Newest Review: ... would be "abstract". After describing the depths of depravity his mind can sink to on the opening track, we go into "My Mom... more
A Fantastic Return and An Overlooked Album
Relapse - Eminem
Member Name: EdgySurveys
Relapse - Eminem
Advantages: Amazing lyricism, satisfying flows, great production.
Disadvantages: Two major dud tracks that ruin the consistency.
After five years of solo absence from the genre, Eminem was contemplating how to come back, how to reinvent himself and how to come out with a new style and sound.
Despite Em himself saying he'd 'gone back' to his old ways, hence one meaning of the title (relapsing to what he used to be), 'Relapse' sounds completely different from anything else in his catalogue. And I LOVE it. He may very well of tried to emulate shocking people in a major way again but how he went about it with his writing and rapping here was entirely new.
As always, the album opens with a bang and my my, what a bang it opens with. You spin this CD and after the conceptual skit to kick things off, your mind is blown with "3 a.m." - easily one of his strongest tracks, lyrically, in years.
Eminem pretty much embodies the mind of a serial-killer throughout this album, but it's less constricted than that. He may be using extreme violence and psychopathy as an excuse for vivid lyricism and wordplay (as it's automatically vivid and therefore a short cut to expressive, graphic writing), but it's more... him just letting his mind free, and the pen morphing the direction.
I think the best word to describe this album would be "abstract".
After describing the depths of depravity his mind can sink to on the opening track, we go into "My Mom" which sounds like somewhat of an attempt to recreate "Brain Damage". Which would make sense since he said he went back and listened to 'The Slim Shady LP' for inspiration.
Lyrically, Eminem is SO focused on this album, and his rhyming and flows totally encapsulate obsession to the nth degree. And if you're an obsessive person yourself, the sound of such obsession, is extremely satisfying to your brain. His flows are so on-point, so tight and rhythmic.
Em had wanted to prove to himself he could rhyme to this degree again and so made 'Relapse' the way it is partially for a personal exercise too. Which I think, should always be the reasoning behind an artist doing anything. An artist should only ever try to please themselves. Then, whoever likes it works in a Darwinian sense - people who like / love it will be drawn to and treasure the work. People who dislike / hate it, will disregard and move on from it.
This is why this album showed such promise to me as a fan. No way in hell did I expect something like this after 'Encore'. Em had crossed into the mainstream in such a way that... despite never losing his eye for detail and passion for technique, his subject-matter had become concerned with public opinion to a degree I thought there was no going back on. He really surprised me with 'Relapse'.
It's a shame that this album will now probably go down as his major failure considering how awe-inspiring and brilliant the lyricism is and how satisfying and moulded the flows are. Dr. Dre produces his best beats in years here too, and Em rides them with a bombastic flair.
Em's writing on this album is so detailed and nuanced. It's a real progression from his earlier work in the sense that, he began to write like a true writer. He was gleeful in his psychopathy, and there was artistic flicks in his lyricism, each song being like an audio painting.
The only real duds on this album to me, are the tracks that were not made for the album. The 'Relapse' style is so distinct that anything out-of-place sticks out like a sore thumb. And I'm speaking of course of "Beautiful" and "Crack a Bottle". Neither of these tracks were made for 'Relapse' and it's painfully obvious.
Em says that "Beautiful" was put there to remind him of his addiction but I personally think that it was a safety track. I think Interscope intended to use it as a single from day one and due to it being emotional and closer to Em's older material, they banked on it hitting home if the 'Relapse' material didn't. And I think Em put it there so that if the 'Relapse' material didn't strike a chord with the fans, he would go in the direction of "Beautiful".
Which, he then did. After 'Relapse', we go to 'Recovery'. Which is? an album full of rock samples, sung hooks and introspective content. I think it's pretty obvious what was done, it was calculated.
I was personally anticipating 'Relapse' 2 so so much and think it was probably an instant classic. I'm basing that purely off of how good the first is, and the idea of saving the best to last. Clearly Em wouldn't save the weaker of the two albums for last would he. I think it's a tragedy he binned 'R2' to appease fans and pander. He went back on his word and contradicted himself.
Either way, despite the two dud tracks I mentioned, this album is a near-classic to me. Without those, it would be near-perfection to me. Top to bottom. The style is so consistent and satisfying and the theme and imagery is so appropriate given that the songs feel like drugs to the brain.
If you love rhymes, and tight flows, this album is for you.
Summary: Excellent album that is extremely addictive, and that was overlooked in its technical aspects.