May 19, 2009

My Gut Reaction: Eminem - Relapse (May 19, 2009)

May 19, 2009 will probably go down in history as one of the biggest days in hip hop album release history. No less than six rap-related discs dropped today (there were probably more, such as the freebie from Donny Goines that dropped today on all of the blogs, but these are the quote-unquote "major" releases). There's the album for mixtape fiends (DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz: The Album Vol. 2), the disc for the streets (Sheek Louch (from the Lox) with Life On D-Block), the album that nobody even realized was coming anytime soon (Freeway's Philadelphia Freeway 2, which I will admit is bizarre timing, since I just wrote about the first volume in what is now a series, and even I had no clue Freeway was coming out with another album), the release by a major artist whom nobody that follows hip hop gives a fuck about anymore (Busta Rhymes, with Back On My B.S.: and yeah, I went there), the project by two older hip hop heads who Max secretly hopes will somehow move units in spite of lack of promotion from their label (Method Man and Redman's Blackout! 2, which I will write about on the morrow), and the album from one of the biggest rappers in the fucking universe, one of the most highly anticipated discs of the year, Eminem's Relapse.

After the release of Encore five years ago (an album that Max hasn't gotten to yet, and for a damn good reason, I might add), Eminem succumbed to drug addiction, and spent lots of time trying to get clean and rehabilitate himself. He backed off from the spotlight, only sporadically appearing in guest cameos, all of which were held to a ridiculously high standard that Marshall wasn't able to uphold. After getting clean, he re-taught himself how to write a rhyme, and recorded Relapse in an effort to re-prove to the world that he was still a capable artist. The title Relapse can be seen as a reference to his pill addiction, but I choose to look at it as a warning that Eminem has reverted back to his Slim Shady masochistic mode, a persona who dominates the project. Accompanying him in the sidecar is producer/mentor Dr. Dre, who produces all but one song on this disc, making this the only project he's done so on since his own 2001.

Was it worth the wait? I don't know, let's see.

1. DR. WEST (INTRO)
Marshall's acting has gotten much better since The Slim Shady EP, but considering that this introductory skit has the same ending as its cohort in Marshall's past life, you only need to hear it the once. This skit features, or all people, Dominic West from The Wire (or 28 Days, if you're into that sort of thing). Anybody else thing it would have been interesting if the "Dr. West" of the title was played by a certain egotistical producer? If so, raise your hands.

2. 3 A.M.
The third single, whose video had so much (implied) violence that it premiered on Cinemax instead of MTV. Marshall's attention to the most minute of details renders this a disturbing, drug-fueled ride into the mind of a guy who plays a homicidal maniac on television. The hook is very bad, though. The shot of Em in the clip sitting in a bathtub filled with blood is interesting imagery, though. If this were a movie, it would be released by Lions Gate Entertainment, with its trailer premiering ahead of all copies of Saw VI.

3. MY MOM
Dre's beat sounds like he barely tweaked his own "What's The Difference?" and sold it to Marshall at full price. At least Em discusses the elephant in the room right at the beginning of his first verse (where he mentions that he realizes everyone is probably sick of hearing him talk about his mother). The song itself is a lot more personal that you would expect, especially when Marshall has an epiphany and comes to terms with the fact that he's almost exactly like his mother. Huh.

4. INSANE
So is the alleged incest and abuse referred to on "Insane" anywhere near true? Who knows? But this track is most certainly not for the feint of heart. I choose to believe that Em is bullshitting for shock value's sake, but I will admit that his flow during the second verse is about as ill as H1N1. Am I the only person who's noticed that both Eminem and Asher Roth, white rappers who essentially compete for the same audience and have mainstream appeal, have mentioned Teddy Ruxpin on their 2009 albums? Is it because "Ruxpin" is fun to say? Because it is.

5. BAGPIPES FROM BAGHDAD
The now-infamous track in which Marshall professes his love for Mariah Carey and physically threatens Nick Cannon (her betrothed) in the process. Yeah, I can't imagine why Nick took this song personally. The title makes no fucking sense, unless you look at it in a "Em probably heard the beat in the studio and thought it sounded like bagpipes in Baghdad or some shit" kind of way. Unnecessary, but it sounds interesting, and Em bobs and weaves throughout the instrumental admirably.

6. HELLO
Dre's beat is not bad at all, although it is overly simplistic. My suspension of disbelief is already shot to hell, though, since I know that Marshall isn't popping pills like he used to anymore. And since it is physically impossible for Eminem to rhyme "normally" anymore (read: without resorting to some kind of accent), it should be noted that he doesn't sound bad on here.

7. TONYA (SKIT)
...

8. SAME SONG AND DANCE
There was really no reason the first verse had to repeat the same events that transpired in the skit that preceded it. However, the song wasn't bad, since Em takes on his own well-worn concept of rapping about pop tarts and twists it in an absurdly macabre way. You're left wishing that he would turn his attention back on other rappers, though.

9. WE MADE YOU
The second single. I've already discussed why this track doesn't work for me (the chorus talks about "rock stars" who only exist because we, the general public, choose to pay attention to them, but Marshall's incessant need to name drop celebrities, most of whom aren't actually rock stars, fucks the whole concept up), but I will add that, since my original editorial, I've watched the video, and although it was mildly amusing, this song still blows cock.

10. MEDICINE BALL
The best Dre prescription I've heard on Relapse so far. Good thing Marshall tries to fucking ruin it with rhymes that will most certainly offend his come-on-you-know-they-exist gay following. (Note to Marshall: singing "I guess it's time for you to hate me again" on the chorus doesn't negate the questionable remarks.) I picture other rappers swiping this instrumental to further their mixtape careers, though, as it sounds that good.

11. PAUL (SKIT)
Really, Marshall?

12. STAY WIDE AWAKE
A psychosexual nightmare. "Psychosexual" because of Marshall's torture-porn tendencies with members of the opposite sex: this is probably the most lyrically flexible horrorcore available in stores now. "Nightmare" because this song is fucking awful. At this point, I've grown tired of Slim Shady slaughtering suckers for shock value purposes. Was hip hop really missing this?

13. OLD TIME'S SAKE (FEAT DR. DRE)
Listen to this song if you want to hear Dr. Dre sound the most awkward he has ever come across on wax. Eminem may be reaching for a fanbase that no longer exists: music, especially hip hop, has grown a lot since Encore.

14. MUST BE THE GANJA
The lyrics on here are borderline really fucking stupid. However, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the chorus, which Marshall sings, is actually cheesy in a great way, almost salvaging the entire track. Admittedly, I'm not high as I write this, so maybe my clear-headedness is affecting my commentary.

15. MR. MATHERS (SKIT)
...

16. DEJA VU
At first, I thought I was suffering from deja vu because this beat sounds very similar to "Must Be The Ganja" (or, for that matter, almost every beat on here). Instead, Eminem takes the instrumental and turns it into his own version of "Lost Ones" / "Imagine" (i.e., the reflective Dr. Dre-produced song), revisiting his personal drug issues with a clarity that simply wouldn't be possible if he were still popping pills today. Not bad at all.

17. BEAUTIFUL
The lone Eminem-produced song (thank fucking God) is, surprisingly, not about his daughter: he turns the mirror on himself, and although his lyrics speak volumes, the chorus doesn't actually fit in with the song itself, especially the title, which seems to have been chosen simply so critics (like myself) would be forced to use the term "beautiful" when writing about Relapse.

18. CRACK A BOTTLE (FEAT DR. DRE & 50 CENT)
The first (horrible) single, and not just because Curtis Jackson bats cleanup. I admit to laughing whenever Eminem pronounces "Tahoe", but besides that, this song actually sounds worse today than it did upon its release, since it doesn't fit in with either the torture-porn, psychosexual, masochistic Slim Shady or the serious recovering-addict Marshall Mathers, both of who put in a lot of work on Relapse. Perhaps this should have been left as a bonus track on the next Curtis Jackson album instead.

19. STEVE BERMAN (SKIT)
Okay, the "Paul" and "Steve Berman" skits are clearly just included for continuity's sake, to tie all of the albums together. Eminem actually lays it on wax, though: he recorded two discs worth of material. Does this skit mean that Relapse 2 is already completed?

20. UNDERGROUND
Starts off sounding like a 2009 update to "Still Don't Give A Fuck" (from The Slim Shady LP), but then veers off into one of the worst songs I have ever heard from the guy. It's not even worth the effort involved to finish the song, since the homophobic Ken Kaniff skit that rounds things off is fucking useless, if only because it isn't funny at all. Not that Aristotle's Ken Kaniff was funny either, but it's fucking 2009: is this joke even considered necessary?

If you preordered Relapse from Eminem's official website (with some versions approaching $250...hell-o, Marshall, there's a fucking recession), you get to own two bonus tracks: "My Darling" and "Careful What You Wish For". I listened to both, because they leaked with the quickness, and I'll just say this: "My Darling" sucks, and the other one fits in better on Relapse than "Crack A Bottle". And so it goes.

THE LAST WORD: Eminem's Relapse starts off strong, but relapses into middling bullshit midway through, only occasionally coming up for air. I thought I knew what to expect from Slim Shady, but I was a bit off: apparently Marshall had spent his hiatus watching After Dark Horrorfest marathons and trying his best to come up with fucked-up shit to say, and dumbass sing-songy choruses to go with them. The disc is much more personal that it has any right to be: I was expecting a lyrical clinic from one of the best who has ever done it, but instead what I received was an exorcism on wax. One which is saddled with some awful rhymes and some of the most boring Dr. Dre beats in recorded history. I understand if Relapse doesn't sell gajillions of copies, it may spell the end of Shady/Aftermath/Interscope as we know it, and I would hate to see that many people losing their jobs in this economy, but with that said, you have to put out product worthy of the praise, pal. Maybe Relapse 2 will be better: Relapse isn't awful enough to make me ignore the rest of the man's career, but it isn't helping.

-Max

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Pick up some M&Ms while you're out.

44 comments:

  1. don't you think you write down reviews to early?? i mean, the album was just released today but w/e.

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  2. true fact: CRACK A BOTTLE is one of the worst recorded songs in living memory. I could start a counter-culture just from hearing people playing it screaming "He's back!".

    at this stage in i'd prefer Alster Ruth (whatever) to rep us white boys.

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  3. Max did you hear this album on Macbook speakers? Some of these Dre beats are the best he's ever done! How can you NOT bob your head when Old Times Sake comes on?

    I agree that Em is done as an MC, and you hit the nail on the head with "was hip hop really missing THIS?", but I think its better to really look at this disc as a pop album. Dr. Dre's production on most of the disc is just top notch. Give it another try.

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  4. Lil' VenkiMay 19, 2009

    Dude this is straight up re-hash. Do they not have radios in rehab? Has Em not heard what hip hop sounds like today? Or did Em buy a Delorean just so he could go back in time when this bullshit sounded new? This album sucks!

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  5. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    Lmao your a fuckin dumbass man. It starts off strong than gets weak? If you weren't so damn stupid you would realize it's the complete opposite. Other than Dr. West it starts of very weak and than gradually gets stronger; Beautiful, Deja Vu, Underground...those are weak ass songs right? I've seen many reviews of people criticizing Relapse and although I enjoyed the album I agreed with what many had to say. But this review is very poor.

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  6. I thought Relapse was a fun album but it gets rather tedious as certain tracks were not necessary. I cannot get over the apparent necessity to have more than 15 tracks on an album.

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  7. protomanMay 19, 2009

    never in any lifetime will eminem ever come to close to anything that even remotely resembles horrocore, not even his lyrics, which just scream "hey guys, pay attention to me!"

    also, he was addicted to pills? what a little bitch nigga, someone tell em to stop being a drama queen

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  8. From your comments i couldnt tell if you liked ANY songs on here lol....i agree with you mostly though.

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  9. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    terrible review

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  10. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    I Liked It...

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  11. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    Oh and u forgot the bonus tracks...

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  12. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    Underground is awesome!

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  13. Also, hook aside i liked my darling, the concept was pretty cool i guess...

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  14. I forgot the bonus tracks? Did you not read the review to completion?

    Thanks to all for commenting. I didn't expand on this enough in the review, but this disc aims for a feeling of The Slim Shady LP, albeit ten years later, and it shows in the content. Dre's beats are boring-ass loops (with some exceptions, granted), and Em's kyrics are deft but dull, except when he gets overly personal.

    I will say that at Best Buy today, shit was almost exactly like ten years ago, as Eminem was damn near sold out. Oh well.

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  15. Well, actually I agree with most of the review.

    I just thought "Underground" was easily the best song on the album.

    That song gave me chills when I heard it... that's the comeback I pictured when I heard that Em was coming back out...

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  16. AnonymousMay 19, 2009

    we made you is the worst song on that album, crack a bottle was ok, and the rest were good, hopefully relapse 2 will show improvement and good guess artist, like nas,jada and the nickel nice royce

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  17. AnonymousMay 20, 2009

    critics are exactly that, critics.

    they cant appreciate anything half good, because they have to criticise

    people are going to react like this... relapse sucks etc etc

    like he says on be careful what you wish for

    i guess enough time hasnt passed yet, a couple more years that shit will be illmatic

    talking about encore... same with this, people are bound to cry and moan about how its the same old stuff.. but look, ems got the whole world talking, and buying his music.. when it comes down to it, who cares what "hip hop" is like in the "modern times" the fact em can still pull this off with success, and have everyone bitching, shows he has been missed, he can bring his old style and force it into the "modern culture" and have it stay for good, wait for relapse 2, and that will be the new thing for people to moan about, and relapse will be "ok i guess"

    and in a couple years time, eminem will still be the legend he is, and everyone will love him

    STOP hating.

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  18. IMO this album isnt worth as much as u give it credit for... the accent gets on my nerves damn! and i totally agree..on the production part especially comparing dre's beats to that of his work on 2001 ...

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  19. Are you okay Max? Both your review and your comment above contain spelling errors. Are you stressed out, man? This doesn't seem normal for your otherwise very polished commentary.

    Anyways, I think Relapse sucks. I agree with the user above who said that you have it twisted. I believe that the album goes from bad to better, but the "better" does not outweight the bad. My favorite songs on the album are "Deja Vu," "Beautiful," "Underground" (for his flow), and "Bagpipes from Baghdad" (because, as you said, he rides the beat admirably). Otherwise, I guess we'll just have to wait for "Relapse 2" to see if Eminem really is done as an MC. I read an interesting review on this album that interpreted the album as a return of Slim Shady (much like you did Max), but this particular review that I am referring to viewed all the songs leading up to "Underground" as Eminem becoming Slim Shady, only finally to be revealed in "Underground," so "Relapse 2" according to that reviewer would be another "Slim Shady LP." If that is what Emniem was going for, then he sure as hell executed that plan poorly, in my opinion. But I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

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  20. protomanMay 20, 2009

    oh and the crack a bottle beat may or may not have been stolen from del and aesop rock's "preservation" off of that wu-tang meets the indie culture album

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  21. AnonymousMay 20, 2009

    Album is okay. Impressive flow, odd voice, lame subject matter, nice production. Better than Encore, worse than SSLP, MMLP and TES.

    Makes me sad everyone in the world still checks for Em, after that turd Encore. Really, people? Do you *want* more fart sounds and dated pop cultural references? Punish him with a bomb, so he stops making the same album, over and over again.

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  22. AnonymousMay 20, 2009

    I am gonna agree with Mark.

    I thought Underground was the best song and although I dont agree th ur review I can see why a) U are pissed off that Meth and Red are gonna sell jack shit and b) Why u might not like this album. M&M' voice can get annoying at times and "We Made You" is the worst song he has ever made (although the video is hilarious).

    All in all I would say this aint his best but also not his worst album. Oh and Careful What You Wish For should have made the album

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  23. With Encore, people kept complaining... Now that Em recovers some nostalgia with his latest effort, people STILL complain! Damn, it's hard as hell to please everyone nowadays! Even so, Em deserves succes with this latest effort IMO. I definitely enjoyed this record from start to finish (even the singles grew on me). I wasn't feeling "Must Be The Ganja" but i completely disagree about "Underground" being one of his worst songs (just definitely shows that you never listened to Encore before... lol). But hey, w/e: it's all opinions, no need to cry about it! lol

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  24. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    HEY max are u Gay or U just a fuckin moron who cannot recognize genius .U piece of shit .i am in africa feeling this album.I love it.Eminem is not doing music only for the retarded Americans alone.An for the record we dont like what u call hiphop of today.Hip hop sucks now.Thanx for the album Em.
    JOVI

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  25. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    Good review Max. My main problem with the album is that he isn't saying much of interest, despite his flow being as good as ever. That's why I think Deja Vu is the best track cause he finally emotes instead of hiding behind wacky voices. That's the Eminem I like; the album is just too goofy, but without even the genuine humor he had back in the day to make it work.

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  26. protoman - I co-sign on the Del/Aesop "Preservation". I find it hard to believe that Dre and Em would be actively listening to underground rap released under the guise of a Wu-Tang affiliate's compilation, so I don't think the instrumental was stolen, but the beats are the same.

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  27. AnonymousMay 22, 2009

    we made you is good lyrically. insane is a mint tune yeh its a bit on the wired song but eminem is sik on it. beautiful is deep good song tho thers a mixture of songs on this album. some funny some angry some depressing overall good album.

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  28. AnonymousMay 22, 2009

    "Hip Hop Isn't dead" is the name of the blog, but the way most of you guys sound it seems. For 4 Years we were all expecting the new eminem album, when the song featurinf Dr.Dre a 50 cent., "crack that bottle" was out you guys were all - Oh fucking great song man yeah- but now when the story of the last few years of Marshall Mathers III comes out in his latest album you're like - HORRIBLE AND IT SUCKS AND HIS DONE AS AN MC- what the fuck is this? you can disagree when i say that his the best rapper ever, but his really the best rapper alive... can you imagine any other mc doing the ?? come on man!!!! i say the truth when i say that this was not his best album but it´s the return of the slim shady in some songs, and the true eminem in some, and we're his family, he talks to us in the album. he expresses himself and opens his heart and this is how you repay him? he's the best and yall know that...
    hope you get my point

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  29. AnonymousMay 22, 2009

    oh its me again.. what do you meen by todays hip hop???? just some black people with simple beats talkin about partys cars women?? saying OH OH OH or YEAH YEAH YEAH like lil john... how can some of you compare lil john to eminem? its depressing... think about this.
    greattings from europe

    (eminem should make a europe tour and go and visit portugal)

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  30. AnonymousMay 23, 2009

    terrible album, seems like he just had some child support and court bills to pay. most likely he still had one more album on contract with universal and they just put it out there because retarded white kids buy anything eminem.

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  31. Max, This is my first post to your blog, and its a different feel for me, I feel like your reviews are a bit brutal and quite early, but respecting your opinion completely.

    I feel like this album is the old taste of Em, but for some that is the sound they want from him. And to be honest after I saw his interview on 106 & Park, I think I can appreciate this album, knowing that it was done sober.

    M. Caldwell

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  32. Can't say I've ever liked Eminem, Infinite was his only attempt at a REAL hiphop album, which was shit btw, then for some stupid fucking reason Andre Young, who by the way was actually respected in the music industry at the time (prior to 2001), decided to be a twat and give Marshal fucking Mathers a record deal, it truely was an incredibly sad day for hip hop when Eminem went big. The Slim Shady LP was nearly as shit as Relapse (they get shitter with each album, at least The Slim Shady LP was SLIGHTLY unqiue, even if it was simply incredibly shit horror core with irritating singing on the chorus) and the people who 'like' Eminem usually know fuck all about the guy, I've had idiots claim "Ye man, he made classics like Lose Yourself, My Band(D12 featuring Eminem btw fuckers) and Without Me, you can't expect him to top his debut album bro" - This idiot in particular actually though The Slim Shady LP was his debut.

    OK I'm just fucking rambling now but:

    TL;DR - Eminem's shit, this album's shit, this fucker has undeserved fame and the trash he's brainwashed "hip hop" fans with destroys the chances of every young artist coming up attempting to make a name for themselves by sticking to the "real" shit.

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  33. AnonymousJune 10, 2009

    I find the factthatyou think he's better now than on the slim shady EP. He was way better when he was still more on teh hardcore side in my opinion.

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  34. Em's going to reap a fortune off this for what sounds like a week's worth of work. Have to appreciate how hard people work and how little they claim as a reward--you know, when not blessed by fame and an ignorant tin-ear audience.

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  35. AnonymousJune 15, 2009

    UnborN, do you kick a hole in your bedroom door every time your mom sends you there for not eating your vegetables?

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  36. Finally heard the album

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  37. What I meant to say, before blogger started fucking up, was that I've finally heard the album.

    It's not a return to the Slim Shady EP.

    And who would want that? If Eminem did that it would sound phoney.


    And it's not a return to Relapse. I've never heard Relapse, but it was by choice. Things seemed to be going to a bad place, and I wasn't going to encourage that.

    This album sounds like it's a really personal album masked in the Slim Shady/Who the fuck knows what accent that is/ Marshall Mathers persona.

    If you're older than 30, or if you are a real Eminem fan you'll probably enjoy most of it. I'm being serious.

    Even "My Mom" isn't what you think it would be.

    If you're 18-29, and looking for the auto-tune, or looking to be that thugish-rugish underground nigga, move along.

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  38. AnonymousJuly 14, 2009

    Please stop trying to defend "relapse"! I understand the need to defend a favorite artist simply because we identify with them. In the case of Eminem his career was established by identifying with Americas youth. I for one love "The Show" and it blows my mind to this day. 5 Stars!!! The release of encore was a disappointment for sure but it had some good beats and rhymes tho I really have no reason to pick it up and listen to it except for the Dre/Sahdy song at the end. I can't blame mnm, once you release an album so good it's hard to match it or maintain the same standard. I'll remind you that I thought encore was alright but I have no reason to listen to it again... yet I can listen to "the show" a million times and it's still awesome.

    I just have to be honest guys... Relapse sucks! It has a few ok beat, the content is horrible which I guess fits his horror theme. The CD has a few ok rhymes and I'm saying ok... not good. I am really sick of hearing about his mom, Mariah Carey, teeny bop stars ect. There is NO reason for me to pickup this CD up again other than to see if I'm missing something, to listen in disbelieve that this is the same artist that brought us "The Show"

    Now is it so bad that I have given up on mnm completely...? Sadly yes! I have no anticipation for the next CD.

    As for "relapse" fans... to each his own I guess...

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  39. AnonymousJuly 19, 2009

    i liked it all, not as good as his older stuff but still good, beautiful, underground and insane are all top songs....and why dont people like we made you? its may not be the best lyrically or the best rap/hip hop tune but cumon it is really catchy !

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  40. This review sucks ass. The beats on this album were on fire, Beautiful WAS a beatiful track. Deja Vu was even better. Medicine Ball, Insane and Underground were lyrically some of the best Em has done. Especially Underground.. and Underground sounds nothing like Still Don't Give A F*ck. I don't know were you got that from, more like Criminal from the MMLP. Underground was a great ablum closure. I didn't think Relapse was as great as it should have been. I think he swtiched his style up a lot on this album. I don't think he's lost his potential as a rapper AT ALL. I agree that Crack A Bottle was bad, but not THAT bad. God, you critcis LOVE exaggerating. Crack A Bottle really didn't fit in with the album at all though and We Made You sounded awful. Another thing I don't agree with. MY DARLING WAS HORRIBLE? Do you not UNDERSTAND the concept? That song was hot. I've had it on repeat for weeks now, easily one of the best songs on the album. And I think Eminem differed his music from what hip hop is like now on PURPOSE. Most people are whispering that hip hop has died, he reverted back to his old ways (because after Encore 95% of people were saying thats what they wanted). Hip Hop has missed this.

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  41. This review is very poor and seems to come from someone who doesn't particularly like Eminem very much and is LOOKING for critisms to give and not giving credit where its due. Relapse was not that bad. Now I get why people say don't read critics reviews. DAMN do they like to exaggerate. My Darling, Underground, Beautiful were horrible? But Must Be The Ganga was good? WHAT?

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  42. underground was the best song he ever wrote.. what the fuck you talking bout? the shit he said about horror movies 3rd verse was awsome, like i was waiting for him to do that. then the beat is great. its a song you can bump on october.lol

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  43. my mom is a cool song. it has the hottest beat ever.. i bump it in my system. and its funny as fuck. and cleaver how he did. i mean whats wrong with you dmx needs to make an album like this

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  44. dmx should make an album like this horror and psycotic, halloweenish. underground was hott

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