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Relapse (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

Wednesday, Jun 3 2009

Having fought a prescription pill addiction and mourned his murdered friend Proof, Eminem has chosen to use his new album as his therapy. Whereas he played his last work, Encore, largely for laughs, Relapse is an often-shocking plunder of the depths of his psyche and imagination. "My Mom" explores the genetic and familial repercussions of drug addiction, while "Insane" concerns sexual abuse. The latter track is as gruesome as his previous shock anthems like "Kim" and "Kill You," if not more so; at one point in the song, he raps from the perspective of an elementary school child being molested by his stepfather. Elsewhere, he taunts reality show stars ("We Made You") or spits dexterously over the latest batch of hypnotic Dr. Dre earworms ("Bagpipes from Baghdad"), but for the most part he's addressing serious topics in a sincere way. At least, as sincerely as one could expect him to, which is to say in accents taking in British, Jamaican, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. But the work feels honest throughout, and though it's sometimes too much to bear, listeners are left glad that Em has once again chosen to bring to life the horrors in his head.

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Ben Westhoff


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