On Recovery, Eminem has managed to do something that few rap artists have even attempted let alone accomplished: an emotionally revealing tour de force. Kanye West showed a great deal of himself through his stand-alone electropop record 808s and Heartbreak, but Kanye abandoned rapping and went for singing through autotune to express his inner emo. Tupac made plenty of emotionally rough records in his career but listening to them comes with a sense of sad inevitability. Eminem’s Recovery, on the other hand, has a sense of its album title. As I listen, I feel like Eminem has pulled back from self-destruction and turned himself back to the phenom he once was. If he keeps on this path, he could do what Johnny Cash did with his American series of albums: Turn back a career crippling drug addiction and produce records for yourself and for your hardcore fans that will be remembered for their honesty, maturity and originality.
Despite his success, Eminem is significantly unappreciated. The bulk of his fans include white suburban kids whose parents left the city in a scurry of white flight. I’ve met a lot of them, as I’m sure readers have, and I can say confidently that they’ve inherited the racial phobias of their parents and will listen to Em’s records, Insane Clown Posse and Linkin Park, but aren’t about to download Nas, Kool G. Rap, Wu-Tang Clan or T.I. These suburban retrogrades likely gloss over a lot of the intricacies and the deep appreciation of urban culture that Eminem displays. The sophomoric rapper Benzino, who Eminem beefed with years ago, wasn’t all wrong in his diss song “Pull Ya Skirt Up” when he said that if Em were black, he’d “be Canibus” and “no one would care about your complicated rhyme style.” Eminem admitted it himself in his song “White America” when he said, “If I was black, I would have sold half.”
Meanwhile, the hip-hop community and the bourgeois hipster culture that dominates contemporary music criticism are doomed to be hostile to a new Eminem release. The initial buzz of his early career is over, so now the hip-hop community is able to look back at Eminem as an outgrowth of the young, angry white male of the early 2000s and a modern day Elvis Presley, who would never have achieved his stratosphere, despite obvious talent, of success if he had been an angry black male, and hipsters, who probably don’t even like hip-hop in the first place and should therefore be suspect when they espouse an opinion on it, like Greene are able to relegate him to an aging pop star who seeks a return to relevance. Both communities are staying with a premise they formed before they even listen to Recovery and are hostile to any new conclusion.
Greene proclaims that “the guy rapping on Recovery just sounds devoid of any noticeable joy, personality, or wit.” I don’t know what the “lack of personality” is supposed to mean, but Recovery is obviously meant to be a dark album. That is what makes it so strong. Recovery is one of the most genuine albums I’ve heard in a long time. For a genre in which toughness and masculinity is omnipresent, he engages in several tear-jerking songs dedicated to his lost best friend Deshaun Dupree “Proof” Holton. The result is amazing and it’s easy to proclaim “Seduction,” “No Love” and “You’re Never Over” some of the most overtly emotional hip-hop songs in recent memory. Tears came into my eyes when I heard these lyrics, in which Eminem raps about the ghost of Proof pushing him away from death during a 2007 drug overdose that put him in the hospital:
“Matter of fact it was just the other night, had another dream about you
You told me to get up, I got up and spread my wings and I flew
You gave me a reason to fight, I was on my way to see you
You told me nah Doodi you’re not layin’ on that table I knew
I was gonna make it, soon as you said think of Hailie, I knew
There wasn’t no way that I was gonna ever leave them babies, and Proof
Not many are lucky enough to have a guardian angel like you”
Greene also elaborates that Eminem is “in a world of his own” and “doesn’t work well with others.” This is probably true based on Em having spent several years as a recluse and having very few guest artists on his albums, but coming from a professional writer like Greene I find this very strange. Writers are eternally individualists. We don’t like groups and tend to be quiet, shy and bullied during our school days. If that is something that Greene sees as a negative in the art that he enjoys (be it music, literature, film), then I’d imagine, for the sake of consistency, that he has a fairly dismal and uncreative library of work that he does enjoy.
Pitchfork, in all its high-minded snobbery and uncreative criticism, stands in opposition to the independent creativity of the shy child and bears an attitude that bears more resemblance to the bullies and cliques that made me hate public school. I would recommend that Greene visit the doctor and get his head extracted from his ass before he writes another review.