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Eminem - 'Not Afraid'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:28 UK time, Saturday, 29 May 2010


It's got to be one of the hardest things about trying to make big changes in your life, to drop all the silly defenses you've put up, the security blanket/hard shell that always stopped you from exposing your weak underbelly to the predators.

Everyone does it, a sharp tongue, a big pair of fists, fierce makeup, confident clothes, pre-emptive tears...or in Eminem's case, writing a bunch of songs about which female celebs he'd like to make out with and telling the world off for getting on his case all the time.

Attack, defend, attack, defend...and yet all anyone really wants from the man is a little honesty.

(No video. Sweary.)

I say 'all' as if it's no big deal to be honest, really, nakedly, vulnerably honest, when you're hugely famous and there's a media scramble to interpret your every wrong decision and grumpy nose-blow. But it's what made Marshall Mathers so brilliant a rapper in the first place, peppering his cartoon-sick raps with actually chunks of desperately sad meaty reality. Oh and doing it brilliantly, that bit's really important.

That was the big problem with 'Relapse', if I can be rude enough to claim to fully understand and comment on the mental landscape of someone I've only met once, briefly and many years ago, and whose movements and thoughts can only be interpreted through the medium of entertainment news, and the rap songs he writes for a living.

While it was great to see the man doing his thing again, some of the songs came across like he was still hiding behind that Slim Shady persona, and yet you knew he'd been to hell and back as a person. There were new chinks in his armour and yet he was too busy pointing at the trusty breastplate and boasting how it still worked as well as ever to acknowledge this, so it came across like empty bluster.

Well now all the armour is off. We've got a mission statement that says he's fully aware that he is just making this up as he goes along, that he knows he has good days and bad days, and that he knows sometimes his talent lets him down, but that he's not afraid of getting back on the horse, and he's grateful for our patience and support.

Oh it's dressed up in aggression and swearing and - thankfully - a devastatingly ON-FORM delivery, but it's pretty clear that this is where he's at right now. He's dropped all of his defenses - to a point - and wants to make a decent fist of the rest of his life.

And you'd have to have a cold heart indeed not to love him for that.

Five starsDownload: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

All Hip Hop says: "The song is an anthem in nature and rebellious to the core."

Hypebeast says: "The track shows the acclaimed MC reflecting on his rehabilitation from drug addiction and "facing his demons" in a typically forthright way."

The Rockabye Review says: "This is the Eminem people will embrace on radio and iTunes alike."



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