It’s no secret that Detroit’s finest rapper, Eminem, has struggled with addiction. As the 10 year anniversary of Eminem’s album “Relapse” just passed a few days ago, we thought it was the perfect time to take a look at how Eminem has changed from “Relapse” to “Recovery” and explore his thoughts and feelings through his artistry.
Eminem’s album “Relapse” was released on May 15th of 2009, and received a lot of criticism for its’ violent lyrics. “Relapse” was absolutely the most controversial, profane, violent, and chaotic album— probably of all time, across all genres of music. See how Eminem went from violence to insight, through a series of songs.
Without a doubt, “Relapse” was one of Eminem’s most telling albums. Here, we will take a look at some of the songs on the album and their detailed lyrics:
- “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
Out the corner of his cornea, he just saw ya run
All you want is to rest ’cause you can’t run anymore, you’re done…”
- “Swallowin’ a Klonopin while I’m noddin’ in and out on the ottoman
At the Ramada Inn, holding onto the pill bottle, then
Lick my finger and swirl it ’round the bottom
And make sure I got all of it”
- “I can’t quite remember when I had that
Much fun off a half-pint of the Jack, my last Vic and-a-half”
The song ends with an outro that repeats the words “evil rise”, making it an overall perfect song to represent the chaos of a relapse.
- “I lose a pill and I’m recklessly wreckin’ the house
That was supposed to be breakfast, where the heck is it now?”
- “A knapsack packed with like forty-some Xanaxes
Shorty come back, I’m tryna score me some lap dances
I’m ’bout to relapse, so baby pour me some Jack Daniel’s”
- “I immediately run
Like Speedy Gon-zales to see if I see anyone
Who might have a couple of 3’s, I’m fiending for some
My head is pounding to the beat of the drum”
“Hello” also speaks to withdrawal, as Eminem describes the pain of sore muscles and pounding headaches. Eminem also explains his hospital visit, in which he had to have his body flushed of drugs after an overdose. Later in an interview, Eminem spoke to being treated at the hospital for an overdose, and then going straight home to use again. This is the insanity of addiction.
- “As I fall deeper into a manic state
I’m a prime candidate for the gene to receive the drug addict trait
Blood pressure climbs at a dramatic rate”
- “Start off with the NyQuil, like, I think I’ll just have a taste
Couple of sips of that then I gradually graduate
To a harder prescription drug called Valium, like, yeah that’s great
I go to just take one and I end up like having eight”
- “”Maybe just a nice cold brew, what’s a beer?”
That’s the devil in my ear, I’ve been sober a fuckin’ year
And that fucker still talks to me, he’s all I can fucking hear”
- “To have another half a glass of wine, sounds asinine
Yeah, I know, but I never had no problem with alcohol
…Got a headache, shit, half a Vicodin, why can’t I?
All systems ready for take off, please stand by”
- “Couple of weeks go by, it ain’t even like I’m gettin’ high
Now I need it just not to feel sick, yeah, I’m gettin’ by”
This song is arguably the most telling song on Eminem’s entire “Relapse” album. There are so many themes of addiction that Eminem touches on in this song. He talks about cravings, and the temptation to drink, thinking that alcohol is okay in recovery because he was never an alcoholic, reasoning with his own mind, tolerance and withdrawal. This song explains addiction so well, Eminem even talks about hiding his drugs in various places around the house.
Many people in recovery from a drug addiction have this common thought that they can drink alcohol, because alcohol has never been a problem for them— the reasoning behind clinicians telling you to stay away from all substances is that alcohol leads you back into drugs. We see it happen all too often. Eminem continues on to verbalize the intensity of his cravings, despite being a year in sobriety, calling his irrational thoughts ‘the devil’ speaking to him.
“All systems ready for take off, please stand by” was Eminem’s way of acknowledging that he relapsed and was ready to fully take drugs back up, accepting his failure as a beginning to slip back completely. Shortly after that lyric, Eminem describes having built a tolerance to drugs back up, experiencing withdrawal symptoms and his use becoming maintenance instead of chasing a high. “Deja Vu” ends with Eminem waking up in an ambulance after an overdose, having been found on the bathroom floor.
On Eminem’s “Relapse” album, he included five audio skits. These skits are basically just an audio dialogue, mostly between the rapper and himself playing a “character”.
The first skit, which appears as the first song on the album, making it the album’s intro track, is between Eminem and a doctor “Dr. West”. In this skit, Eminem has a dialogue with the doctor, talking about his anxiety in going back into the real world after what we assume has been a period in an inpatient rehab facility. Eminem talks about getting a sponsor, going to meetings, working the steps, etc. Which is met with Dr. West undermining the recovery process by saying things like “Well, I mean you don’t absolutely have to go to meetings. I mean it’s not like… a requirement. If they fit into your schedule, I know you’re a busy person.”
The “Mr. Mathers” skit was a dialogue seemingly from an ambulance interaction with medics. This skit talks about Eminem’s overdose and includes blood pressure and heart rate readings, and ends with responders asking doctors to ready up a body bag.
Overview of “Relapse”
Despite being an album with the most shocking, crude, and violent lyrics out of any Eminem album that we’ve ever seen (which is hard competition), “Relapse” is Eminem’s realest album. “Relapse” outlines themes of addiction that are so relevant in the world of drug addiction and recovery. While reading through the lyrics in each track, we really felt the pain and despair coming from each line. Eminem touched on various themes of drug addiction, including: craving, justification for use, tolerance, withdrawal, overdose. This album outlined the insanity of addiction, the chaos it brings, and the emotional despair involved. Aside from the violent lyrics, Eminem was really telling a story through out each song and skit.
Now Let’s Talk about “Recovery”
A year after “Relapse” was released, Eminem put out his album “Recovery” in mid-June of 2010. “Recovery” was an album that really broke the silence in popular culture, when it came to talking about picking up the pieces that addiction left spewed around. When it comes to an artist, like Eminem, life experiences and emotions turn into a work of art. The album “Recovery” was nothing less than a work of art. Even the music video that came out for the albums song “Love the Way You Lie” was a work of art in itself; the music video starring Megan Fox told a story of chaos, addiction, and domestic violence. What we heard in “Recovery” was a series of storytelling, realism, and raw emotion.
Eminem’s album “Recovery” is home to tracks that each tell a different perspective. Of course, this album is not void of the most shocking profanity you’ve ever heard, but after all, it still is an Eminem album. No shortage of profanity mixes with themes of recovering from a drug addiction, and the result is…beautiful. Eminem uses this album as an opportunity to confront his past with reason, in an introspective account of his behavior while he was active in addiction. This fresh perspective came from stories along the same line as those in his album “Relapse”, but now the stories have evolved into a more insightful account. Let’s take a look at some of the songs and their lyrics:
Talkin’ 2 Myself
“…before I start this song, man
I just wanna thank everybody for being so patient
And bearing with me over these last couple of years
While I figure this shit out”
Eminem talks about having been active in addiction, in the studio, considering the thought of making diss tracks for other rappers in the hip hop music industry. Eminem outlines a stream of thoughts that came after the thought of doing diss tracks, telling himself that his health is declining and he is crying out for help. The realization mentioned is something in sobriety that we call a “moment of clarity” which can be considered a spiritual experience. Eminem realizes he is making poor decisions and suddenly comes back into touch with his own reality. A revelation that we believe aided him in the recovery process. Moments of clarity like this one are monumental in the recovery process.
- “All I know is I’m wallowing, self-loathing and hollow
Bottoms up on the pill bottle, maybe I’ll hit my bottom tomorrow”
- “But instead of feeling sorry for yourself
Do something ’bout it, admit you got a problem
Your brain is clouded, you pouted long enough”
These lines speak to Eminem going back and forth with his own thoughts, deciding the understand his situation from a perspective that turns his self-deprecation into action— admitting that he has a drug addiction and needs help. This is what we see as the preliminary stage of recovery, where the addict makes the choice to admit they have a problem and that they need help to solve it.
- “Hit my bottom so hard I bounced twice, suffice, this time around
It’s different, them last two albums didn’t count.
Encore, I was on drugs; Relapse, I was flushin’ ’em out”
Eminem puts his recovery process into simple terms, admitting that he had hit rock bottom twice, relapsed twice, and is now ready to take his sobriety seriously. He follows these lyrics with an apology to his fans; “I got somethin’ to prove to fans, ’cause I feel like I let ’em down. So please accept my apology, I finally feel like I’m back to normal”.
Going Through Changes
- “…why do I act like I’m all high and mighty
When inside I’m dyin’? I am finally realizin’ I need
Help, can’t do it myself, too weak”
- “They say Proof just flipped out, homie just whipped out and bust
Nah, it ain’t like Doody to do that, he wouldn’t fuckin’
Shoot at nobody, he’d fight first, but dwellin’
On it only makes the night worse, now I’m poppin’ Vics, Percs
And Methadone pills…”
In these lyrics, Eminem address the pain, grief and loss he felt when his best friend Proof died. He talks about the pain it brings to think about his friend’s death, and how thinking about it turns into coping with drugs. He continues on in the verse to describe using drugs to cope with his best friend’s death, turning to the drugs to sleep or forget, relying on them to carry him through.
- “Wake up in the hospital, full of tubes, but somehow I’m pullin’ through
Swear when I come back I’ma be bulletproof”
- “Yeah, it’s been a ride
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one”
- “I’ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt, undoubtably
And all those who look down on me
I’m tearin’ down your balcony”
These lines speak to Eminem addressing a stigma that surrounds drug addiction, and the criticism he receives as someone in the public-eye who has been struggling.
- “And I just can’t keep livin’ this way
So startin’ today
I’m breakin’ out of this cage
I’m standin’ up, I’ma face my demons
I’m mannin’ up, I’ma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now”
- “It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me”
This track in particular shows the emotional and psychological change that Eminem is experiencing in pursuit of lasting sobriety. We see confidence, motivation, and a clear mind in this song. Eminem verbalizes that he is ready to keep fighting his drug addiction.
- “I feel like I’m morphin’ into somethin’ that’s so incredible”
This track really comes down to Eminem expressing his confidence, and feeling a sense of self-worth.
- “I’m alive again, more alive than I have been”
- “Nobody knows me, I’m cold, walk down this road all alone
It’s no one’s fault but my own, it’s the path I’ve chosen to go
Frozen as snow, I show no emotion whatsoever so”
Eminem seems to be alluding to a common side effect of opiate addictions, which is a shallow range of emotion. Many recovering opiate addicts feel numb, and show little to no emotion due to the chemical imbalance they have cause in the brain. This side effect can last for up to a few months, which is why the recovery process is aided by intensive therapies while the brain begins to recover.
“Recovery” Summed Up
Between the profanity and catchy choruses, Eminem used the “Recovery” album to set the stage for a new him. He verbalized the era of a new Eminem, a recovering drug addict who found solace, motivation, and confidence from sobriety. Eminem’s album “Recovery” was really just commentary for a recovering addict, he used songs like “Seduction” to unearth self-confidence, “25 to Life” to talk about cutting toxic romantic relationships out of his life, “You’re Never Over” to vent about grieving his best friend, “I’m Not Afraid” to set the stage for living sober and embarking on a life free from fear.
Truly, his “Recovery” album is a testament to the raw emotions that follow addiction, feeling guilty, depressed, motivated to change…Eminem really touched on so many thoughts and feelings that you go through in early recovery. We respect Eminem, especially because he used his artistry to paint a picture of drug addiction and start a conversation that takes the side of not being ashamed to admit your problem and reach out for help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team makes themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.