting vocal samples and very jumpy drums which help to create the whole haunting atmosphere as he talks on raping and killing women (specifically Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears) with some detailed and vivid storytelling which actually makes him come off as insane. The song is the screaming, the dance is the struggle - and the horror theme is captured perfectly on this unsettling but genius track. 'We Made You' has this classic catchy Dre beat with a brass beat and deep drums as he follows the same formula of his last few singles by making a catchy, pop hit using funny and entertaining lines as he name drops multiple celebrities in pop culture (just like on 'The Real Slim Shady'). It's a fun song and a break from the madness with a great flow and entertaining lines. 'Stay Wide Awake' has this really ominous beat with catchy yet slow drums and quick paced sinister guitar riffs. He uses very graphic and disturbing lyrics to capture the serial killing and rapist fantasy perfectly, "-sintegrate them babies as soon as they're out her with formalde– // -hyde and cyanide, girl, you can try and hide, you can try to scream louder // No need for no gunpowder, that only takes all the fun out of // Murderin', I'd rather go vinn-vinn, and now you see just how the // Fuck I do just what I do when I cut right through your scalp, uhh // Shit, wait a minute, I mean skull, my knife seems dull, pull another one out, uh", as he has arguably his best ever rhyme scheme. He captures the horror theme perfectly with a really good flow and really good song. Another example of Dre's classic beats comes from 'Old Time's Sake' which has this bouncy, club type beat with a piano and catchy drum pattern. The song is about smoking weed mainly but Em's psycho side coems out as he has some funny lines but also some pretty uninteresting ones, while Dre's classic delivery with his great flow makes everything hit harder. It has an insanely catchy hook, Em's flow is great and it's another enjoyable track.
Eminem here is rapping incredibly, in terms of lyricism he has some of the best rhyme schemes ever with complex lines, slick word play and disturbingly painted out horrors. 'Bagpipes from Baghdad' has some funny, clever and hard bars with complex, descriptive lines too, "Man, I could use a fresh batch of blood // So prepare your vernacular for Dracula acupuncture", as he takes shots at both Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon as he returns to his serial killing ways. His rhyme scheme once again is incredible over this bagpipe beat which is really sinister, and his accent works so well on a track like this as well as his impeccable flow - it's another great song. 'Hello' see's Em talk on drug addiction and his overdose but the main premise of the song is to reintroduce Shady to the rap game, and he does this with detailed lyrics and slick wordplay - it's a great insight into his addiction, "Of course we did, but didn't I strap Jimmy, hun? // I'm looking for the torn wrapper but there don't seem to be one" (Jimmy is the rapper from 8 mile, torn rapper as in a broken person, but a pun on the torn rapper of a condom). The beat is fire with catchy kicks, claps and a deep guitar bass melody as well as a catchy hook and entertaining verses making it a fire song. 'Must Be the Ganja' has complex lines and lyrical acrobats and he paints an image in your head with every word he says as the main premise of this song is to make a weed song - but he's still in serial killer mode as he names every single one he knows and even stuffing people in freezers, "How many people you know who can name every serial // Killer who ever existed in a row? // Put 'em in chronological order, beginnin' with Jack the Ripper // Name the time and place; from the body, the bag, the zipper // Location of the woods, where the body was dragged and then dumped // The trunk that they were stuffed in, the model, the make, the plate // And which model, which lake they found her in, how they attacked the victim // Say which murder weapon was used to do what in which one // Which knife and which gun, what kid, what wife, and which nun". The very misty and eerie beat is of high quality again and with it's addictive hook, sensational flow and rhyme scheme - it's such a banger on this incredibly good album. The finale to the album 'Underground' has some mean punchlines as well as disturbing, hard bars with slick wordplay and complexity, "Six semen samples, seventeen strands of hair // Found in the back of a van after the shoot with Vanity Fair // Hannah Montana, prepare to elope with a can opener // And be cut open like cantaloupe on canopy beds", as he tells us where Slim Shady has been at and that he's back now - with a lot of references to evil villains from horror movies and he even fights them during verse 3. The dramatic hook and plucking guitar strings make a tense and suspenseful atmosphere, and his flow and delivery are classic Eminem as this is an incredibly well written song. The blockbuster finale even has a funny Ken Kaniff outro as he parodies songs from this album but making them into a gay version. Technical wise, it's Em at his best with arguably his best flow ever with a slightly quicker tempo (although I'd just give flow his first era), and accents for his delivery which add effect to the horrorcore style.
Content wise, as I said it's a horrorcore album - a lot of this touches on his alter ego Slim Shady committing crimes of all sorts (mainly against women) such as murder, torture, rape and more. The opening track '3 a.m.' is a prime example of this as Em personifies himself as a serial killer with good storytelling and a way of painting an image in your head with lines that fit the horrorcore vibe, "I remember the first time I dismembered a family member // December, I think it was, I was having drinks with my cousin // I wrapped him in Christmas lights // Pushed him into the stinkin' tub, cut him up into pieces // And just when I went to drink his blood // I thought, "I oughta drink his bathwater, that oughta be fun"". With an insane rhyme scheme it also has a really menacing beat including the screams implanted in the hook which all adds up to great effect. It has a really catchy hook, an impeccable flow and an accent which works really well - what a start. 'Medicine Ball' talks on drug addiction, rape jokes, Christopher Reeves, home abortions and dissecting homosexuals - Slim Shady is back and as offensive as ever. Em's verses are packed with funny one liners and celebrity name drops, "All my Westside bitches throw it up // Put a balloon inside your pussy, queef, and blow it up", as the beat has this screeching melody and nice, heavy drum pattern as well as a nice hook and solid flow. The 3rd verse he takes on the perspective of Christopher Reeves - and while funny it isn't the smoothest listen on here - overall it's still a good song. He does also touch on his drug addiction, depression and the combined effects which lead to his near fatal overdose in late 2007, most notably in the track 'Déjà Vu' as he gives us incredibly detailed lyrics and harrowing, honest lyrics as he guides us through the mind of a drug addict and how it affected his relationships and health - before taking us to the scene of that near fatal night where he overdoses. The slowed down and heavy drums create a despairing mood as Em provides an emotional yet amazing hook which is arguably his best ever. He goes into incredible depth here in such a way that no other rapper could on a subject like this, "I need these pills to be able to sleep, so I take three naps // Just to be able to function throughout the day, let's see // That's an Ambien each nap, how many Valium? Three? // And that will average out to about one good hour's sleep". The following track 'Beautiful' gives us an in-look into his depression which contributed to this drug addiction and eventual overdose, with raw, honest and emotional lyrics, "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". The despairing electric guitar, hopeless beat and slow drum pattern generates the melancholy mood perfectly as the inspiring hook which says we all have our own place in the word see's Eminem open up for the first time really. The whole song lets us know the demons he's been fighting and it's a perfect, inspirational, emotional and victorious song all at the same time. It's his best thought out concept to date.
Other tracks to look at include 'My Mom' where he uses comical lines and clever ways of describing the situation to talk about how his mums drug addiction is what led to his own addiction. The bouncy beat and heavy jumpy drums with an animated feel is Classic Dre, and while it's a silly hook - it's very catchy and overall a great song. 'Insane', to put it lightly, is a fictional story of gay incest anal rape from his step father. He uses funny and twisted lines to capture the mood perfectly, but sometimes it gets a bit silly, "That motherfucker's got nuts like King Kong // Then he set the lawnmower out on the dang lawn // And he laid all up underneath it with the thing on // Then he took his pants, he took every fuckin' thing off". The screeching beat is great and the hook is nice as Em gives us another great song. Finally, 'Crack a Bottle' was Em's return as he states he's here to save the rap game with the platinum trio of Dr. Dre who talks on Benz's and various other cars such as well as LA using some nice punchlines, "I'm an itch that they can't scratch, they're sick of me", and his classic delivery which sounds great. 50 Cent has a great braggadocios verse as he flexes his wealth, gliding over this beat with a smooth flow and such swagger. The animated, catchy beat is once again classic Dre as it provides a really catchy hook with great features and overall it's a fun and enjoyable track. It's technically the first song released by Em since his hiatus as it leaked in demo form prior to the album.
To conclude, 'Relapse' is Eminem's return to form and his best since 'The Eminem Show'. It has amazing production, definitely his best produced to date with amazing rapping and some of his catchiest hooks. It's near perfect, the only issue is some songs are clearly better than others and it can get a bit silly at times. We got to see a different side of Em here, which foreshadowed what was to come with his next studio album 'Recovery'.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: 3 a.m., Hello, Same Song & Dance, We Made You, Stay Wide Awake, Must Be the Ganja, Déjà Vu, Beautiful, Underground
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Medicine Ball
OVERALL RATING: Light 9.5/10