Eminem’s Rap Rehab: A Review of “Relapse”

Guess who’s back? Back again? Yes, that’s right, Eminem is back with a new album, Relapse. As the album title implies, Em has not only relapsed on drugs via a highly publicized bout with methadone but also relapsed back into his addiction to schizoid, semi-autobiographical, middle finger in the air, assonant 8 Mile-a-minute rhymes on crack. Oh wait, is that an inappropriate idiom? Well perhaps that’s perfectly fitting then for a guy who wrote an entire song about bringing his daughter to dump the body of his wife after murdering her.

Detroit’s finest continues to revel in familial hangups on Relapse but includes a refreshingly epiphanic track “My Mom” in which he admits that he has in fact become his own mother, rapping, “Stumble hobble tumble slip drip then I fall in bed/With a bottle of meds and a Heath Ledger bobblehead./My mom love Valium and lots of drugs,/That why I am like I am cause I?m like her… /That why I?m on what I?m on cause I?m my mom./My mom i’m just like her.” There’s still a bit of finger-pointing, of course, but this may be Mr. Mathers’ best hip-hop approximation of standing up in the AA circle to say, “I’m Marshall, and I’m an addict.”

More disturbing to most Americans than even “Drips,” a track off of The Eminem Show about catching STDs, or any allusion to raping his mother on The Marshall Mathers LP, is “Insane,” a rhythmic account of his stepfather raping him. “Same Song & Dance,” a song where Eminem raps about wanting to kill Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, pales in comparison. The usual tabloidesque target practice appears again on Relapse, between a grocery list of prescription drugs, but in “We Made You” his inciting celebrity commentary is tempered by self-mockery: “He does not mean to lesbian offend/But Lindsay please come back to seeing men/Samantha?s a 2, You?re practically a 10/I know you want me girl,/In fact I see your grin.”

While some might mistake Relapse for another exercise in egocentricity for the Motor City Rapper, the album differs in that Eminem reveals a heightened sense of self-conscious anxiety, particularly in “Medicine Ball,” where he raps “Oh my goodness/What have I done/Oh no/I can’t believe it/It’s like I’ve got the whole world in my palm/And im ready to/Drop it…/I guess it’s time for you to hate me again/Lets begin now hand me the pen/How should I begin it and where does it all end.” Mathers has caught himself– barely perhaps– before losing everything that the gifted rapper has earned, and his awareness of his tenuous straddling of catastrophe and glory is the unsettling subterranean momentum behind each of the tracks on his latest.

Relapse will surely give the fourteen-year-old suburban demographic a contact high with its zany, Ritalin-powered singles like “We Made You” but will also appeal to more mature listeners who will note a darker, more vulnerable, but also inimitable Eminem.

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About TracyOneill Tracy is a freelance writer based out of Brooklyn obsessed with nutritional supplements, mediocre music, audacious (to put it politely) apparel, literary giants, and perfecting the fine art of the Sunday Bloody Mary.

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