Have you heard of this Slim Shady fellow? He's quite controversial
So as you may be aware, Eminem has a new album coming out. And while it turns out to be possibly the worst major rap release this year, I was naturally interested, cuz while I can't say I've played any of his other albums recently, I do think the guy used to have serious skills, and I'm not just saying that to say it like some people who feel some kind of obligation to give the guy props and don't actually like his music. Unfortunately he misplaced said skills sometime around 2004 and hasn't managed to locate them since. Let's take a look at Relapse shall we.
*Yes, it's worse than Encore. At least that album had a few songs that were so dumb they were funny the first one or two times you heard 'em. I've got a soft spot for "Rain Man."
*Yes, it's worse than Asleep in the Bread Aisle. Actually, I'm not entirely sure about that cuz I only listened to 30-second snippets of that album on iTunes. Let's face it though, most of the time you get the idea of what a rap song's gonna sound like musically based on snippets.
*No, he isn't rapping well on this record, which even several people who don't like it seem to think. Now I used to nerd out over hearing a million syllables rhymed together, but thankfully I was converted to the Jay-Z school of emceeing and realized that none of that means anything if it isn't attached to a good flow. And Em can't flow well anymore. His delivery's choppy, scattershot, and more often than not sounds like he doesn't give a shit. It's ramble-rapping. Granted, his technique on "Beautiful" and "Underground" (which sounds like a Marshall Mathers LP outtake) is better than the rest of the garbage here, but it still falls short of the level of skill he was showing on his first three albums.
*Nothing new here, but someone needs to find Dr. Dre fresh collaborators. Someone put the setting on the tracks to "thud" instead of "bang."
*As an aside, the problem with Em's catch-all "freedom of speech!" defense is how he's intentionally baited criticism since the beginning. It's the equivalent of beating the shit out of someone and then getting upset because they punch back. The guy has the freedom to make lame pop culture-bashing singles, call Mariah Carey a whore, whatever, and other people obviously have the freedom to criticize him for it. No censorship involved.
*Give Dwayne Carter all the shit you want for rapping about nothing, as of now he's easily more lyrically creative than Em. The line "Hip hop is a bitch and I'm proud of this girl" > this album.
*OK, I'm done with the better/worse than comparisons.
*Really though, post-retirement Jay-Z > post-hiatus Eminem.
*As is auto-Yeezy.
*As is, yes, Nasir Jones. Hey, at least the guy's exploring new themes with his albums, even if the last one wasn't very good.
*The "Steve Berman" skit = the best part of this album. Cuz you know, Em's trying to blunt criticism that this album's more of the same old shit by having the Berman guy say that, but...it actually is more of the same shit. Only dressed up in a slightly different way. It's like when celebrities make fun of themselves on SNL or whatever, as if it actually changes anything they're being criticized for.
*You're officially not allowed to defend the album by claiming people don't "get" the concept. All Em's albums have had some kind of concept. The Slim Shady LP was him establishing his deranged alterego, The Marshall Mathers LP was him reacting to all the flak he caught, The Eminem Show was him dissecting his fame and status in hip hop, and I guess you could look at Encore as his creative suicide. The difference is that those first three were a lot better. Granted maybe this one goes to greater lengths to establish the whole relapse concept, but the music sucks regardless.
*Speaking of dude's past albums, how much different would dude's output have been if he somehow got signed based on Infinite? I mean anyone who's heard that album knows how impossible that was, but it's still vaguely interesting to think about. A little parallel rap universe. Nas Jr., the positive white rapper? 'Course, he probably wouldn't've sold a zillion records then. Or been very interesting.
*Timbaland feat. Elton John -- "2 Man Show" > the "Stan" Grammy performance. OK, just fucking with you.
*I say Relapse 2 should just disregard the whole addict theme and be Eminem's official sellout album. It'd be the logical expansion of his guest spot on Fat Joe's "Lean Back" remix from a few years back. Cheesy synth beats from Jim Jonsin, an "A Milli" knockoff, a Soulja Boy feature, autotune all over the place, songs about how much swagger he has. Might suck but it'd probably at least be more interesting than the Dr. Dre hermitage he's locked himself in.
*What was Em's last truly great verse? His spot on Curtis's "Patiently Waiting" maybe?
*While I generally avoid complaining about how critics don't know what they're talking about when it comes to hip hop -- probably cuz my hip-hop tastes tend to line up more with pop critics than rap purists -- I gotta side with that view with any positive review this album gets. May sound elitist, but if you think this is a good album, you probably haven't listened to enough good rap.
*Mmmm...think that's about it. Still waiting on the rap album that's gonna be the '09 summer soundtrack. Though I can't say Shady's really summer material even in his best moments.