The knock against the Relapse, according to some reviews I’ve read, is that Eminem spends the entire album talking about how people are gonna hate him for what he’s saying, but he doesn’t really say anything he hasn’t already said 10 years ago.
And yet, opinion on Relapse seems to be split more so than on any other Eminem album – even the godawful Encore. Some people love it, and some people can’t stand it. The people who can’t stand it generally claim that his shtick has grown tired, but I wonder if they’re really just offended, and they don’t want to admit it.
The thing is, it’s been going on 10 years now since Eminem’s late ’90s/early ’00s heyday. If you were a kid back then, you’re a grown ass man now. If you were grown back then, you’re fucking old. I could see how a lot of people who were feeling Eminem back in the day might not have any time for him 10 years after the fact. Take for example Combat Jack, who listened to like half of Relapse, and was like, “You know what? Fuck this album. I’m a grown ass man with kids and a mortgage.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe his kids came in the room while he was listening to that song about how Em’s stepdad used to take him out in the woods and eff him in the a.
I still remember the day back in the late ’90s when my old man came up to me and asked me about the song with the white guy talking about how his mom couldn’t breastfeed him because she didn’t have any cans. Granted, I was about 18 at the time, and I guess I’ve never been known for my delicate sensibility. There might be something about living in the suburbs that causes you to look for opportunities to be offended. I remember that same year the two of us watched the movie Happiness together and yucked it up. No fishsticks.
(Sidebar: I heard “My Name Is” the other day on Shade 45, which plays nothing but Eminem now, and I was reminded of how ruined the bowdlerized version was. It’s a wonder it ever became such a big hit.)
Probably more so than most people, I’m pretty much the same man today as I was 10 years ago. I don’t have any kids or anything. I used to sit in a basement and watch TV when I wasn’t at school, now I sit in a basement and watch TV when I’m not busting a shift at the BGM. I actually turn it off while I’m working on posts for this site, just because it takes less time that way, and XXL likes to have this shit up early in the afternoon.
When I saw the video for “We Made You” (which, if you notice, never did set the world on fire), I was all prepared to hate Relapse. Em was making a lot of pop culture references that weren’t very current, and I figured it was because he’s staring down 40, and he just has no idea what’s going on in the world. But once I actually sat down and listened to the album, I was taken aback. Yeah, Em’s doing basically the same thing he’s been doing. But he’s ratcheted up the intensity like 1,000 percent. Even I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the shit he was saying. It was awesome!
I’m at a loss for how people can’t appreciate Relapse, if only for the sheer amount of creativity on display. My guess is that a lot of the people who are hating on it are really just offended, but they don’t want to cop to it, because that would make them feel old. I’m sure it is difficult to listen to songs about kids being forced to eat valium and blow old men and what have you, when you’ve got kids of your own. But that doesn’t mean the song isn’t any good. That just means you’ve gotten soft.