Shady Makes a Grand Return in ‘Relapse’

eminem-relapseHis name is Slim Shady… and he’s back.

Few hip-hop artists have achieved a level of success where they are responsible for releasing multiple albums that are considered classics in their genre.

In rock, there are a number of artists who have had their records reach that plateau.  A few names that spring to mind are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin and Dylan.

However, hip-hop has a much smaller success ratio of this magnitude.  Rakim, Nas and KRS-One are some of the few names in rap with long, illustrious careers who have had multiple albums labeled as genre defining, while others like Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. were killed in the prime of their careers as they were setting the groundwork for what hip-hop would become.

Now, where does all that bring us?

The truth is Eminem is one of those immortals in the hip-hop world, but in a different way. He has three all-time great albums in “The Slim Shady LP,” “Marshall Mathers LP” and “The Eminem Show,” as well as one very good album in “Encore,” however, he raps about many of the same things others do – drugs, violence, women – yet manages to remain unique.

What makes Eminem a special rapper is his creativity when rhyming about drugs and violence and the passion put into each and every one of his lyrics, no more evident than when he raps about his life, his experiences and his family. Eminem’s individuality in a game where seemingly everyone does the same thing helps him shine through what has become a stale and monotonous genre.

“Relapse” does nothing to change that and shows that even after a five year hiatus; Slim Shady is still one of the best in the game.

The album opens with Eminem leaving a rehabilitation center and having a final conversation with Dr. West, voiced by Jimmy McNulty.  As Dr. West’s statements become stranger and stranger, he actually shows Eminem a bottle of pills and urges him to take them. West then transforms into Eminem’s alter ego, Slim Shady and the latter wakes up.

The first song, 3 A.M., shows Eminem falling back into his old ways and once again becoming Slim Shady. High on Vicodin and Klonopin, Shady goes crazy, blacking out and killing countless people, proclaiming to be:

“…The prodigal son,
the diabolical one,
very methodical when I slaughter them.”

Ah, it’s good to have you back, Shady.

As the opening track tells you, this is not an album made for the light hearted, casual hip-hop fan, but for hardcore followers of Eminem. This is for those looking for old school Eminem, the raping, murderous, crazy one. Besides, this isn’t Eminem at all – it’s Slim Shady.

There are plenty of songs on the album that make that point quite clear. “Insane” has him as a child being raped by his step father while the strange “Bagpipes from Baghdad” and “Must Be the Ganja” just seem to be an outlet for Shady to be as crazy as he wants to be.

While those three tracks are really love-them-or-hate-them, “Relapse” has plenty of tracks that show Eminem still has skills on the mic. “My Mom” is of course Shady telling us how his mother  would poison him with Valium, paint thinner, or anything she could  get her hands on, resulting in his own addiction. Still, he remains true to Shady’s humor. as before the last verse of the song, he sings about his Valuim in a long, stretched out, auto-tuned voice. Other tracks like “Hello,” “Déjà vu” and “Stay Wide Awake” showcase his lyrical prowess, his tendency for catchy hooks and the ease with which he flawlessly rhymes over solid Dr. Dre beats.

One of the truly standout tracks on “Relapse” is the hauntingly beautiful, “Beautiful.”  A truthful manifestation of Eminem’s feelings toward his past demons and experiences while understanding we are all shaped by these aspects, “Beautiful” is the album’s most reflective piece. The chorus alone of this song is more inspired than 99% of the hip-hop that’s come out lately.

Though it is about him, nearly everyone can relate to “Beautiful.”

The only true misstep on “Relapse” is the absolutely terrible “Crack a Bottle.”  The only rational reason for it to be included was to get a guest verse from 50 Cent, who threw in his usual bland yet boastful lyrics that we’ve come to expect from him. Why Em insists on relating himself with such a terrible rapper, we’ll never know. Although the money probably doesn’t hurt

So where does “Relapse” fall in Eminem’s catalogue? It’s not as good as his first three albums. There’s nothing as ridiculous as “My Name Is,” “Guilty Conscience,” or “The Real Slim Shady,” nothing as powerful as “Stan” or “Sing for the Moment” and nothing as angry as “The Way I Am.”

It is better than “Encore” though and shows that Eminem does indeed belong in the pantheon of hip-hop greats. Hopefully “Relapse 2,” due later this year, will be as good as the first one.

About Evan Scarola 40 Articles
As an avid doer of nothing, I have dedicated my entire life to knowing every line of Seinfeld as well as most from The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park and Scrubs. I’m not ashamed to admit I was teary eyed during the Scrubs finale, and bawled uncontrollably the first time I saw the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark.” When not watching obscene amounts of television, and by obscene I mean watching the entire first season of Battlestar Galactica in one day, I’m listening to an ungodly amount music. Classic rock and classic/alternative/underground hip-hop are my genres of choice. I can go from listening to “Stairway To Heaven” from the, well if you don’t know who that’s from that’s your problem, to Big L’s “Devil’s Son” back to “I Am The Walrus.” I also absolutely love movies and video games. The Godfather Parts I and II and Lord of the Rings (a trilogy I have watched in one day) are my favorite movies, while GTA San Andreas, God of War, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Metal Gear Solid 4 are my favorite games. Besides entertainment, I am completely in love with sports. I love both the Jets and Giants, though I lean more towards the Jets, and I unequivocally bleed the Mets’ Blue & Orange. David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are my Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Citi Field is my Vatican. I must say, I look forward to forcing my thoughts and opinions upon you. Don’t worry though, they will soon become your own. And yes, I do have a tendency to overwrite.

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