Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Eminem: Relapse [Aftermath/Interscope, 2009]
As he told "XXL": "I wanted to go back to Proof's idea of, 'Let's just say the most f*cked up sh*t we can say.'" In other words, this great artist's big concept for his first album since 2004 is a D12 homage. Having slyly categorized it as horrorcore early on, and riding Dr. Dre's most bombastic beats ever, he unrolls the offensive work of art bluenoses have always insisted was there: misogyny up the wazoo, lesbians-only homophobia, libels for a stepdad, murders unnumbered, sexual humiliations previously unknown to hip-hop and more dropped names than Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who's funnier--and also, uh-oh, more boyish. In a socially redeeming denouement, all of this and more is blamed on the drugs we hope he's kicked, we really do. There's even an inspirational number no more boring than the one about offing Lindsay Lohan. But for the first time in his career Eminem settles for sensationalism straight up, and, worse still, makes you wonder whether he ever truly knew the difference. Em, this is not a Slim Shady album. Slim Shady had a lightness about him. B-