The rapper manages to 12-step his way back into the hip-hop elite on his newest album.
If Eminem seemed to be losing his footing in recent years, he regains it here with his fiercest and most focused work in a long time.
"Encore, I was on drugs/Relapse, I was flushing them out," he confesses to hard-core hip-hop fans, who haven't been enamored with him lately, on Talking 2 Myself. A few months ago, he had an apparent epiphany about the direction he was headed and announced that he'd scrap a planned sequel to last year's Relapse in favor of a more optimistic Recovery, which arrives today.
The differences in tone and attitude are evident. He aims for substance over shock value, vividly spilling out details of his various tribulations. Gone are the wacky skits and goofy foreign accents. He pulls no punches as he jabs back at critics and whiffs no punch lines as he pummels rival rappers. At the same time, he resolutely confronts his insecurities (Going Through Changes, which samples Black Sabbath's Changes) and his inner demons (Not Afraid). He also deals pointedly with his discomfiture with celebrity (Almost Famous) and the hip-hop industry (25 to Life).
Eminem has always drawn fire for his verbal assaults on women, and he's sure to do so again. Though he keeps the psychopathic contemplations to a comparative minimum (though there is that bondage/arson reference in Love the Way You Lie, which features Rihanna), he still liberally sprinkles in misogyny and takes the obligatory scattered potshots at pop divas.
Surprisingly, longtime producer Dr. Dre contributes on just one song, So Bad. DJ Khalil, Boi-1da and Just Blaze provide the bulk of the beats that swing from thumping to melodic, depending on the level of aggression in the rapper's intricate verbal barrages. Beyond Rihanna, the only outside star power comes from Pink on rock-tinged Won't Back Down and Lil Wayne on the album's caustic highlight, No Love.
Recovery is a great bounce-back for a rapper who admittedly spent years mired in drug abuse, depression and grief (over the 2006 slaying of best friend and D12 rapper Proof). It's a strong return to the form that made him a star in the first place.