When we last heard from Eminem, he was feeding us shit. Not in the way we had come to appreciate from him, either. With Relapse, we dined on a hallow man’s self loathing shit. We topped it off with shitty, uninspired beats. As someone who had previously looked upon Eminem as a mighty figure with the potential to spark a tangible revolution, I was crushed.
When I read that he had planned to release Relapse 2, I figured it might be time to end my fanship with him. It seemed like the most sensible thing to do for both of us. I still checked in from time to time to make sure he was holding up. I read that Relapse 2 was not coming out the way he had anticipated, musically. Poor guy.
But maybe not.
Relapse 2 was so different from the initial intent, that it ceased to be Relapse 2. Rather it mutated in Recovery. I had to listen. I just had to sample a few tracks at least. Okay. I just decided to start at the beginning and let it roll. As the music pressed on, we become acquainted with a new Marshall Mathers – one who has had a massive weight lifted from his shoulders. With the inclusion of strong beats, experimental departures and lyrics that are as positive as they are cutting, I felt that a massive weight had been lifted from me as well. His lyrical denouncing of Relapse also helped. In any case, Eminem has now returned to his rightful place in my heart.
The growth between Relapse and Recovery is immense and multifaceted. He acknowledges a rock bottom he has known well and I mostly believe him when he reminds us of his Phoenix-like escape from that pit. He has regained his ability to be direct, lucid and cognizant. I think we all like him so much better when he is on top of his game.
The music, too, is far more expansive than that on Relapse or its predecessor, Encore. There seems to be a greater focus on detail. The occasional melodic lifts and song-singy vocal cadences give the impression that this album was designed with music in mind – not just beats. Indeed, these songs do sometimes channel some eclectic musical greats. “You’re Never Over” sounds fresh, triumphant and synthed out, similar to the style of B.o.B. “25 to Life,” at least musically, sounds like an outtake from Andre 3000’s The Love Below. “Cinderella Man” smacks of something we may have heard from Kool Keith – or is that Gil Scott-Heron? Oh…and listen to “Space Bound.” Isn’t that a fucking Flaming Lips song?
Don’t get me wrong. They are not all winners. It’s irritating, too, because it could have been a perfect offering, but for it’s girth. Rappers just don’t trim the fat these days. Instead they would rather fill up an entire 70+ minute CD with every single thing they possibly can, quality and consistency be damned. I know a lot of teenyboppers and sports bar morons will disagree with me, but Eminem really really really really really really really should have cut “No Love,” a track featuring Lil Wayne. (Yes. I am aware the inclusion of Lil Wayne guarantees this track will not only not be cut, but will likely be the next single. Groan.) If Wayne’s boring, monotone, machismo “rapping” is not enough to put you off, consider that the whole track relies on a sample of “What Is Love” by Haddaway. That’s barely excusable in the name of irony, let alone “serious” music production. This is easily the worst “song” of the album and perhaps 2010.
I’ll let it go, though, because most everything surrounding that turd island is purposeful, if not brilliant. Quite possibly as good as Idlewild, the last one from our beloved Outkast (though Outkast did utilize a better array of guest appearances, with Lil Wayne in common.) There are no skits on this disc, either. While Eminem’s skits have generally always been concise and amusing, he was correct to keep them away. He’s a bit more serious this time, and it suits him well.
Recovery makes me cheer for Marshall Mathers yet again. I am genuinely happy that he is doing better and I hope it only lifts up from here. Evolved, he can now affect an audience in new ways – far beyond shock, entering into additional realms of unabashed enlightenment.