Eminem’s music has always been characterized by the rising volume of inner voices: The angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other (“Guilty Conscience”), the childhood trauma that never found an outlet (“Cleanin’ Out My Closet”), and the almost vengeful inspiration that got him over anyway (“Lose Yourself”). Sometimes the voices could be comforting (“Hailey’s Song”), but most of the time they only made his obsessions narrower and even more claustrophobic. He could build a world out of words—but he could bury himself in them, too. “Am I lucky to be around this long?” he asks on “Walk on Water,” the opening track on 2017’s Revival. And while the album finds him taking on inequity and systemic racism (“Untouchable”) as well as the jingoism of the Trump presidency (“Like Home”), the underlying current on Revival is one of almost irresolvable self-doubt—about his choices, his qualities, his legacy, his worth. Like Hans Gruber in the not-quite-historically accurate Die Hard—who claims that Alexander wept upon seeing he had no more worlds to conquer—we have Em, alone in the throne room on the track “Believe,” voicing his doubts out loud: “How do you keep up the pace/And the hunger pangs once you’ve won the race?” At the time of Revival’s release, Eminem said he’d enjoyed JAY-Z’s recent 4:44 for the same reasons he’d always enjoyed JAY-Z: the funny punch lines and the good beats. But you could also see Revival as a louder, angrier, Eminem-ier companion to the same midlife reflections: Will I always be who I was? Was the cost of my success worth it? Can I change? Do I want to? As well-worn as his addictions and his us-against-the-world bond with his daughter Hailie were as subjects for his songs, he’s never sounded as genuinely vulnerable as he does on “Castle” and “Arose.” The former is structured as three letters written over the course of Hailie’s childhood, leading up to the Christmas Eve overdose that almost cost him his life; “Arose” finds him imagining that he can rewind time and throw the pills away instead—knowing, of course, that it’s all just another daydream. Rap didn’t have precedents for an album as self-questioning, and as self-lacerating, as this one. Get to the end of Revival, and you come out wishing him peace.

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