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Music Review: Eminem – Relapse

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Eminem: New album, new lifestyle. Eminem’s Relapse released May 19, 2009 and was reported to have sold over 650,000 in its first week and is expected to set 2009 sales records. J!–Ent headlined on June 6th, “Eminem takes the #1 spot for the second straight week.” The Billboard currently places Relapse at #2, while it continues to hold Relapse at the #1 spot for “Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums”.

Eminem is no stranger to being on top of the music charts considering he's had five albums debuting at the number one spot; Marshall Matters LP (2000), 8 Mile Soundtrack (2002), Encore (2004), and Eminem’s Curtain Call (2005), while Slim Shady LP (1999) landed the number two spot. In fact, according to Rolling Stone Magazine (as reported by Billboard.biz), “Eminem’s last five albums alone have combined for roughly 33.3 million in sales just in the United States, making the rapper the bestselling artist in hip-hop.”

As the story goes for many famous musicians from all genres, child abuse (neglect) and poverty are part of Eminem’s background. Eminem was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in St. Joseph, Missouri. His mother, Deborah, was only 15 when she gave birth to Marshall and shortly after, Eminem’s father abandoned his family, which was only the beginning of a life of turmoil for this young boy. Marshall was raised by his mother, which was no role model by any stretch of the imagination, and unfortunately spent most of his life in poverty experiencing and enduring all of its hardships.

The name Eminem emerged from using his initials M.M. as his rap name. Because he was white in a predominately black arena, Eminem was rejected as a rapper, despite his talent. His determination led to radio shows and “rap battles”, something you can learn about by watching his terrific film, 8 Mile.

In 1996, Eminem released his first album, Infinite, which only sold 1,000 copies. Later in 1998 Eminem hooked up with Dr. Dre, Aftermath Entertainment, where they produced his first hit, The Slim Shady LP that won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. This was the beginning of his rap stardom and controversy. In 2005 Eminem announced that he had entered drug rehab for a "dependency on sleep medication". Now it's 2009 and he’s returned drug free and is back on the charts with a hit album, Relapse!

While I love all kinds of music including some rap, I must say Relapse didn’t grab me as Eminem’s best, but maybe that’s because I am approaching 50. I struggled through the constant and hard-core profanity and the undertone of aggravation and hostility in many of Eminem's lyrics, and was jolted by a few inappropriate uses of God and Jesus, however, I did manage to find a few of songs that I liked; “Crack a Bottle”, “Stay Wide Awake”, and “Underground”. There was one song that I loved, "Beautiful", which has amazing vocals and lyrics that exhibit depth!

I give Relapse 3 1/2 stars because I prefer some of the softer lyrics of his old songs like; “The Real Slim Shady”, “Lose Yourself”, “Guilty Conscience”, “Cleanin’ out My Closet”, and my favorite, “Mockingbird”. That being said, I give "Beautiful" five stars, which alone makes this album worth the purchase!

On a final note, rap music is an interesting cultural phenomenon and has its share of controversy and critics, but it continues to grow in popularity. In fact both of my daughters have grown up with rap music and love Eminem, each holding their own perception of "rappers" and their significance.

In the words of my teenage daughter, Angelica, “Rap music has been considered a disgrace by some people, mainly adults. But not all rap music is appalling and not all rappers rap about drugs and murder — some tell a story like Eminem. If you look far beyond the surface and past the fowl language, you will find Eminem’s story about his mistakes and how they have affected others. He raps about his childhood, his addiction, and his daughter, all of which have altered him a great deal. Eminem is more than a rapper; he’s an author of his very own life story expressing it through song."

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About Christine Lakatos