For a guy coming of a couple of self-admitted half-ass CDs (Encore and Relapse), Eminem has chosen a vague path back to the top of the MC game. Like many artists – especially in categories like pop and rap – the first couple albums can get kinda gimmicky. ‘The Slim Shady LP’ was perhaps the best example ever of breaking in on a CD of absolute genius wrapped in a semi-goofy package. While the characters and skits almost overshadowed the talent, it was clear to most watchers there was a new powerhouse in the making.
Once he earned into the scene, his personal life tanked and just about took him with it. Between his estranged wife, a public battle with his mother and a love for all kinds of pills, his raps began to sound like his life – drug-fueled and lazy. So where does ‘Recovery’ end up? He’s further down the road, but he’s still whining a bit too much for my taste – especially on track six ‘Going Through Changes’. And he’s chosen to bring 4-5 different producers to assemble the CD, so there’s no real consistency across all the tracks. And if we’re really going to be honest, most of the beats are pretty run-of-the-mill.
But for my money, Eminem has such skills I can cut him a lot of slack. My top cuts on the CD are the first single ‘Not Afraid’, the Dre-produced ‘So Bad’ and ‘Space Bound’. There’s something massively compelling about Em’s complex rhymes over an 80-something BPM track – which is why his collaborations with Dr. Dre will always sound best to my ears. But in the same way the whole CD is filled with dichotomies, the acoustic intro on 'Love The Way You Lie’ featuring Rihanna cements her as the queen of rap collaboration but ‘No Love’ featuring Lil’ Wayne lacks the punch of Wayne’s tracks with Kanye and Jay-Z – and tries too hard to make Haddaway's 'What Is Love' cool again. Really?
So overall it’s great to hear new stuff from Em, but the CD left me wanting more. It felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. But damn, the kid’s got flow... Enjoy the video for 'Not Afraid' below: