Revisiting Eminem’s Relapse

I take seven kids from Columbine, stand ‘em all in line / Add an AK47, a revolver, a 9 / A MAC-11 and it oughta solve the problem of mine / And that’s a whole school of bullies shot up all at one time


With lyrics like these, Eminem was destined to be one of the most controversial artists in hip-hop’s short history. Ever since he broke out onto the scene, Eminem has never been one to appease the public. Quite the opposite rather, he has always enjoyed being the antagonist.

On Relapse, he managed to up the ante on his antics, disturbing both fans and detractors alike.

Parental Guidance Is Advised

11 years ago, Eminem released his sixth studio album Relapse. Coming off a four-year hiatus from music, Slim Shady had a lot to say, from vivid serial killer fantasies to his own struggles with addiction. Although he had always dabbled in horrorcore, on Relapse he took it to another level completely, with disturbing depictions of rape, mutilation, and murder spread throughout the album. The album was met with mixed reception, with many fans and critics confused by the rapper’s new macabre subject matter and heavy usage of accents throughout the album. Over time, more fans and critics started to appreciate Relapse as well, giving the rapper props for his technical proficiency and impressive multisyllabic rhyme schemes throughout the album.

You’re walkin’ down a horror corridor

It’s almost four in the mornin’ and you’re in a

Nightmare, it’s horrible, right there’s the coroner

Waiting for ya to turn the corner so he can corner ya

You’re a goner, he’s onto ya

Eminem – 3 a.m.

Slim Shady’s Return

Eminem shines on Relapse with his cold and calculated lyricism, meticulously crafting every song. The stories he tells on Relapse are fueled more so by his imagination and penmanship now than his frustration with the world. There is also an evident lack of pain and anger in his voice as well as the trademark Slim Shady angst, which was prominent throughout the holy trinity of The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show. On the flip side of the coin, long-time collaborator and executive producer Dr Dre delivers once again with his production, bringing to the table instrumentals that range from low-key to grandiose; the legendary west coast rapper-producer provides his partner in crime with the perfect backdrops to work his magic on. 

I was born with a dick in my brain, yeah, fucked in the head

My stepfather said that I sucked in the bed

‘Til one night he snuck in and said

“We’re going out back, I want my dick sucked in the shed”

Eminem – Insane

Songs such as “3 a.m.” and “Stay Wide Awake” have Eminem showcasing his penchant for violence with his lyricism. On the other hand, Eminem proves that he hasn’t lost his ability to make catchy mainstream hits with singles “We Made You” and “Crack A Bottle”. Songs such as “Insane”, “My Mom”, and “Bagpipes from Baghdad” are the epitome of a classic Eminem song with absurd offensive lines every other bar. And it goes without saying, the superstar-studded posse cut that is “Forever” featuring Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne, gave listeners the pleasure of listening to four of the biggest figures in hip-hop today go bar-for-bar.

Deja Vu

However, there are also songs which encapsulate his own struggles perfectly, such as “Deja Vu”. This song addresses his addiction to sleeping pills alongside his depression that set in after the death of his close friend, Proof. Throughout the hauntingly beautiful song, Eminem raps about his addiction in the most honest way possible, mentioning his inability to sleep without taking an extensive amount of sleeping pills first.

Kinda feels like déjà vu

I wanna get away from this place, I do

But I can’t and I won’t, say I try, but I know

That’s a lie ’cause I don’t

And why, I just don’t know

Eminem – Deja Vu

Eventually it caught up with him, landing him in rehab after a near death experience when he overdosed. The song’s vibe is one of futility, a sense of helplessness as he’s stuck in this cycle of addiction. Coupled with the song’s scary backstory with its powerful lyrics, “Deja Vu” is arguably one of Eminem’s best songs.


During the recording of Relapse, Eminem recorded more than enough material for one album. Thus, plans were made for the album’s sequel Relapse 2 to be released later that year. However, due to delays, a deluxe edition – Relapse: Refill, was released to tide fans over. Eventually, Eminem scrapped the idea of a Relapse 2 due to the mixed reception the album received and started recording new material, birthing Recovery, which was released a year later in 2010.

Recovery album cover , Source

It’s safe to say that Relapse aged over time like fine wine. In fact, it is one of Eminem’s best albums even with its shaky release, both post hiatus and across his entire catalogue. With the release of the deluxe edition of his eleventh studio album Music to Be Murdered By, came “Discombobulated” a song emulating Relapse’s signature sounds.

Perhaps the rapper is thinking of taking a trip back in time and making the sequel that never came out, or was it all just for nostalgia? We’ll find out soon enough.

Written by Norman Shaqir Shariran