Music Reviews
Relapse

Eminem Relapse

(Aftermath / Interscope) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Despite all the negative things I am about to say about Relapse, there are two very important points that must be kept in mind.

1) From a technical standpoint, Eminem is the best rapper alive. Better than Lil Wayne, better than Jay-Z, better than any backpacker, underground, grime or regional act anywhere else in the world. His flow, delivery, internal rhymes and complex structure will always be more important that his content, and in these areas he is without rival.

2) Relapse is, by a wide margin, the man's best album since The Eminem Show.

Those facts established, let's talk some shit, eh?

Controversy played an enormous part in Eminem's success in the late '90s. In fact, one could argue that shock was the main factor to his meteoric rise, more so than his talent, his production or his skin color. Considering his fall from the public eye thanks to diminishing releases and a four-year absence from rapping, it is not surprising that Relapse leans heavily on the scare tactics. The rapper downs bottles of pills, kills everyone in a McDonald's, jerks off to Hannah Montana and drinks his cousin's bathwater. All on the first track.

The difference here lies in what is behind the words and not the words themselves. Sure, Eminem's albums have always been twisted, violent affairs. However, the mania on previous albums was fueled by an almost palpable anger, a desperate search for some kind of peace through ultra-violence. And while tracks like Underground and Beautiful are powered by this same intensity, the vast majority of the album's tracks are little more than gross-out jokes.

Speaking of jokes, odds are good that by the time this review hits the web, We Made You will have been played over 10 times in a single day on most mainstream FM stations. Clearly this track is an attempt to re-create the angry frat humor aimed at pop culture that served Em so well in the past (The Real Slim Shady, My Name Is). This song and the album at large miss the mark in this respect as well. I have a theory that in this modern age of hyper-fast celebrity news turnaround, such songs like this cannot work any more. It would certainly explain why jabs at Lindsey Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Sarah Palin cause more eye rolls than chuckles.

More likely, however, is that Eminem has lost the fire. His first albums were, as he was quick to point out, combative middle fingers aimed at everyone and everything that pushed against him. Now he's making albums about recovering from addiction, sounding worn out and uninspired. Dude needs to find a muse or something.

"I may be done with rap / I need a new outlet," Em raps on Beautiful. I hope it doesn't come to that. Even at his worst, Eminem is worlds more talented than anyone else rapping today. When he's on, like on Crack a Bottle, Stay Wide Awake and the other previously highlighted songs, he is a titan. Relapse is billed as a return to form, but it plays more like a departure note. 

Comments for Relapse review

Best rapper alive?

Eminem has his obvious strengths - humour, rhyming skills, a huge appetite for controversy- but there are plenty of other rappers that I'd rather listen to. Of those currently active, Pharoahe Monch, MF Doom, and Ghostface spring to mind...

Whether they're better technically is debatable, but I'd suggest that the quality of a rapper's voice falls into the technical domain, and Eminem's is just too whiny and nasal for my tastes.

Anyway, let the debate begin...who's the best rapper alive today?

Best rapper alive

I can't claim qualification to say who's the "best alive," but I would like to nominate two that at least qualify as honorable mentions - definitely Black Thought and (new personal favorite) Wale. Haven't yet heard much of Brother Ali, but I've heard great things.

Ryan Faughnder

best rappers

Eminem WAS the best rapper alive from 1999-2000. But since then the title has left him. As far as the debate for the greatest rapper today, I'd like to throw Aesop Rock into the mix. Great voice, great lyrics.

BK was, by all acounts, the

BK was, by all acounts, the MEANEST battle rapper in philly for a long time. His cadence is too common for me (meaning he gets into a specific vocal rhythm for a song and never really varies from that).

And I think it is a little early to bring Wale into this conversation, but The Mixtape About Nothing was some pretty next-level shit. Looking forward to the full-length.

I listen to way too much

I listen to way too much news. I feel if I don't, I'll miss the Second Coming, spreading Tsunami, in coming meteor, rising melt water from glaciers, a solar flare that might fry me, alien invasion or next terror attack that has been promised for the past four years. 7dnews

The average person doesn't

The average person doesn't get their face splashed all over the media anytime they buy a gallon of milk, a box of condoms or get a speeding ticket- is it right to force that upon celebrities just because they're famous and call it "news?" orkneynewstoday

It's easy to see art in

It's easy to see art in purely idealistic or aesthetic terms. Art as beauty, as truth, as a purveyor of a crucial message, as a fundamental mirror of society are all familiar ideas, popular throughout the centuries and still able to find a home in today's world. businessinarts

The average person doesn't

The average person doesn't get their face splashed all over the media anytime they buy a gallon of milk, a box of condoms or get a speeding ticket- is it right to force that upon celebrities just because they're famous and call it "news?" orkneynewstoday

Best Rappers

I'll agree that Eminem's delivery (read: vocal inflection / accent) has taken a nose dive, especially on recent albums where he picked up a faux southern drawl.

And sure, I would much rather listen to Aespo Rock's Labor or DOOM's most recent album. I don't mean to imply that Eminem is the only rapper one ever need listen to. However, for my money, no one has even near the same level of skill. He is the total package, or at least has the capacity to be when the mood strikes him.

You could argue Aesop Rock, but many of his tracks are layered and done in several takes, a practice Eminem rarely utilizes. Add to that Aesop's tendency to put flash over message. And while DOOM has some of the most entertaining and compelling flow / delivery, his rhymes really aren't that great.

Clearly there is only one true answer to best rapper ever: Asher Roth.

Asher

Hah! Asher Roth - the lovechild of LFO and Vanilla Ice? Time for a new debate!

Embarrassing story...

I saw Asher in concert. Of course, no one in the audience knew he was going to be there. They were all there to see Ludacris (slightly less embarrassing) and Girl Talk.

Asher live

I'm actually going to see him live on Saturday, but not because i want to. I'm going to the Roots Picnic in Philly, and he's gonna be there. I'll probably use the time to get lunch and go to the bathroom.

Do you know that small

Do you know that small businesses in the United States of America employ 75% of all the people employed in America? It is true and sometimes that number floats even higher. In fact, if it weren't for the small businesses in America the United States would not have much of an economy at all. unitedsmallbusiness

Today's homes are not only

Today's homes are not only messy, they are simply out of control. Dirty, smelly, covered in toys and pet hair, many people have lost the battle against the tide of daily living. This article shows you how to recognize the signs of an out of control home -- and what to do about it. thehomestop

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