Having fought a prescription-pill addiction and mourned his murdered friend (and D12 group mate) Proof, Eminem has chosen this new album as his therapy. Whereas his last record, Encore, was played largely for laughs, Relapse is an oft-shocking plunder of the depths of his psyche and his imagination. “My Mom” explores the genetic and familial repercussions of drug addiction, while “Insane” addresses sexual abuse. The latter track is as gruesome as his previous shock anthems “Kim” and “Kill You,” if not more so; at one point in the song, he raps from the perspective of an elementary-school child being molested by his stepfather.
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Elsewhere, he taunts reality-show stars (“We Made You”) or spits dexterously over the latest batch of hypnotic Dr. Dre earworms (“Bagpipes From Baghdad”), but for the most part, he’s addressing serious topics in a sincere way. At least, as sincerely as one could expect, which is to say in accents ranging from British to Jamaican to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. But the work feels honest throughout, and though it’s sometimes almost too painful to bear, the listener is left glad that Em has once again chosen to not sugarcoat the horrors of his existence.