Slim Shady Is Back

Whether you hate him, love him, or don’t understand him, you can’t deny that Eminem is on top of the rap world.  The emcee formerly known as Marshall Mathers III is about to unleash his seventh studio album, Recovery, on the world, an the album is being met with fierce  – and completely justified — anticipation.  The album, is the follow up to 2009′s Relapse, which ended a five year period of silence from Eminem as he struggled with writer’s block and addiction.

Recovery is due to be released June 22, although the first single, “Not Afraid,” was released April 29 and debuted at the top spot on the Billboard charts.  Judging by the rest of the album, there’s a good chance you’ll see Recovery hitting number one as well.

The first track, “Cold Wind Blows,” finds Eminem asking, “Is it that time again?”  For fans, it’s been a long enough wait already, so it’s definitely time for some more MMIII material.  Eminem doesn’t waste any time getting back into his usual game, with smart social commentary — name-dropping Michael Vick in no time — and loading his lyrics with self-deprecating humor.  As he confesses in the chorus, Eminem is “as cold as the cold wind blows, when it snows and it’s 20 below.”   The beat in this track is extremely catchy and keeps things moving along.

“Talkin’ 2 Myself”, follows and features contributions from Kobe and a great guitar backing that sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er.”  Eminem opens up on this one, admitting he “almost made a song dissing Lil’ Wayne, it’s like I was jealous of him…I felt horrible about myself.”  It’s not just a self-wallowing track though, Eminem speaks about his problems but tries to inspire others, saying, “Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, do something about it — admit you’ve got a problem, your brain is clouded,  you’ve pouted long enough.”

The next track, “On Fire,” begins with Eminem complaining about the lack of compassion shown by critics and he goes on to talk about his problems.  But he’s not without a sense of humor, quipping, “I just put a bullsh*t hook in between two long-ass verses if you mistook this for a song,” before calling out Brooke Hogan and David Cook and saying that the song is a warning.  Eminem offers some great imagery in the track as well, calling himself “lightning in the skillet,” while others are a “flash in the pan” that “scatter like hot grease.”

The instrumentals on “Won’t Back Down” sounds like it could have come from Lil’ Wayne’s Rebirth, with some heavily distorted guitar and driving drums.  Eminem keeps the pace high on this one, rolling with the rhythm like only he can.  Pink offers some slick vocals on the choruses to give Em some time to catch his breath.  This track also features an example of what some people love and some hate about Eminem — he fires off a very clever, but potentially highly offensive, metaphor involving Michael J. Fox and an Etch-A-Sketch.  Then again, if you can’t take a joke, then you probably shouldn’t be listening to Eminem anyway.  Another solid track here.

“W.T.P” is another one full of fun and games — the acronym stands for ‘White Trash Party’, and Eminem spends the entire track poking fun at the particular brand of society that enjoys tramp stamps and saying “aks” instead of “ask.”  Eminem captures the culture perfectly and hilariously, noting that “they call me the Stephon Marbury of rap darling, ’cause as soon as they throw in some R. Kelly I start ballin’”.  Extra points for mentioning Denny’s, Kenny from South Park and “getting rowdy” in his minivan.

“Going Through Changes,” which includes a sample of Black Sabbath’s “Changes”, is another track that finds Eminem opening up and sharing his inner demons.  He wonders why “I act like I’m all high and mighty when inside I’m dying,” and admits that considered suicide.  Even with the weighty emotional matters, Eminem’s delivery is right on the money, and the backing track of acoustic guitar works extremely well on this track.

The next track, “Not Afraid,” was a solid choice for the album’s first single, as it’s a track full of defiance that also expresses Eminem’s dedication to his fans.  He announces that he’s “not playing around” and that “it’s time to exorcise these demons.”  Eminem even does some singing on this one, and overall it’s one of the album’s stronger tracks.

“Seduction” finds Eminem arguing that his rapping skills are a great way to steal your girlfriend.  The beat here is slow and deliberate, and Eminem makes a pretty convincing case.  If you thought Em was skilled at putting together rhymes when the beat is quick, then you’ll be impressed at the thoughts and flow that he can produce with a little more breathing room.

Lil’ Wayne drops in to assist Eminem on “No Love,” which samples the classic, corny “What is Love?” Wayne delivers on his usual high skill level, with rhymes such as, “Married to the game, but she broke her vows, that’s why my bars are full of broken bars and my nightstands are full of open bibles.”  The laid back delivery of Lil’ Wayne is a great contrast to the energy and enthusiasm flowing out of Eminem on this track, making one you won’t be able to help putting on repeat.  You’ll never be able to listen to “What is Love?” without thinking of this track again.

“Space Bound” drops in some slow acoustic guitar, but Eminem doesn’t let that slow his flow, warning, “if I get burnt, I’ma show you what it’s like to hurt cause I’ve been treated like dirt before ya, love is evil — spell it backwards, I’ll show ya.”  This isn’t one of the strongest tracks on Recovery, but it’s still solid and explores a bit of a different sound.

The backing beat in “Cinderella Man” feels a little bare, and while Eminem spits as furious as ever, the track seems a bit weak.  However, the lyrics are still strong, and when Eminem asks, “who raps circles around square lyricists?”, there’s no question as to what the answer is.

“25 to Life” is another slow, acoustic burner, with Eminem talking about being underappreciated in the rap scene.  The lyrics are relatable for those in relationships, though, with lines such as, “Always in a rush to get back to you, I ain’t heard you yet not even once say you appreciate me….I’ve done my best to give you nothing less than perfectness.”  This is a great ballad for those struggling for respect, and you can tell Eminem pours out his heart here.

The Dre-produced “So Bad” has a great beat and some more solid rapping.  Eminem does plenty of self-promotion in this one, but he’s on the top of his game on this track so there’s no need to question how he gets away with it.  As the chorus says, “So bad — I’m so good that I’m so bad, I guarantee I’ll be the greatest thing you ever had.”

“Almost Famous” is tight, intense and loud — and is the best track on the album.  The song has a great hook, an atomic bomb blast of energy and plenty of slick rhymes.  Eminem doesn’t keep listeners waiting long for hilarious lines, saying, “They call me Slim Roethlisberger, I go beserker than a fed-up post-office worker.”  This track is flawless, and it’s so catchy you’ll be singing alone before you even know the words.

The next track, “Love the Way You Lie,” brings the tempo back down, with some nice piano and impressive vocals from Rihanna.  This is another heart-breaking relationship narrative, with Eminem describing a relationship that “when it’s going good, it’s going great, I’m Superman with the wind at his back, she’s Lois Lane.”  Unfortunately, “when it’s bad, it’s awful.”  He offers some more insight as he observes, “you don’t get another chance, life is no Nintendo game.”

“You’re Never Over” is another solid track, with Eminem singing, “You may be gone, but you’re never over,” a reference to the memories he has for his fallen friend Proof. In the tracks, he professes wanting to “write the sickest rhyme of my life, so sick it’ll blow up the mics, put the dyna in mite,” but listening to this one, it’s hard to find anything to complain about.

There’s also a hidden track…but I’m not going to spoil all of the surprises for you.  It shouldn’t disappoint though, so don’t worry.