When Eminem made Encore, it felt like his low point—an album full of songs that went for commercial and came off cloying. When a compilation of his greatest hits (Curtain Call) was released, it felt as though he might be done, relegated to the world of producer/all-star guest. The mainstream media had left him for dead, the most recent Vanilla Ice to be thrown to the wolves after a meteoric rise and off-a-cliff fall.
Eminem's career over the last several years is a textbook case of the perils of early sucess. He one of the all time canonical rap albums (the Marshall Mathers LP, easily in the top 20 of the genre), starred in this generation's answer to Saturday Night Fever, and been voted 'best rapper alive' by Vibe (essentially the rap Pulitzer). As a career highlights reel, this is not half bad, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that for most people, a list of accomplishments like this would provide a free pass to retire to San Tropez, play golf all day, eat tons of foie gras and lapse into a comfortable state of perpetual self-satisfaction.
Although it happened just a few weeks ago, I have a feeling that listening to Recovery for the first time is something I’ll long remember. Sitting in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car sometime around 2 AM, surrounded by open road and windows, I popped the freshly burnt CD-R into the tray with tired anticipation. The album had just leaked earlier that day, and though we felt spent after some eight or nine hours in the studio recording our own stuff, waiting till tomorrow for new Em was out of the question. We burnt down the empty highway with the speakers up full blare, toward the city but with no destination other than the end of the disc.
Watching Eminem attempt to re-situate himself in the pop landscape the past year or so has been a bizarre spectacle. He roared out of his post-Encore slumber in early 2009 seeming almost puppyishly eager to rap again, spitting verses for anyone who put him in front of a mic with a desperation that suggested he was making up for lost time. Relapse, his 2009 comeback album, found him trying to scratch and claw his way back into the body of 1999-era Slim Shady, but the effect was similar to Metallica trying to revisit their thrash years with 2008's Death Magnetic: The sound was there; the fury, long gone. No matter how many starlets he tortured and killed in his lyrics, Em couldn't rewrite the intervening years and the enervating effect they've had on his spirit.
|# 12 -||Amazon|
|# 36 -||Consequence of Sound|
|# 16 -||One Thirty BPM|
|# 31 -||Rhapsody SoundBoard|
|# 9 -||Rolling Stone|
|# 38 -||Spin|