May 19 is a special day for Eminem fans: it’s the anniversary of his sixth album Relapse. As everyone knows, it is with this project that 13 years ago to the day, the Detroit rapper returned to the front of the stage after four years of absence. A period of unprecedented radio silence for the rapper at the time. At the same time, given what he was going through at that time in his career, how could it have been otherwise?
Eminem down the hole
We remember it, in 2006, when Em suffered the full brunt of the setback of fame after the mixed returns of his album Stillhis world collapsed for good when on April 11 of that same year, Proof, his best friend was cruelly mowed down in a shooting in Detroit.. A blow of fate all the more cruel as Slim Shady had staged the death of the ex-member of the D12 group a few months earlier in his own clip, Like Toy Soldiers. It’s hard to believe, but on this day, reality surpassed fiction and Eminem lost his greatest musical accomplice. For him, nothing will ever be the same again.
From there then begins a long descent into hell for Marshall Mathers. Already well under way by his repeated intake of pills in order to compensate for the infernal rhythm of life implied by his fame, he definitively sinks into drugs and medication to escape the inconsolable grief that Proof’s death gives him. His addiction is such that at the end of 2007, during the Christmas holidays, the MC comes close to death because of an overdose of methadone, a powerful painkiller that he mixed with other drugs such as Xanax, Valium or ‘Ambien.
In the emergency room, they told me that if I had arrived two hours later I would have died. My organs were no longer functioning. My kidneys, my liver… Everything was dying out. No one thought I was going to get away with this.
At the entrance to death row, Eminem becomes aware of the warning that his body has sent him and decides in a final surge of survival to take back his life in hand and to wean himself. His will is strong, but unfortunately the demons of his addictions are stronger and he will relapse less than a month later. The fight will be hard, but Eminem will come out victorious on April 20, 2008, this famous day when he became sober again. Mechanically, he will then return to the studios and tell the world about the ordeal he has lived during these last four years in his album Relapse. And as he has a lot on the potato, he knows in advance that there will be a sequel, Relapse 2. A project finally aborted and definitively thrown into oblivion, but which in the meantime has become legend.
Relapse 2, a stillborn project
If it is still impossible today to determine with precision the superhuman reasons which pushed Eminem to take the microphone back when he was at the gates of death, we know how much returning to the studio did him good in the heart. and to the soul. Again in full possession of his rapological talents and after several years without creating the slightest sound, there was no doubt that Em would be productive. It did not fail since he confided that he recorded dozens of songs over this period in addition to the 20 titles retained on the original Relapse. It is therefore no surprise that a direct follow-up to his project has been started. Interviewed at the microphone of his Shady 45 radio on the eve of the release of Relapse first of the name, he declared: “The project will be in two parts and Relapse 2 will be the sequel to the first. It’s already almost finished, it just depends on how many songs I want to put on it”. Everything was off to a good start, but while the project was initially scheduled for late 2009, it will be pushed back to early 2010. For the moment, we still don’t know what’s going on in the studio, but Eminem doesn’t forget his fans.
In compensation for the postponement, he serves them on a river of blood the reissue of Relapse entitled Relapse: Refill. See this project as an extension of the original work with a total of seven unreleased tracks. It is on this deluxe version that we find in particular the banger forever which brings together Eminem, Drake, Kanye West & Lil Wayne, the Avangers of rap at the time. There is also the bomb taking my ballselected for the soundtrack of the video game DJ Hero, as well as Hell Breaks Loosea new collaboration with his mentor Dr. Dre,
From the first listening, we find there all the lugubrious atmosphere of the first Relapse, dressed in Dr. Dre’s dark prods, Eminem’s squeaky flow and the distinctive accent he used at the time. No one is out of place and everything suggests that Relapse 2 will follow quickly… This until Eminem abruptly changes his plans. We are April 14, 2010, the rapper will drop a most appalling tweet: “There is no Relapse 2”. We then understand that the album is definitively abandoned.
The reasons for this last-minute turnaround can mostly be explained by the mixed feedback from audiences and critics about the first Relapse, as her bro 50 Cent confirmed in an interview in early 2018: ” Being criticized for his music really affects him. A second album was indeed planned after the release of Relapse, but since he didn’t appreciate the feedback on the first, he decided that it was not worth releasing Relapse 2. So he decided to change direction”. This new direction, we know it. A 180 degree turn towards pop that will draw the outlines of a completely different album: Recovery. But back to Relapse 2. Because if the project was purely and simply thrown in the trash, some of its nuggets were able to come back to us before it was completely emptied.
A partially recovered treasure
In 2019, faced with the leak on the canvas of Yandhi, another lost album, but signed Kanye West this time, Pusha T uttered a scathing rant against the leakers by declaring: “For the love of music, I hate it. Leaking a song, project or event ruins all the work we’re doing for you guys.” If its positioning can easily be understood, insofar as artists have every right to keep part of their work secret, let us remember all the same that leaks sometimes make it possible to unearth musical gems that we thought were lost to never. Well guess what, that’s exactly what happened for Relapse 2.
A stone’s throw from the release of Recovery, while his first single Not Afraid has just been unveiled, a mysterious hacker appears on the web, a smart guy named @NotAfraid2Leak. Behind this nickname, which looks like a real snub to Eminem and his teams, hides an individual named Koolo. We don’t know how, but this 30-year-old hacker managed to find a security flaw in Shady Records’ hard drives. Result ? He managed to grab countless unreleased tracks from Eminem. Through his Studio Leak forum, the guy obviously did not hesitate to throw everything online. Much to the delight of fans, but much to the chagrin of the Detroit rapper.
While the gaps are struggling to be plugged, Koolo balances for several weeks dozens of songs signed Slim Shady, titles from all eras. Included in the lot are the first versions of Living Proof & Echo, two titles in collaboration with Royce Da 5’9” and which will finally be officially released on the deluxe version of Bad Meets Evil’s EP, Hell: The Sequel in 2011 , but it is the remains of Relapse 2 that interest us here.
By cross-checking all the leaks listed at the time, we can cite the piece Cocainethe supposed first excerpt from Relapse 2 featuring singer Jazmine Sullivan. There are also the titles Things Get Worse with BoB, Hit Me With Your Best Shot with D12, the solo tracks Difficult, Oh No and Nut Up, but above all the monstrous Syllables which has the luxury of bringing together Eminem, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent on the same sound, the giants of the game accompanied by the cream of the first generation of artists from the label Shady Records, Stat Quo & Ca$his. If you don’t know these titles yet, know that they are all still available online today. We say that, we say nothing.
The Relapse Legacy
It’s sad, but the opinion of a demanding and cautious majority of artistic audacity will indeed have been enough to kill a project in the bud. The phenomenon is even more infuriating when we know that with hindsight, Relapse has been rehabilitated to the point of today being considered one of the Detroit rapper’s brightest projects. That said, blaming only the critics and the public would be a mistake insofar as Eminem himself did not hesitate to disavow his work a posteriori. After all, whoever in Not Afraid said “Let’s be honest Relapse wasn’t up to par, maybe I was rolling the accents too much for the vibe,” it was him and no one else.
Despite everything, in the same way as those who initially disapproved of this masterpiece, Marshall also quickly backtracked. Indeed, if he silenced his demonic alter ego Slim Shady to embrace his sobriety, he quickly resuscitated him through his next album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 released in 2013. Four years later, rebelote with Revival and the bloody Framed in which the rapper likes to reconnect with his demons of the past. It hasn’t changed today since on his last album, Music To Be Murdered By and a title like Discombobulatedthe influence of the Relapse era continues to be felt.
Like what, even if Eminem has definitely drawn a line under his addictions (and so much the better), he is living proof that even sober and with the greatest will in the world, you can never really completely flee your past.
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The mythical story of Relapse 2, Eminem’s aborted album
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