|Studio album by Eminem|
|Released||May 15, 2009
(see release history)
54 Sound, Effigy Studios
KDS Music Studios, Phantom City Studios
Record One Studios
(Sherman Oaks, California)
Studio at the Palms
(Las Vegas, Nevada)
|Producer||Dr. Dre (also exec.), Eminem, Dawaun Parker, Mark Batson, Trevor Lawrence, Doc Ish, Boi-1da|
|Relapse: Refill cover|
|Singles from Relapse|
Relapse is the sixth studio album by American rapper Eminem, released May 15, 2009, on Interscope Records. It is his first album of original material since Encore (2004), following a five-year hiatus from recording due to his addiction to sleeping pills and issues with writer's block. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2007 to 2009 at several recording studios, and production was handled primarily by Dr. Dre, Mark Batson, and Eminem. Conceptually, Relapse concerns the ending of his drug rehabilitation, rapping after a fictional relapse, and the return of his Slim Shady alter-ego.
The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 608,000 copies in its first week. One of the most anticipated album releases of 2009, it ultimately sold over 1.8 million copies in the United States and spawned three singles that attained chart success. Upon its release, Relapse received generally mixed reviews from most music critics, who were mostly divided in their responses towards Eminem's lyrics and themes. It earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards.
Since 2005, Eminem had intended to take a break from recording his own music in order to become a hip hop producer for other rap acts, especially for the artists signed on his own label Shady Records. However, Eminem entered his hiatus after cancelling the European leg of the Anger Management Tour in the summer of 2005 due to exhaustion and an addiction to sleeping pills. In the following year, the rapper's remarriage to his former wife Kimberly Scott lasted only eleven weeks before a second divorce, while his closest friend and fellow rapper DeShaun "Proof" Holton was later shot and killed during an altercation outside a nightclub in Detroit. Devastated by this, Eminem relapsed into prescription drugs and became increasingly reclusive. In a June 2009 interview for XXL, Eminem elaborated on the impact of Proof's death on him, stating:
Everyone felt [Proof's] loss, from his kids, to his wife, to everyone. But, for some reason, in hindsight, the way I felt was almost like it happened to just me… Maybe at the time I was a little bit selfish with it. I think it kind of hit me so hard. It just blindsided me. I just went into such a dark place that, with everything, the drugs, my thoughts, everything. And the more drugs I consumed, and it was all depressants I was taking, the more depressed I became, the more self-loathing I became…—Eminem
Speculation on an upcoming album by Eminem was reported since mid–2007 from announcements made by artists 50 Cent and Stat Quo, a current and former member of Shady Records respectively. Also, rapper Bizarre—member of the hip hop group D12—stated that the release of the group's third studio album was on hold because Interscope Records wanted to release Eminem's album first. By the end of the year, additional musicians associated with Shady Records, including The Alchemist, Bishop Lamont, Cashis and Obie Trice had confirmed on different occasions that the rapper was effectively working on a new album. On September 12, 2007, during a call at the radio station WQHT Hot 97, Eminem stated that he was in limbo and was not sure whether he would release any new material in the near future. The rapper then elaborated that at that point he was constantly working in the recording studio and was happy he had come to terms with his personal issues. In December 2007, however, Eminem was hospitalized due to an overdose of methadone. In early 2008, he began the twelve-step program to recover from his addiction and, according to himself, has been sober from April 20, 2008.
In the initial recording stages of Relapse, record producer and long-time Detroit collaborator Jeff Bass of the Bass Brothers worked with Eminem on twenty-five tracks, for two years after the rapper had received treatment for his sleeping pill-addiction in 2005. The death of Proof caused Eminem to fall into a period of "writer's block", where he felt everything he wrote was not worth recording. To compensate for this, Bass chose to follow a production style that would allow the artist to rap "off the top of his head, as opposed to writing a story." Eminem would then freestyle or record vocals one line at a time before interrupting and then recording another line. At the same time, according to the Eminem's song rights supervisor Joel Martin, the rapper began collecting additional songs without noticing it, as he would often record or produce material initially intended for the musical projects of other artists, but end up with tracks he really liked. "Beautiful", produced by Eminem, was the only song on Relapse that was recorded in these years while he was not sober.
Eminem purchased the Effigy Studio in Ferndale, Michigan in 2007, and ended his working relationship with much of his former production team of the 54 Sound recording studio, including the Bass Brothers. He then continued recording the album with producer Dr. Dre, who in September 2007 stated his intention to dedicate two months to the production of Relapse. Working with Dr. Dre allowed Eminem to concentrate on the processes of songwriting rather than the production, which was largely taken care of by Dre. The rapper justified his choice of using Dr. Dre for the vast majority of the production due to their long collaborative history and a musical "chemistry" only he and Dr. Dre shared. This allowed the rapper to pick the beats from Dr. Dre's catalog that challenged him rhythm-wise in order to experiment with different flows. The making of the album progressed at the Effigy Studio up to a year after, as recording sessions were then moved to Orlando, Florida in September 2008. By then, Eminem had began to start writing verses again at such a pace that he often took more time to record the lyrics than write them. He credited sobriety as the reason behind his new creative run, acknowledging that his mind was free of the clutter that "blocked" him during his drug abuse in the last years. The song-writing process would start by Dr. Dre giving a number of his beats on a CD to Eminem, who in a separate room in the studio would listen and select the ones he preferred and inspired him the most. The rapper would then write lyrics to the instrumentals, while Dr. Dre and his production staff continued to create new music. Once he felt he had written lyrics for enough songs, Eminem would dedicate an entire day to record his songs to the point that he would lose his voice for the following days. At that point, the rapper would then begin to write lyrics for new songs. The process continued for the next six months, and allowed Eminem to have enough material also for a second album, Relapse 2.
During this recording period, a handful of songs intended for Relapse were leaked on the Internet, including an incomplete version of "Crack a Bottle". The song was then finished in January 2009 with additional vocals from Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. Despite the leak, in February 2009 the album was being completed in a state of near-total secrecy, according to the British newspaper The Independent. Even Polydor Records, the multinational owner of Interscope, had no information on the album at the time. On April 23, Eminem suggested he and possibly Dr. Dre were the only ones in possession of the final copy of Relapse, while his manager Paul Rosenberg added that even Eminem's record labels were not in possession of the music at less than one month from the release date in order to prevent possible bootlegging.
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In an interview for XXL, Eminem described the concept behind Relapse to be the ending of his drug rehabilitation and thus rap as if he was on drugs again, as well as the return of his fictional "crazy" alter-ego Slim Shady. According to the interviewer Datwon Thomas, Eminem's influences for the album came from his own past drug issues, as well as television shows and documentaries involving crime and serial killers, as the rapper was fascinated by "serial killers and their psyche and their mind states". In a May 2009 interview for The New York Times, Eminem discussed his view of serial killers, stating:
You listen to these people talk, or you see them, they look so regular. What does a serial killer look like? He don’t look like anything. He looks like you. You could be living next door to one. If I lived next door to you, you could be [one].—Eminem
Relapse opens with the skit "Dr. West", where actor Dominic West voices a drugs counselor whose lack of trustworthiness causes Eminem to fall back to drugs and the return to his Slim Shady madman character. The skit leads to "3 a.m.", where Eminem depicts himself as a psychotic serial killer during a spring of homicides at late-night. When "3 a.m." was released as a single prior to the album's own release, Eminem noted that the song closely mirrored what he believed was the overall dark tone of the album. On "My Mom", the rapper traces his addictive tendencies to his mother, and thus to have turned out to be a drug addict just as her. Eminem continues his family tales on "Insane", where he imagines himself as a victim of child molestation. For Eminem, the goal of "Insane" was to make song that would disgust the listeners and "make them puke", adding that he came up with this idea after thinking of the song's first line ("I was born with a dick in my brain/Yeah, fucked in the head"). His alleged former-girlfriend Mariah Carey along her current husband Nick Cannon are targeted in "Bagpipes from Baghdad", where Eminem raps over a pungi loop. After "Hello", where Eminem re-introduces himself after years of being absent "mentally", the rapper continues his violent fantasies on "Same Song & Dance", where he abducts and murders Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. The upbeat rhythm of "Same Song & Dance" reminded Eminem of a dance track, which inspired him to write something in order to "get women to dance to it and not really know what the fuck they're dancing to" without listening to the lyrics. On the ninth track of the album, "We Made You", Eminem mocks several celebrities and plays the role of a "pop star serial killer". Eminem noted that his various "celebrity bashings" were not meant to be seen as personal attacks, but rather it was him "picking names out of a hat" that rhymed with the words he wanted to use during the writing process. On "Medicine Ball" Eminem mocks and impersonates deceased actor Christopher Reeve, in order to get his audience to "laugh at it, and then almost feel bad for laughing". The next track is Stay Wide Awake, containing a quite eerie beat. Eminem raps about assaulting and raping women. Dr. Dre also has a guest appearance on "Old Time's Sake", a duet Eminem described as a "fun, yet reminiscent record old times" with him and Dre rapping back and forth between each other. The song is followed by "Must Be the Ganja" where Eminem comes to believe that working in the recording studio is like a drug and an addiction to him.
After the skit "Mr. Mathers", where Eminem is recovered to a hospital, "Déjà Vu" addresses his overdose in 2007 and drug dependency during his hiatus from music. On the song, Eminem also explains how this has affected him in the last five years, to the point where his daughter becomes scared of her father's behavior. "Beautiful", a ballad which samples "Reaching Out" by Rock Therapy, also deals with the same time period where Eminem believed he had "reached rock bottom" and lost hope for his future. Eminem felt it was important to include "Beautiful" on the album as a reminder to himself as well as "anybody who is in a dark place […] that you can get out of it". After "Crack a Bottle", a collaboration with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, Relapse ends with "Underground". On the final track of the album, Eminem sought to bring back to his music and lyrics the subject matter and punchlines reminiscent of "The Hiphop Shop times" (The Hiphop Shop was a clothing store in Detroit where local rappers – including Eminem – would compete in freestyle battles), before he had gained notoriety and thus did not have worry about the explicit content of his lyrics. The outro of the album features the return of Ken Kaniff, an overtly gay character who had been featured in every Eminem album until Encore.
In 2007, Shady Records rapper Cashis discussed the album, referring to it by the title King Mathers, adding that it would be released later that year. However, Eminem's publicist Dennis Dennehy would later deny this, stating that "there [was] no album scheduled for a 2007 release" and that as of August 2007 there was no confirmed title either. No other official statement was made for over a year, when on September 15, 2008, at an event held by Shade 45 to celebrate the publication of Eminem's autobiography The Way I Am, the rapper confirmed his plans to release a studio album by the title of Relapse. During the party, he also previewed to the audience a song called "I'm Having a Relapse".
In regards to the album's release date, Rolling Stone wrote on the issue of October 2008 that Virgin Megastores had planned to distribute Relapse on November 27, 2008, coincidentally on Thanksgiving in the United States. On October 27, a spokesperson for Interscope explained that there was no official date at the time, and that any release dates that had been posted on any website were unfounded. In a phone conversation during the finale of Total Request Live on November 16, 2008, Eminem asserted that Relapse would be released during the first quarter of 2009, precisely during either of the first two months of the year, explaining that he was in the process of selecting the songs for the album.
Despite the leak two months before, "Crack a Bottle" was eventually released for legal paid digital download as well as a promotional single on February 2, 2009 and also reached the number one position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, while, according Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg, a music video for the song was produced and directed by Syndrome and has been released in several parts from May to early June. At the time of the release, various contradicting reports disputed whether the song would be included on Relapse. Despite the initial confusion, in a press release head label Universal Music Group eventually confirmed the single's inclusion on the album. In similar press statements, since March 5, Universal made public the regional release dates for Relapse. The album will be available as early as May 15, 2009 in Italy and the Netherlands, while it will be sold in most European countries and Brazil on May 18, and the following day also in the United States and Australia. Additionally, the record label also announced a second album by Eminem, Relapse 2, which will be released by the end of the year. Eminem explained that he and Dr. Dre had recorded a considerable amount of music and thus, by releasing two albums would allow listeners to have access to all of his music.
After the release of "Crack a Bottle", the music video of the single "We Made You" was aired on April 7, and became available for purchase a week later on April 13. The video was directed by Joseph Kahn and premiered simultaneously on several MTV channels, as well as MTV's website. On April 28, the third overall single for the album, "3 a.m.", was released once again for paid music download. A music video for "3 a.m." was directed by Syndrome and filmed in Detroit. It premiered on May 2 on Cinemax, several days after a trailer for the video was posted online. Two more singles were distributed prior to the album's release, as "Old Time's Sake" and "Beautiful" went on sale on the iTunes Store on May 5 and May 12 respectively. "My Darling" and "Careful What You Wish For" were made available upon purchase of the Premium version of the album.
Previously on April 4, 2009, Eminem was featured on CBS during the network's coverage of the 2009 NCAA Final Four, in segment where he recited the spoken word "Love Letter to Detroit". Later on the same day, the rapper inducted the hip hop group Run-D.M.C. to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Adam Graham of The Detroit News described this as "all part of the calculated promotional push" for Relapse. The rapper performed live at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards on May 31, while he appeared on the covers of hip hop magazines Vibe and XXL in their respective issues of June 2009; the second of which was created by a deal struck with Eminem and Marvel Comics, where the rapper would pose as Marvel's main vigilante The Punisher if Marvel created an issue starring him and The Punisher in order to promote Relapse. An iPhone game to accompany the album was released on May 19, 2009.
While on the Never Say Never tour, fellow group members Swifty and Kuniva (D12) along with Royce Da 5'9" stopped by KISS 100FM for a live interview and spoke on Relapse. Royce stated that the album will be a game changer, and jokingly said he might have to push his own album back 3 years after Eminem drops his. Kuniva added that D12 recorded many tracks for Relapse but wasn't sure if they would make the album or not. Swifty then confirmed that Eminem would in fact be dropping two albums in 2009, Relapse 2 following Relapse. Relapse was re-released on December 21, 2009 as Relapse: Refill, with seven bonus tracks, including the single "Forever" (originally on More Than a Game soundtrack) and "Taking My Ball" (released with DJ Hero), as well as five previously unreleased tracks. On its re-release, Eminem stated "I want to deliver more material for the fans this year like I originally planned. Hopefully these tracks on The Refill will tide the fans over until we put out Relapse 2 next year".
The album cover for Relapse was first published through Eminem's Twitter account on April 21, 2009. It illustrates a head shot of the rapper composed by a mosaic of thousands of pills. A sticker on the cover resembles a prescription drug label, on which the patient is Eminem and Dr. Dre is the prescribing doctor. Gil Kaufman of MTV News described the cover as a reference to the rapper's struggle and addiction to prescription drugs, adding that it follows Eminem's habit of displaying personal issues in his art. The album booklet and back cover follow a pill prescription design. On the backside of the booklet is a dedication to Proof, where Eminem explains that he's sober and that he tried to write a song for him, but none were good enough therefore he dedicates the whole album to him. The CD itself is meant to represent the lid on a bottle of prescription pills, grey with the big red inscription "Push Down & Turn".
|The Village Voice||(unfavorable)|
One of the most anticipated albums of 2009, Relapse was also the top-selling hip hop album of the year. Upon its release, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 608,000 copies in its first week of release. Besides the US, Relapse also managed to reach the number one spot in his first week in various other countries including Australia, France, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand, while it managed to climb into the Top-5 in many of other countries, including Germany, Italy, Finland, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. In its second week the album stayed at number one and sold a further 211,000 taking its total to 819,000 to become the fifth best-seller of the year. In the third week Relapse dropped down to number two selling another 141,000 copies taking the total sales of the album in the U.S. to 962,000 in only three weeks, Relapse dropped to number three in its fourth week selling 87,000 to push its total sales to 1,049,000 in the US. The next week, Relapse went down to number four and sold 72,000 units. In its sixth week Relapse was at the number five spot and sold another 47,000 copies, pushing its total sales to 1,169,000 in the US. Relapse dropped down to the number nine in its seventh week gaining sales of 39,000 taking its total US Sales up to 1,207,000. Relapse remained at number nine in its eight week selling a further 34,000 copies to take its total US Sales to 1,241,000. It became the best selling rap album of 2009.  The album has sold 1,875,000 copies in the United States.
Upon its release, the album received generally mixed reviews from most music critics, based on an aggregate score of 59/100 from Metacritic. Despite calling it an "impressively focused and clever work", Los Angeles Times writer Ann Powers gave it a generally mixed review and found its music "not transcendent", stating "Eminem could have pulled his music into a new category. What he presents is still powerful, but narrowly cast". NME's Louis Pattison gave Relapse a 5/10 rating and found Eminem's wordplay "wicked in the depths of its depravity", but ultimately felt that "the overriding feel is of an album just too jaded, too joyless to truly count as a return to form". In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B- rating and named it "dud of the month", indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought. At the upper level it may merely be overrated, disappointing, or dull. Down below it may be contemptible". Christgau expressed a negative response towards Eminem's lyrics and accused him of sensationalism, stating "this is not a Slim Shady album. Slim Shady had a lightness about him". The Village Voice's Theon Weber panned its sensationalist lyrics, stating "a dank echo chamber wherein he continues his "shock tactics" in pointless isolation".
Giving it 4 out of 5 stars, Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield called it a "more painful, honest and vital record", viewing it as on-par with Eminem's acclaimed third album The Eminem Show. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic described the album as "musically white-hot, dense, and dramatic" and said "his flow is so good, his wordplay so sharp, it seems churlish to wish that he addressed something other than his long-standing obsessions and demons". The Daily Telegraph lauded the album's honest way of showing Eminem's drug addiction and overuse. Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt gave it an A- rating and stated "Relapse's real resonance comes from the fragile, harrowing genius that lies behind that painted-on grin". Vibe's Benjamin Meadows-Ingram perceived the album's concept as "spotty", but praised Eminem's lyricism, writing "Em works wonders with words, expanding the boundaries of the art of rap itself ... the composition is experimental and abstract, a master toying with form". In contrast, Alan Ranta of PopMatters gave Relapse a 3/10 rating and wrote "being insane is simply not a good enough excuse to spread chauvinistic hate-speech like this, especially not when delivered in such a formulaic casing. All in all, Relapse is not much more than a brightly polished turd of old-hat hate, incompatible with the direction society is headed." Sputnikmusic's John A. Hanson gave it 1 out of 5 stars and perceived Eminem's lyrics as lacking substance. The album won at the 52nd Grammy Awards for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
|1.||"Dr. West (skit)"||Dr. Dre, Eminem||1:29|
|2.||"3 a.m."||Dr. Dre||5:19|
|3.||"My Mom"||Dr. Dre||5:19|
|5.||"Bagpipes from Baghdad"||Dr. Dre, T. Lawrence||4:43|
|6.||"Hello"||Dr. Dre, M. Batson||4:08|
|7.||"Tonya (skit)"||Dr. Dre, Eminem||0:42|
|8.||"Same Song & Dance"||Dr. Dre, D. Parker||4:06|
|9.||"We Made You"||Dr. Dre, Eminem, Doc Ish||4:29|
|10.||"Medicine Ball"||Dr. Dre, M. Batson||3:57|
|11.||"Paul (skit)"||Dr. Dre||0:19|
|12.||"Stay Wide Awake"||Dr. Dre||5:19|
|13.||"Old Time's Sake" (featuring Dr. Dre)||Dr. Dre, M. Batson||4:38|
|14.||"Must Be the Ganja"||Dr. Dre, M. Batson||4:02|
|15.||"Mr. Mathers (skit)"||Dr. Dre, Eminem||0:42|
|16.||"Déjà Vu"||Dr. Dre||4:43|
|18.||"Crack a Bottle" (featuring Dr. Dre & 50 Cent)||Dr. Dre||4:57|
|19.||"Steve Berman (skit)"||Dr. Dre||1:29|
|22.||"Careful What You Wish For"||Eminem||3:47|
|1.||"Forever" (with Drake, Kanye West & Lil Wayne)||Boi-1da||5:58|
|2.||"Hell Breaks Loose" (featuring Dr. Dre)||Dr. Dre, M. Batson||4:04|
|3.||"Buffalo Bill"||Dr. Dre, M. Batson, Eminem||3:52|
|5.||"Taking My Ball"||Dr. Dre||5:01|
|6.||"Music Box"||Dr. Dre, D. Parker, Eminem||5:05|
|7.||"Drop the Bomb on 'Em"||Dr. Dre||4:48|
|Australian Albums Chart||1||Platinum||70,000+|
|Austrian Albums Chart||2||Gold||10,000+|
|Belgium Albums Chart||1||Gold||15,000+|
|Canadian Albums Chart||1||63,826+|
|Danish Albums Chart||1|
|Dutch Albums Chart||3|
|Finnish Albums Chart||5|
|French Albums Chart||1||Gold||50,000+|
|German Albums Chart||2||Gold||100,000+|
|Greek Albums Chart||13|
|Irish Albums Chart||1|
|Italian Albums Chart||4|
|Japanese Albums Chart||1|
|Mexico Albums Chart||24|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||1||Platinum||15,000+|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||1|
|Polish Albums Chart||1|
|Russian Albums Chart||3||Gold||10,000+|
|Spanish Albums Chart||5|
|Swedish Albums Chart||3|
|Swiss Albums Chart||2||Platinum||30,000+|
|UK Albums Chart||1||Platinum||300,000+|
|U.S. Billboard 200||1||1,885,000+|
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|Australia||May 15, 2009||Universal Music||CD||2703216|
|Denmark||May 18, 2009||CD|
|France||Polydor, Universal Music||CD|
|New Zealand||Universal Music||CD||2703216|
|Brazil||May 19, 2009||Universal Music||CD||602527032160|
|Japan||May 20, 2009||Universal Music||CD||UICS-1190|
|CD + DVD||UICS-9106|
|Argentina||May 28, 2009||CD|