Relapse (Deluxe Version)
The first verse on 2009’s Relapse starts with the line, “You’re walkin’ down a horror corridor/It’s almost four in the mornin’ and you’re in a/Nightmare, it’s horrible.” Typical Eminem scenario. But students of rap history might also hear it as a sly allusion to horrorcore, a short-lived subgenre characterized by rappers saying the most extreme, violent, and generally unpalatable stuff possible. An artist with this many murder fantasies under his belt has a high bar to clear here, and Eminem does so energetically, whether it’s the image of him playing ping-pong with his own eyeball on “Insane,” or the unprintable details of his plans for the “two brain-dead lesbian vegetables” on “Bagpipes From Bagdad.” He’s sick—sick, he tells ya! However ugly Eminem’s thoughts, they had nothing on real life. He later said his pill addiction had gotten so severe that, in the months following a 2007 overdose, he had to relearn how to rap the way, say, a stroke victim might have to relearn how to talk. (His manager, Paul Rosenberg, went a step further, asking doctors if he’d suffered permanent brain damage.) A grim image. But on the other hand, a strangely hopeful one: “I remember when I first got sober and all the shit was out of my system,” he told Rosenberg on a podcast several years later. “I remember just being, like, really happy. And everything was fucking new to me again.” With Relapse, the sweeping societal indictments and grave self-examinations were paused to make room for strangling Lindsay Lohan with an extension cord (“Same Song & Dance”) and venting yet more hatred for the mother that, according to Em, got him interested in drugs in the first place (“My Mom”). The relapse wasn’t the pills—it was Slim Shady.