By Shannon Sargent
On the 17th October 2012, Eminem celebrated his 40th birthday, but being the Rap God that he is his music will undoubtedly immortalise him in the rap industry. In honour of his birthday month I will be reviewing his most recent solo album Recovery, released in 2010 and executively produced by Dr Dre.
If you want an unbiased review on Eminem’s latest album Recovery then I strongly suggest you look elsewhere, as possibly his biggest fan since Stan (minus the cutting myself and driving off a bridge) I cannot give you a completely objective review of any of his works. I am in such awe of his rap genius that he could rap about a “peanut butter, jelly, chicken-tuna sandwich” which he actually has done in “Rain Man” off his Encore album; and I could not find fault in him.
Before you actually do look elsewhere however, you may want to ask yourself why I am such an extreme “Stan”. The fact that Eminem was the first white rapper to make it big, overtaking many black rappers in the industry at the time is old news; my admiration has less to do with his colour and everything to do with his effortless style, originality and “fuck the world” attitude that has invited so much controversy over the years. Officially gaining a serious reputation as an artist in 1999 with Grammy awards for his track “My Name Is” and his album The Slim Shady LP, Eminem continued to drop chart-topping tracks until his break from rap in 2005 after receiving the World Music Award for “World’s Best Selling Rap/Hip-hop Artist” and his release of his greatest hits album, Curtain Call.
Returning in 2009 with his album Relapse he acknowledges his absence as drug-related and details his struggles with addiction. In tracks such as “We Made You” Eminem light-heartedly deals with the pressures of fame, while in “Beautiful” he completely exposes himself and his battles with depression. The raw emotion and powerful lyrics that “Stans” had come to expect was clearly evident in his work; and this continued and strengthened in the album Recovery.
The title Recovery is about more than a recovery from Eminem’s battle with drug addiction, but also a recovered sense of self, as he states in his track “Talkin’ to Myself” – “Let me formally reintroduce myself to you for those of you who don’t know, the new me’s back to the old me” – and sure enough, nobody has to “guess who’s back” with this album. Back on the charts and back in the hearts of his fans, Eminem received Grammy awards, MTV Music awards, People’s Choice and Teen Choice awards in 2010 on to 2011.
His collaborations on this album proved to be highly successful, with the tracks “Love The Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna and “No Love” featuring Lil Wayne both making it onto the Billboard Hot 100 and “Love The Way You Lie” maintaining number 1 for seven weeks. “Love The Way You Lie” is a mid-tempo track that expresses the dangers of being in an abusive relationship, but also the inescapable addiction to the pain the relationship causes them – “that’s alright because I like the way it hurts”. What made this track so popular was its sincerity, since at the heart of it was the raw emotion of both Eminem and Rihanna, who have had their own experiences with domestic violence; Rihanna having been in the spotlight after her abusive relationship with Chris Brown and Eminem exploring his own tortured relationship with his twice ex-wife Kim. Addressing his past unhealthy relationship with Kim is a common theme in Eminem’s work, demonstrating his return to the roots of what made him Slim Shady. “No Love” is also an extension of the old Eminem as he openly challenges his “haters” alongside Lil Wayne.
His collaborations weren’t the only successes on this album, “Not Afraid” was Eminem’s third single reaching number 1 on the Hot 100; making Recovery responsible for 2 out of 3 of his number 1 singles (the first was “Lose Yourself” which stayed number 1 for twelve consecutive weeks). “Not Afraid” is the epitome of his reintroduction into “the game” as he addresses his sobriety – “It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me” – as well as his fearlessness of anyone who opposes him and his ability to pick himself up off the ground, saying “I’ve been through the ringer, but they can do little to the middle finger”.
Eminem has always been able to address political, celebrity and personal issues, with previous albums such as The Eminem Show addressing the war in Iraq and the faults of the Bush Administration. Recovery especially focuses on him readdressing himself; with significantly less dissing and a lot more open, raw emotions than 2009 album Relapse, where Eminem himself says “anyone who was buzzin’ back then could’ve got it”. Recovery also holds back on the accents which Eminem admits were overdone, saying “Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was ehhh, perhaps I ran them accents into the ground, relax, I ain’t going back to that now”. Overall Recovery was much better received by audiences than Relapse; their titles accurately describing Eminem’s transition back into rap and sobriety.
After years of waiting, I am just relieved that my Eminem craving has been satisfied and I have no doubt that he is still top of the rap food chain; even with players like Drake and Lil Wayne (who have both collaborated with Eminem) in the game. For now I will continue listening to Recovery on repeat, but I anxiously await his next album and remember his promise “To the fans, I’ll never let you down again, I’m back. I promise to never go back on that promise”