Shady’s back – but the tired retreads and schlock horror make it a joyless return
He created a monster, and just like in all the best B-movie horror flicks, the monster came back to destroy him. Five albums spent channelling the pill-guzzling psycho Slim Shady left his creator, Marshall Mathers in the grip of drug dependency, crapping out of his European tour to promote 2004’s tired ‘Encore’ and checking into rehab to shake an addiction to prescription pills. For a bit, that looked like it for Eminem.
Pictured in the press, he looked withdrawn, overweight, eyes sunken. Interviewed on New York rap station Hot 97, he admitted he was “in limbo” – creatively stagnant, washed up. But Mathers has always specialised in reworking his life into art. Five years on, then, we have ‘Relapse’. As the title suggests, it’s an album about kicking drugs, then falling off the wagon… and falling off hard.
The story is that this is a return to form, born out of a two-day recording stint with old mentor Dr Dre that spun out into six months of frenzied creation. The early signs, though, are bad. Lead-off single ‘We Made You’ is drab and formulaic, still under the apprehension that drug reference plus fart noises multiplied by threat to murder celebrity makes you a hilarious pop-cultural terrorist, while it actually makes you an 18-certificate “Weird Al” Yankovic.
The first couple of tracks of ‘Relapse’ do little to shake that feeling of retread. On ‘3am’, he admits to being “a hooligan who’s used to using hallucinogens”, wakes up surrounded by dead bodies and masturbates to Hannah Montana. Then ‘My Mom’ kicks off with the line “My mom, my mom, you’re probably tired of hearing about my mom…” and you’re thinking: well, yes, I am actually.
But then… it gets nasty. ‘Insane’, for instance. Genuinely stomach-churning, it commences with Eminem being raped by his stepfather – “Can’t we just play