Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Music Theory: Eminem Past and Present

-Just last week I downloaded the free release of Eminem's somewhat-hard-to-find first album Invincible, and today Em's long awaited Relapse hit record stores, so I turned to my good chum and resident unassuming hip-hop expert Baby-K for his take on the new disc. Check the review after the jump
After a five year hiatus, Eminem drops “Relapse” today. This is the first of two albums by the artist to hit shelves this year. The second, titled “Relapse 2”, should drop in the fall or winter of this year.
-Unlike his past CD's, “Relapse” is a more mature CD for Eminem. Sure the album is not without Eminem's classic shock value skits and lyrics, but overall it's a step forward for Marshall Mathers both lyrically, technically, and personally.
-The album was originally scheduled to drop sometime before Christmas 2008. After going into the studio with Dr. Dre to work on some tracks together just before then, a task that was originally supposed to take a few days, Mathers And Dre ended up staying in the studio for six months, effectively delaying the release of “Relapse”. As a result of this extended studio stay, Eminem purportedly has now recorded around a hundred tracks with Dre. “Relapse” features fifteen tracks from these efforts and five skits.
-Most of the lyrical content deals with his personal battle of overcoming his prescription pill addiction as well as the death of his close friend and rapper “Proof”. Tracks such as Hello, Underground/Ken Kaniff, and Deja Vu all deal specifically with his difficulty staying sober. On Hello he makes a reference to the track My Name Is off “The Slim Shady LP” (1999), reintroducing himself to the world yet again. Slim Shady is back on this track, and the next two songs, Tonya (Skit) and Same Song & Dance, feature his evil deeds. This is Eminem showing the world he's a different, more mature artist than when he first made it big, but that he hasn't changed too much (hence the reappearance of Slim). 
-Technicality-wise, songs such as 3am and Stay Wide Awake make Lil' Wayne look like exactly what he is – not the best rapper alive. Eminem has adopted a somewhat quicker, more lyric infused flow style consisting of staccato-y (not a word), trance-like verses and hooks. He also returns to his roots on this album by having Dre produce all but one song (which was produced by Eminem himself), and lay down all the beats for the album. These changes and improvements have produced an album that is set apart from his previous ventures, one that speaks volumes while the other's spoke chapters.
-If one were to base their opinion of the album on the released singles We Made You and Crack A Bottle (Ft. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent), both of which are an embarrassment to the album and completely out of place, were terrible choices for singles. These tracks are classic radio-jam-filled, catchy hook blaring, terribleness (another made up word). Lyrical contributions from Dre (amazing) and 50 (not as amazing) on Crack A Bottle barely make up for the annoyingly repetitive, catchy hook and the drab beat. If you want to hear a good Eminem + Dre song on this album, listen to Old Time's Sake ft. Dr. Dre instead.
-The album itself is nothing like these two singles. It is essentially classic Eminem, with him rapping about some of the same things from previous albums and dissing on celebrities, but he also brings in new, more personal elements. It's refreshing to see (rather, hear) and artist taking responsibility for his actions and graphically displaying how difficult and life-ruining the consequences of those choices can be.
-Best lyrical flows go to Stay Wide Awake, Beautiful, and Underground/Ken Kaniff. Best beats go to Bagpipes in Baghdad (think old-schoolish Dre G-funk with an Arabic flair), Hello (purely for the bass – get your 12's ready), Same Song & Dance, and Must Be The Ganja. Yes, I just listed half of all the songs on this album. That's because the majority of this CD is knockin'. It's Dre-beats + Eminem! The album is in stores now, so go grab it and listen for yourself.
⁃ Kurt Aagard

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