“When soccer moms like you, your career is toast.” That was the hue and cry from so many who dug Eminem’s 1999 The Slim Shady LP after the great album had been out for a year or so. After his last two studio albums, which were much lighter and less controversial, (read zzzzzzzzzz) he brings Slim back to try to show he still has it. And as a rapper, he does. After four years of addiction and recovery, Eminem is back with”Relapse,” the first of two discs. (Relapse 2 is set to drop later this year.) If you think you can tell from the title that he’s working a major drug theme, you would be right. There’s barely a cut that doesn’t have a Valium, Nyquil or Xanax reference.
If you spent any time at all with Slim Shady back in the day, you’ll be feelin “Relapse,” even though the album is pretty vulgar. In typical style, Em tries shock as a remedy to the old hum-drum tracks of his last two albums. Dr. Dre’s beats are pared down and primitive, maybe some of the best product he’s brought to the game since his Monster Dr. Dre Beats headphones. (bad ass phones… http://dvice.com/archives/2008/07/day_one_review_3.php )
Most of the intended blasts fall short. Old tired shots at Christopher Reeves on “Medicine Ball,” and “Insane” with a rape scene involving an incestuous relationship between a child and his stepfather that is so over the top, you fight yourself to not take the disc out and pitch it. But, if you can fight your way through the muck, you’ll find some valid self-reflection, and big time self loathing from Eminem, plus some of the old charm that made us all his minions. “Beautiful” is a mix of insecurities, self effacement and something new, positivity. “Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful.” Both “My Mom” and “Deja Vu” explore how he has unfortunately become what he hated while growing up.
This is a mixed bag, but one thing is sure. Dr. Dre can make beats and, even after four years away, Eminem is a great rapper. Maybe our boy will get to the point he learns that only small minds use vulgarity to make a point.