Did you take Eminem seriously when Slim Shady first hit? Because I sure as hell didn’t - I wrote him off as a novelty act, a violent-hijinks pop-culture clown that deserved roughly as much respect as MC Hammer. That feeling stayed pretty constant over the next decade or so, and I was comfortable keeping it that way - until tonight, when I got my hands on an early copy of his new Relapse album. After hearing the entire 80 minute, 20 song goliath of an album, I have to say that any future discussion of it Eminem’s prowess and evolution as an artist will take on an entirely new context.
The story’s been well-documented: Back in 2004, Eminem dropped from the face of the music industry, enduring a series of personal setbacks that sent him deeper into solitude and eventually the welcoming, poisonous arms of addiction. Having taken some personal time and inventory, Em drew up a new battle plan, put on his lab coat and went to work with Dr. Dre. The lips were sewn shut. The rumors were rampant, not a damn one of them true - except that some next-level s#&* was going down. And now, five years later, we’ve got the proof.
Let’s put it this way: it’s no wonder that 50 Cent’s going back to the drawing board and Dre’s starting to make Axl Rose look trigger-happy. This album is a game-changer for everyone associated or in competition with the bleach-topped (former?) Dre disciple, and will certainly be remembered as Eminem’s finest moment thus far. Hell, album closer Underground slaps the entire rap playbook to the ground in brutal, gravel-voiced, thunderstorm-ridden fashion, all by itself.