:: Article

Eminem’s Relapse

By Graham Rae.

Relapse, May 2009, Interscope Records.


(Pre:lapse – I wrote this last year, after listening to Relapse for just two daze. It has never been published before. I am putting it out for public consumption now because there is meant to be a Relapse 2 coming out eventually, and I still like the piece. I haven’t listened to the album but a half-handful of times since I wrote this article; most of the record is shite, and I have resisted the urge to update this by talking about stuff like how Eminem throws you out of ostensibly ‘serious’ (sniggers with attitude) horrorcore songs with crap about Star Wars (obviously a childhood fave film) characters and whatnot. Wordsworthwise it’s not worth wasting any moron. Which I think basically says all you have to know, so let’s go and see where the flow goes…)

“I’ve been trying to figure something in my head, and maybe you can help me out, yeah? When a person is insane, as you clearly are, do you know that you’re insane? Maybe you’re just sitting around, reading Guns and Ammo, masturbating in your own feces, do you just stop and go, ‘Wow! It is amazing how fucking crazy I really am!’ Yeah. Do you guys do that?” – Brad Pitt in Se7en.

Let’s face it, rap is the most conservative musical force on the planet. It’s the American Wet Dream writ large: nothing but booty and bitches and bling and bullets and 40s and jeers and sneers and sports cars and lowslung pants and grabbing crotches and gold grillz and barely-sentient untalented nouveau riche trash flashing piles of cash. And rappers are some of the most stupid people in the music industry, which is an incredibly difficult thing in a circus full of untalented malfunctioning misfits and cokesnorter egomaniacs.

I mean, just recently some guy called Dolla, as he was billed (never heard of him until I saw the headline on AOL), was shot in the head dead in a Beverly Hills shopping mall. I’ll repeat that, slowly, in case you missed it the first time: a Beverly. Hills. Shopping. Mall. I mean, how is that even fucking possible? It’s a chi-chi chic chick up-market mark-up area full of botoxed women walking poodles on gold leashes and staring at themselves in overpriced store windows (least it was in Beverly Hills Cop, my main frame of reference). How the fuck can you get killed there? Only a rapper could accomplish such a ridiculous, and on one surreal level bizarrely hilarious, defeat-feat. Rap started off singing about social injustice and not having any money or opportunities. Now it just goes on about getting shot and getting laid and getting stoned and having more money than sense, having come fool circle jerk. It truly has gone beyond satire into farce.

And on the dark side of the farce we have Marshall Slim Eminem Shady Mathers, or whatever he feels like calling himself this week (I bought the new album two daze ago, so he may well be somebody new already). He’s a man who has dragged the private parts of his Jerry Springer-alike life (don’t recoil, don’t worry, I don’t even have to recap or recall for you, you know bits of it even if you don’t care at all about the man and his rise and fall and rise, picking it up by electronic osmosis) through the media, and was single-handedly responsible for trying to get the Hallmarketed holiday of Mother’s Day banned in America. He’s been out of the slimelight for a few years, during which time he hit the bottom of the barrel and the bottom of the bitter battle with bottle and barrel and pills and powders you can snort or swallow. His best friend DeShaun Dupree Holton, aka Proof, was shot and killed in a nightclub altercation, as, erm, proof (pity he wasn’t bulletProof)(sorry)(if Eminem can mock unfortunate people like Christopher Reeve constantly, well, what’s good for the goose…) why you should never go out in public with somebody who lives and dies by the word-sword. Or gun. But you don’t get a word-gun unless it’s a wordSmith & Wesson. Anyway. Stopping and stepping away from that sidestep. Least getting killed in a nightclub fight is somewhat more feasible than dying amid frightened diarrhea-spurting poodles and pampered Ellay screaming bland bloodspattered dyed blondes.

Re:lapse. Wee Marshall is back with a new splatter-rap platter, and it’s a bleak black burnt offering from the far side of the twelve steps indeed. They tried to make him go to rehab and he said yeah yeah yeah, and now he’s out and about and all better now and about to let it all out on record. He’s better physically at least. Mentally his tell-tale tally is…well, he’s mental man, has tall tales and mental tolls taken to tell, records to sell, Hell to dwell in, funeral bells to toll, psychosis to shell out, shellshock to shockingly schlockingly exploit and explore, myths about him being even a vaguely sane human being to erode and explode, cos he’s forgotten what being human is all about sanity-wise. I can scarcely believe that Relapse (see, the album’s about his drug abuse)(and he’s prolapsed, sorry, relapsed, into being his old Slim Shady character assassin)(it’s a deep dark concept album ya see, that put the con in concept) has been put out by a major record label cos it’s such a deeply mentally unstable table of contents and discontents and disease that it belongs more in a sing-song psycho-psyche ward than having screamagers dance and drink and fight and fuck to it.

After being out of the public disservice announcement eye for a few years and sitting pissing and moaning and drinking and drugging his life away, obviously Mathers matters got pretty bleak for the wee geek turned rap-hero freak. He got straight got irate and I rate his return here as part rerun of old hunts and haunts old bold lyrical and sonic crime scenes and part obscene pathetic sociopath repressed homosexual pathology path. See, Slim Shady is now Buffalo Bill the chilling thriller killer from Silence of the Lambs, whose fictional mental thrillness obviously struck some sort of deep verve-serving nerve deserving urinalysis in the artist under dis-cuss-ion here. The whole album is just fool of don’t-want-a-schlong songs about the sexually confused Slim picking up and pissing on women and killing them, dancing around and about and out of his mind(less) wearing women’s clothes and their skins, female genital trauma and a mentally ill shrill kill-kill-kill illogical fear of anything gynecologic, self-loathing, gender agenda confusion, homophobia and repressed depressed homosexuality; shit, a sort of greatest hits of hot shots of madness and horror and psychosis. Sample leeric: “…homosexual dissector/come again, rewind selector/I said nice rectum, I had a vasectomy Hector/so you can’t get pregnant if I bi-sexually wreck ya/Hannibal Lecter in the guy section I betcha”. I suppose if you are doing nothing but navel-gazing wrecked for a few years with bad shit happening to you and your friends, you’re not going to come out of the other end of it in a good mental state. Putting it mildly.

What the whole wrong-to-sing-song-along album basically plays out as is as a Norman Bates mammajamma-psychodrama, replete with the use of child abuse as a vice-plot device. In the deranged demented song “Insane”, Slim Shady and Mather’s ‘normal’ side battle it out during a horrible could-be cathartic art-telling of a vile evil story about ‘Shady’s’ abuse by his stepfather as a poor innocent child. It’s a fragmented enraged terrifying song lyrically, with the two (or three) sides of Mathers frighteningly fighting it out to replay-relay-or-not the tale in broad adult daylight: “I want you to feel me like my stepfather felt me/fuck a little puppy kick the puppy while he’s yelping/Shady what the fuck you saying? I don’t know help me/what the fuck’s happening? I think I’m fucking melting/”Marshall I just love you boy I care about your well being”/no dad I said no, I don’t need no help peeing, I’m a big boy I can do it by myself see”.” This is one of the most deranged, disturbing and, yes, insane songs I think I have ever heard in my life (except for every song of GG Allin’s). It’s like a confession torn from a torn soul torn between wanting to tell and not to tell that is the question, whether it’s nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous American psycho idoldom and keep quiet about this scary scarmaking starmaker stuff, or let it blurt as Lester Bangs put it; Marsh-all or nothing. A line about him hanging himself after the sort-of alleged abuse (excuse the pun) ties it to a similar line in My Name Is about him hanging himself as a child, and ties in with his going on about tying people up in general over his albums. If this is reel and not real, the man here is a maniac. Even if it is real, the man is a maniac, and either way he needs psychiatric help or to be institutionalized, not to put too fine a spin on it. Insane really raises a lot of real problems and questions I would realistically leave to his mother Debbie Mathers/Nelson (whose real first name is used in the song) and her lawyers.

Relapse is the depressing and disturbing and disgusting gravefiller ravings of a madman. I confess after I headshakingly heard this Insane could-be confession I immediately thought of dissociative personality disorder, associating it with the Mathers blathers here. This is the condition where a person who has suffered a terrible trauma in their early life constructs an alter ego or another personality to deal with the brain-pain that would otherwise drive them insane, and I thought of Slim Shady, and I thought of Eminem, and my mind wandered a bit and I wondered idly about this. I wander-wondered also about the serial killer motif and motive on gay-lay-and-slay play-display on this album and thought about the head trauma Mathers suffered as a youth, a ‘slight cerebral hemorrhage’ as his mother quantified it. A lot of serial killers have suffered head traumas damaging their brains and their ability to function properly mentally.

And yes, I may well be talking rap-crap here, I acknowledge and have knowledge of this. But this album is the only one by a major artist I have ever encountered where you could think this shit about it. Who else would paint themselves as a transvestite sexually confused rapist and woman-murderer (who hilariously has wasted one night stands and worries about having used a condom or not – I would have thought dis-ease over sexually transmitted diseases would be the last problem Shady had after murdering women he picked up, though the fear of disease from dirty females riff is interesting) who wants to have sex with men, ‘confessing’ to being abused as a child whilst obsessing about real-and-reel-life serial killers and their instructive destructive modus operandi? Marshall Mathers, whose Slim Shady is of course an erection-projection of his own personality, clearly has a hard-on for serial murder and absolutely despises women, there can be no bones (or wilted I-hate-female boners) about that now, if there ever even were before. Misogyny and female murder and trash-horror obsession has always been present in his work, but never to this well-picked-over sick degree. He’s come out of a dark life-place and spewed this vicious vitriolic disgrace of an album on his unsuspecting fanatic fans, who may well have expected something slightly more lighthearted after listening to the excellent Amy Winehouse-alike single from the thing, “We Made You”.

But then ironically it just transpires that that song (“the enforcer looking for more women to torture”) was just an opening into the celeb-and-sanity trashing-and-slashing depths of the works as a whole. Mathers slips in and out of mad bad Slim mood and mode as he excitedly finger-paints in viscera and excrement, seemingly hardly able to differentiate himself between altered mental states, painting hackle-raising sick pics of ‘himself’ as a serial murderer mutilating the wasted druggie celebs (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears) he relates to and hates himself for being attracted to; after all, if you’ve been burned by real women in real life, media figures can be an outlet for female fantasy, even if those fantasies unfortunately end up in rape and murder. An album of famous stalker murder frottage-fetish fantasies a la J.G. Ballard’s Crash, well shit, you have to admit, that’s a new one and too late to stop it going out now. Guess it’s just as well that Slim Mathers (maybe he could call his post-coming-out persona Feminem) has art to take all this out on. He just seems way too deep into the thing as a holedigger whole lotta closet-skeleton shaking going on. He either needs gender reassignment or agenda reassignment. And we haven‘t even really touched on the sickman Freud Oedipal aspects of the album. Wee Marshall is back to obsessing over his put-upon loved-and-hated mother Debbie again in this work, and painting himself as a cross-dressing wannabe-female Buffalo Bill/Norman Bates/Ed Gein type is weird coming from somebody singing words like “I’m my mom” and “Never knew I could remind myself so much of my mom.” I really could reel in loads of this stupit shit to spit but, well, why bother? You get the idea I’m sure. Wonder if the man himself is even aware that he’s named one of the predator-raped-and-murdered victims on the album Tonya, which clearly comes from Tanya, his mother’s sister. Wonder if the sisters look alike. You catch my drift.

As well as a coupla cliched party-hearty anthems, the album has a couple of sane-ish songs from Mathers bemoaning his lonely fate as a superstar. But they’re pathetic and hysterical and boring and annoyingly self-pitying and don’t fit this thesis, so let’s move swiftly along. Nothing worse than hearing rich people bemoan their affluent fate, after all.

If I am to take a step back and stop speaking in a bouncing manner, I could be super cynical as sin here and say well, this album is from a man who knows he has been out of the game for a while and needed to make a splash when he jumped back into the big easy-drown sonic whirlpool. It’s easy to think like that – after all, this album got a major release and he’s doing a lot of promo for it. It would be easy to write it off as sleazy sick adolescent traumas and dramas and posturing from a man who knows how the industry works and what the fans like from him, though I think he may well find he’s pushed it too far this time. Time and sales will tell. He asked Dr. Dre what he thought Eminem fans wanted from him now. “People want to hear you lose your fuckin’ mind again,” as Mathers noted in an interview in the June 2009 issue of XXL magazine. “Not only does Relapse mean coming out of rehab, but I wanted to go back to Proof’s idea of ‘Let’s just say the most fucked-up shit that we can.’ So I’ve kinda gone back to that direction.” You could say that this is not exactly the most artistically pure way of doing things, but Em was always a cynical bastard anyway: “Dre told me to milk this shit for what it’s worth,” as he put it on The Eminem Show. He may be mad, but he’s not crazy. He certainly hasn’t grown up any on this album, has in fact, well, relapsed into his old ways and demeans, but if somebody suffers traumas that permanently retard them at a past point in their life you can’t expect much artistic evolution. At 36 he’s not old enough to know better, and probably never will be.

So you could say that this album is one big deluxe acid-pie in the face of the fans and the industry and critics, a big twisted fuck you to us all. And you could say the scream-of-consciousness way that Mathers sings and slings and strings things together (sorry, promised I’d stop that) is interesting in an almost William S Burroughs cut-up way: he just free-associates and says whatever insane-cum-stupid-and-boring asshole Rorschach shit comes out (often involving extreme violence against women, mutilated women, deformed women, and gay women), and sometimes it bounces quite nasty-tasty-nicely. But this album is ultimately no fun, and way too dark for the fans to relate to, except the xenophobic sociopath idiot types who masturbated to worthless Abu Ghraib-inspired torture porn like Hostel and Turistas. I personally think Relapse is fascinating from an aberrant psychology point(less) of view, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders set against a backbreakbeat, madness flawlessly self(un)consciously explored, Mathers masturbating to mammy and Guns and Ammo…and getting well paid to do it. Wonder how much damage he has done to his brain with drugs. And how serious am I about these abusive musings? Let’s just say I’m as serious about this conjecture as Mathers is himself about the material on it. How’s that for scam Slim-slam shambiguity? Bearing in mind, of course, that he said the following in a recent interview: “The way a serial killer’s mind works, just the psychology of them, is pretty fucking crazy. I was definitely inspired by that, but most of that imagery came from my own mind.”

Conclusion: draw your own conclusion.

What did I think of the music? Oh…eh…sorry, I don’t know. Too busy listening to the words over the last two daze, and thinking about them here and there at work in down periods; distracted, for obvious reasons. Maybe I’ll talk about the sonics next time, cos Eminem is promising this is going to be a double album. Hooray. Bring it on. The world needs more celebrity murder fantasies and mother lust and sexual confusion. The funny thing is that in his recent book The Way I Am, Mathers had what seemed like a pang of conscience and (don’t tell the fans) sanity about the whole ‘insane misogyny’ thing. He was talking about his previous songs and about his 13 year-old daughter Hailie Jade and what she would think when she heard them, and said that he just wasn’t thinking about that when he wrote them. That was obviously before her dad painted himself as Ed Gein on Relapse. I bet she can’t wait for the next album to come out. I await her book and/or insane records and drug addiction with baited breath.

You know, I know it’s the done thing to just yawn boredly at every atrocity exhibition we are subjected to in whatever form these daze, seemingly unshockable and onscreen-obscene-seen-it-all-or-nothing. But I think worthless lyrical and thematic material like this piss at least deserves mentioning in passing, if only for its madness and how little fuss is made of this sort of thing in this day and rage. The kids just yawn and say that it’s just Eminem being Slim again and it’s just gross and kinda funny, too young to understand the fundamentally mental mentality proudly on insane display-for-pay here, a madman feeding unfeeling us his sexual murder fantasies for fun and profit and loss of our minds. Tomorrow some thing else will be along to replace it, and Eminem will be forgotten about. That’s the good and bad and ugly thing about living in an amoral fast-forward society like we do today. Today’s pathology is tomorrow’s norm, if such a thing as the norm even exists anymore or ever did, and the madness that enters our electric-sunblind-minds will be washed out of it by endless crashing electronic waves upon waves upon waves of lust-and-disgust-and-distrust brain-rust stimulus from all directions at all hours, bringing us new news from our disintegration as human beings. And in time we’ll just grow totally numb to it all, if we haven’t already, none of it will hurt or matter anymore, and we’ll greet Slim Shady like an old friend as the fiend comes towards us with his noose with murder and music in mind. After all, to quote Divine in the excellent crime-as-art John Waters movie Female Trouble:

“Who wants to die for art?”

See Marshall Mathers for details.



Graham is suffering a no-life crisis.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010.