relapseARTIST: Eminem

ALBUM: Relapse

SOUNDS LIKE: The lovechild of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Hubert Selby and Rakim.

FUN FACT: The album's first single, "We Made You," features a sample from Walter Egan's "Hot Summer Nights."

WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING IT: Because you already know what happens when a psychopath can rap his ass off--but you don't know what happens when he wakes up and has to clean up his life...

Since Relapse leaked a couple of weeks ago, there has been much chatter on message boards and from mainstream pundits that Em is stuck in the past--that his serial-killer fantasies, dirty-laundry airing, and scorn for the world of pop celebrity were fully plumbed as of six years ago. But those arguments forget a couple of key things...

1) Eminem was fucked the fuck up: addiction, Proof's tragic passing, and all the attendant self-loathing and depression that goes along with them had the ultimate of effect of freezing dude in time. Come his defrosting in 2009, he's like Rip Van Winkle--albeit a pathologically dextrous and wickedly honest Rip Van Winkle--and you can hear him getting comfortable over the length of the album, stretching his legs and coping with the aftermath (no pun intended) of his stasis. 2) He's in Silence of the Lambs mass-murder mode on a few tracks ("3 A.M.," of course, and the time-warps of "Same Song & Dance" and "Medicine Ball"), but that's by no means the bulk of the album. Besides, the flow on Relapse is untouchable, and more than compensates for a sometimes dated fascination with Christopher Reeve and torture porn.

Instead, the payoff comes as he opens his closet; there's no more Kim to hate, and his mother only gets two songs worth of therapy (the alternately hilarious and horrifying "My Mom" and "Insane"), which means the only demons left are his own grief and addiction. And holy shit, does he go in on himself. The last third of the album delivers everything Marshall Mathers can, from rock bottom ("Deja Vu") to redemption (the self-produced "Beautiful") to gleeful Slim Shady phantasmagoria ("Underground"). As a whole, any missteps are mercifully limited, as are the accents that made people wary of early leaks like the "Relapse Freestyle" and "We Made You." Clocking in at 17 full songs (including "My Darling" and "Careful What You Wish For," iTunes bonus cuts that would be among the best on the album), Relapse is a bracing antidote to mainstream rap's slide into lyrical and conceptual insipidness. And real talk, if this is how someone sounds waking up after a four-year nap, we can't even begin to imagine how crazy Relapse 2 is gonna be later this year.

***iTunes Bonus Cuts from Relapse
Eminem "My Darling"

Eminem "Careful What You Wish For"