Eminem: Recovery | CD review


The following correction was printed in the Observer's For the record column, Sunday 11 July 2010

"Cinderella Man", a track on Eminem's album Recovery was produced by Script Shepherd, not, as we said, Just Blaze

Eminem's sixth album, Recovery, comes pre-installed with the kind of histrionic fannying-about now featured as standard on high-profile US urban releases. As it's Eminem, all that fuss – the repeated postponements, renamings and leaks – is turned up to 11.

His last album, 2009's Relapse, marked the return of the rapper after a long addiction to prescription drugs; Recovery continues the process of trying to crowbar Marshall Mathers and his sweary soap opera (starring his multiple personalities) back into cultural relevance.

No Eminem album has ever really flopped – Relapse "only" sold 3 million; it won him his third Grammy – but hip-hop has moved relentlessly on since Eminem released his first three imperial albums.

Lil Wayne and Kanye West have become the genre leaders, a fact Eminem acknowledges on the engagingly self-flagellating "Talkin' 2 Myself". "The last two albums didn't count," Eminem sniffs, resolving to employ the zeal of the recently recovered to rhyme dextrously about doing vile things to women. ("Blood-sucking succubuses" apparently.)

Oh, he is terrible. Track one, "Cold Wind Blows", reiterates what a sick, sociopathic individual Eminem is, challenging all comers with shorty-hatin' abuse. But there's also an amusing bit where God strikes him down with lightning. "Ow!" he mugs, having now ticked off the box marked "the One That Re-establishes I Have Not Gone Soft".

It is hard to defend the indefensible, but while Eminem has said some unconscionable things in the past about womankind, he worries at length about being a good father to his daughter (and the two nieces he adopted from his ex-wife's sister).

If every latterday Eminem album is a long march through Mathers's contradictions, punctuated with splatter-flick levels of lyrical gore, this 16-track marathon (no skits) is better than average.

Best beat? The extraordinary stamp of "Cinderella Man" by producer Just Blaze, which sounds nothing like the standard-issue work of producer Dr Dre that usually accompanies Em.

What a shame, then, that Relapse is spearheaded by lumpen comeback single "Not Afraid". Rhyming "through a storm" with "whatever weather/ cold or warm" in the chorus is unforgivable for a master rhymer.

For a glimpse of that masterful figure, fast forward to "Almost Famous" and the casual drop of "antidisestablishmentarianism" into a heated diss, or the arresting "No Love", which pits a pinging Em in a friendly against Lil Wayne.

His Recovery will never be complete – only a time machine can work that magic – but, in bursts, Eminem's health is very nearly rude.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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