Eminem – Recovery [Review]

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending”

Marshall Mathers’ today started a long time ago and now he’s on the road to a new destination (take the album’s cover as evidence). At the height of his addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs in 2005, Marshall took the first step towards recovery in rehab treatment. From that first step we saw his “comeback” album Relapse, which saw him addressing the issues surrounding his life in making a return to form as Eminem. Even though it was the top-selling Hip-Hop/Rap album of 2009, Eminem’s road to recovery (pun intended) was yet complete, which leads us to his most recent release. Recovery stands as Eminem’s seventh studio album and quite possibly his most emotional and personal work to date. Stepping outside the realm of the usual production contributors to his albums, Em enlists a cast of producers with the talent to deliver the sonic change being sought after. Originally titled Relapse 2, Marshall returns to the couch for an extended therapy session… “Mr. Marshall Mathers”

1. Cold Wind Blows
Produced by Just Blaze
So you don’t like Eminem singing on his tracks… Doesn’t matter, this is his show not yours. With that said, Em hits listeners in the head right from the jump with track sounding like a lost cut from The Eminem Show. That is to say this is the Eminem that most fans have been waiting to hear since that album back in 2002 (not that British Eminem heard on Relapse). With a dark, heavy pounding beat from Just Blaze (yeah, that Just Blaze) Eminem reassures fans lyrically that it’s okay to call him Slim Shady again.

2. Talkin’ 2 Myself
Featuring Kobe; Produced by DJ Khalil
Eminem brings on board one of the underrated producers in the rap game today that goes by the name DJ Khalil. Don’t know DJ Khalil… Pardon yourself to listen to “Kinda Like A Big Deal” (Clipse), “Fear” (Drake), and “I Made It” (Jay-Z) then come back and join us. Now, provided with a guitar lead, spacey backdrop Eminem questions whether people are even listening to him anymore or if he’s just talking to himself on these tracks (well 1.9 million are with you Em). Speaking about topics ranging from almost dissing Weezy and Kanye to no longer feeling like the best rapper in the game to reinventing himself as an artist, Eminem uses this track to address the most concerning thoughts in his mind. Even though Em is heard singing, Kobe’s hook properly showcases how better vocals can elevate a song higher. Oh and in case you didn’t catch it, Encore and Relapse can be disregarded from here on.

3. On Fire
Produced by Denaun Porter
Thought the Just Blaze beat on “Cold Wind Blows” was banging, say hello to Denaun Porter (formerly Mr. Porter) who proceeds to kick a hole in the speakers with his production. Utilizing the same sample Ye used for the classic “Two Words” on The College Dropout, Eminem goes for self on this track displaying his lyrical wizardry like no other rapper in the game can. Don’t understand why Eminem can be labeled a Top 5 emcee? Don’t understand why your favorite rapper wouldn’t want to see Em in a battle? Listen to this track and his rhyme scheme will provide the answer.

“So if I seem a little mean to you/This ain’t savage, you ain’t never seen a brute/You wanna get graphic, we can go the scenic route/You couldn’t make a bulimic puke/On a piece of fuckin’ cord and peanut poo/Saying you sick, quit playin’ you prick/Don’t nobody care, why the fuck am I yellin’ at air”

Despite the “bullshit hook put between the long ass verses” (Hey, Em said it himself), this track is just serves as a reminder to rappers in the game who think they’re running shit (I would say names, but names ain’t important… Just don’t become the Brooke Hogan and David Cook of his verses).

4. Won’t Back Down
Featuring Pink; Produced by DJ Khalil
Okay I’ll admit when I first heard this track I was questioning Eminem as an artist, asking myself what the fuck was he thinking with this shit. But since then after several listens and hearing it as the backing track for the Call of Duty: Black Ops commercial, I don’t think as I once did. What I’m trying to say is that P!nk and DJ Khalil make this track, not Eminem. When looking at it on paper Eminem and P!nk don’t seem like the ideal combination but hearing it on wax mp3 makes perfect sense. The heavy metal influenced production from DJ Khalil is right down P!nk’s lane as she takes this track from average to anthem. The topic of perseverance and determination has never more motivating than how it does on this track.

5. W.T.P.
Produced by Supa Dups
I guess you can say this is Recovery’s “club track”, as Eminem seemingly returns to his roots with a “white trash party”. Supa Dups makes a bouncing track that almost sounds like a rejected Relapse beat with Eminem basically describing a Detroit party like a scene from 8 Mile. More than anything this just sounds like a track that would have been better suited for Relapse though Em’s line “First of all I’m a boss, I just had to get that across/Man even my dentist hates when I floss” made for a good laugh. I understand what your intentions were with this song Em, but honestly I don’t know how many clubs or radio stations are gonna be bumpin’ this… I mean other than Shade 45.

6. Going Through Changes
Produced by Emile
The Maria Robinson quote I included at the start of this review was for a reason and this song is the reason. Robinson’s quote was to describe change and how it can be applied for seeing a new ending. Eminem has obviously realized that his life has changed from what it was back in 2005 when it was probably at its lowest. Em’s lyrics cover various instances that took place in his life such as suicide contemplation, Proof’s death, prescription drug addiction, and how they all affected his life. Emile’s somber production perfectly fits with Eminem’s lyrics to make the song feel even more personal than it already is. This sounded like a song that Em had to personally make to find closure in his life regarding Proof’s death.

7. Not Afraid
Produced by Boi-1da
Who would have thought that Eminem would have debuted #1 on the Billboard 100 with a song not speaking about the usual money, women, cars, and guns topics that dominate Hip-Hop/Rap singles and radio play. But that’s exactly what he did with the release of “Not Afraid”, which comes off as the type of statement track that have become a signature for Em’s career (i.e. “Beautiful”, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “Stan”). Boi-1da’s minimalist production is more than enough on this track as it allows the lyrics to become the focus. When this track was released so many people criticized Eminem for his decision to sing on the chorus instead of utilizing someone more suitable for the job. But fuck that, Em’s singing on the hook was very necessary for this type of track as it makes the listener feel as if they’re personally walking with him through their own personal problems. “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it” © Jay-Z

8. Seduction
Produced by Boi-1da
On back-to-back tracks we get the pleasure of hearing Boi-1da behind the boards as he provides Eminem with more subtle production this time around. Em uses the slow pacing beat to narrate the story of a girl falling out of love with her favorite rapper for him (it took me several listens to understand this as the theme from Em’s lyrics). Throughout his verses (peep verse two) Em cleverly throws subliminal darts at fellow rappers in the game (“rhyming one syllable”, “wear your heart on your sleeve”)… aww! (What up Jay?) During a time when it seems like every rapper’s album must have a “song for the ladies” or “love song”, this is Eminem’s like it or not. Quite frankly I’m glad he buck’s the cliché trend and makes the subject matter his own.

9. No Love
Featuring Lil Wayne; Produced by Just Blaze
This quite possibly has to be the track that Justin Smith will catch the most flack for for the rest of his career. Now when listeners think about Just Blaze they think about the classic beats he has crafted for artists like “Breathe” (Fabolous), “Oh Boy” (Cam’ron), and “What We Do” (Freeway). So when it was heard that Blaze sampled Haddaway’s “What Is Love” for Eminem’s next single “No Love”, listeners “Hip-Hop Heads” went crazy questioning Just’s production motives. Anybody that is familiar with “What Is Love” ultimately recognize it for it connection with SNL’s The Roxbury Guys and A Night at the Roxbury. Truth be told, Just Blaze isn’t the first to sample this song (check Crime Mob’s “What Is Love” and Gorilla Zoe’s “What Is Love”) so cut the guy some slack for Christ sake. This happens to be only song on Recovery featuring a rap verse from a featured guest who just happens to be Lil’ Wayne. As the follow up to their previous collaboration on Wayne’s “Drop The World”, both emcees continue in the same fashion with very impressive verses that take your attention off the song’s production. Matter of fact this song isn’t as bad as people try to put it off to be cause I could name (insert #) other songs on Billboard’s Rap Chart that this song is better than. In the words of Eminem, “Look at these rappers, how I treat ‘em/So why the fuck would I join them when I beat ‘em”.

10. Space Bound
Produced by Jim Jonsin
“Mr. Lollipop” Jim Jonsin (no homo… Word to Riley) comes through with some progressive production for Mr. Mathers to relay some words towards the area of relationships. In matching fashion to the song’s title, Jonsin produces an atmospheric beat that hears Eminem detailing his pursuit and tenure of a relationship ending in dramatic fashion. Similar to past songs like “Superman”, Em’s storytelling is richly detailed as to where you can feel exactly what he’s saying as if it was your own life.

11. Cinderella Man
Produced by Script Shepherd
I read a review of Recovery where the writer described the beat as a “poor man’s Timbaland impression” and truthfully I don’t think he would be out of pocket for that statement. Now we know Eminem has enough bank for a Timbaland beat if he really wanted one, but this does sound like one of those “Timbaland’s schedule was booked solid” instances where something similar would suffice. Judging from Em’s lyrics, this track is another one of those aimed as cornball rappers in the game who thought for a second that they up’d him since his breakdown. Other than a boxing reference, I don’t really see the meaning of the track’s title.

12. 25 To Life
Produced by DJ Khalil
This is a track that reminds me of the Eminem of old that we heard on albums like The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show as he delivers heartfelt lyrics about standing on his own and long longer living for the approval of someone else. Looking at the lyrics on a deeper level one would think that the song is aimed at Kim from the obvious mentions of marriage and divorce, but Hip-Hop is the focus of attention for Em’s words. For someone that has given his life and career to the genre of Hip-Hop/Rap, the title “25 To Life” fits accordingly. If Eminem had to produce a swan song for his career, this would be the song to signify his retirement (hopefully that’s not for a little while longer though).

13. So Bad
Produced by Dr. Dre & Nick Brongers
Are you telling me that Dr. Dre only produced one song on this album?! That was my reaction after the album’s production credits were revealed and honestly as much of an impact Dre has had on Eminem and most of the highlights of his career, less contributions on this album was the right move. The production on this song is done in signature Dre style from the drums to the horns, but it almost feels out of place in context to the rest of the songs on Recovery. This song seems like a step backwards since most of the producers on the album bring a different sound to the typical Eminem album. The song’s slow tempo makes it feel like it’s dragging and doesn’t really keep the listener interested enough to pay attention to Em’s lyrics.

14. Almost Famous
Produced by DJ Khalil
If you were new to Eminem’s music coming into this album (I don’t know how… go listen to The Marshall Mathers LP now!) then this song will get you up to speed somewhat on how he came to be where he is now in his career. Over some more rocking production from DJ Khalil, Em details every rapper’s aspirations of becoming famous in the music industry and how he did it speaking of his early career works (Infinite, Slim Shady EP) that caught the attention of Dre. This song is Eminem’s Behind The Music detailing the early stages of his career with some amazing lyricism thrown in for good measure.

15. Love The Way You Lie
Featuring Rihanna; Produced by Alex Da Kid
This was probably the other guest feature (other than P!nk) that had people looking screw faced and confused. Alex Da Kid hooks Eminem up with production that works and suits Rihanna’s vocals giving off a similar feel to T.I.’s “Live Your Life”. Over piano and acoustic guitar driven production, Em deals with the topic of a broken relationship that filled with more heartbreak than happiness. Although not as strong as the P!nk assisted track, this track contains incredible strength in both the lyrics and production that make it enjoyable.

16. You’re Never Over
Produced by Just Blaze
It’s been seven tracks since “No Love”, I hope that you’re not still thinking about that beat. Regardless Just Blaze makes one last appearance in the album’s closing stages with some synth-filled production in the style of his previous work “All The Above”. It’s on this inspiration-sounding track that Eminem once again reflects on the death of his best friend Proof. In contrast to the earlier heard “Going Through Changes” which was more somber in Eminem dealing with the loss, “You’re Never Over” sees him celebrating Proof’s life in dedicating the song to the guy that got him in the rap game in the first place.

17. Untitled
Produced by Havoc
The last track on the album, which happens to be untitled, has Eminem just rapping for the hell of it. Over some lighter production (at least for Havoc’s history) there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction to Em’s lyrics, which might explain why this track is just labeled “Untitled”. Despite that fact, Eminem doesn’t waste a good track and leaves listeners satisfied with a lyrical display and positive thinking for the next album release.

Bottom Line:
Coming away from this album one would wonder about where Recovery ranks among the other albums in Eminem’s catalog. While it’s definitely not Eminem’s best album (The Marshall Mathers LP) it’s far from being called the worst. Out of the 17 tracks on this album there are only a few that come off average or subpar (“So Bad”, “W.T.P.”, “Cinderella Man”) with the remaining tracks either above average or excellent. As previously stated, this is Eminem’s most personal album to date (IMO) and served as a very suitable follow-up to Relapse in continuing the rehab/recovery theme. Some might think this album is too somber and emotional, but I think that was Eminem’s whole intent. Through this album Eminem reestablished the connection with listeners and fans that might have been lost over the course of the past albums (Encore, Relapse) and his five-year hiatus from music. Lyrically Eminem hasn’t sounded this hungry and focused since the days of The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, and it gives much anticipation to what Marshall Mathers has in mind for his next album. The road to recovery is often a long, treacherous journey, but those walking a similar path to Eminem will have soundtrack to make that walk even easier.

nappyPicks: “Won’t Back Down”, “On Fire”, “Going Through Changes”, “Not Afraid”, “25 To Life”, “Seduction”, “Talkin’ 2 Myself”, “Cold Wind Blows”… Just listen to the entire album dammit!

Download: Eminem feat. Slaughterhouse – “Session One” (Bonus Track)

Download: Eminem – “Ridaz” (Bonus Track)