9:30 p.m. Friday
For some music fans and critics, nine-time Grammy winning rapper Eminem may have worn out his welcome. After foisting the mainstream's weakest rapper, 50 Cent, on us, then following that up with a string of overly earnest, self-produced, dreary rant-fests (see Encore), who can blame them for a sigh of boredom regarding his 2009 album, Relapse? Especially after the media had already alerted us that Relapse would detail Eminem's battles with rich-folk problems like prescription pain killer addiction and the hardships of fame.
But if Relapse was Slim Shady's first record, the media would surely be dubbing him the "best rapper alive." Though his pop culture references are not so timeless, and his jokes not as funny (probably his fault for scorching our nerve endings with his initial bombast of horror-core comedy), Relapse still brims over with idea-a-second verbal acrobatics and linguistic ingenuity. Whether or not Em shines as brightly as the media once believed, he still tries harder than our beloved Lil Wayne. And in 2009, Eminem sounds hungry.
Over beats produced almost exclusively by Dr. Dre — Eminem rightfully quarantines his own excessively emo production for the rap power ballad, "Beautiful" — he pokes fun at his own addiction recovery with impressive, entertaining tongue-in-cheek aplomb. Instead of judging himself, or bemoaning his hardships, Em simply focuses an objective lens at himself gobbling Vicodin like the Cookie Monster, a POV that allows songs on Relapse to still feel like glorification of bad behavior, but surely anyone who hears these tales will hesitate before picking up Em's addict torch.
If Eminem's singular talents still aren't enough for you, his Voodoo show (Eminem's only live appearance this year) will see him perform with his fabled (not to mention large) rap group, D12. — Michael Patrick Welch