News about a hip-hop album being pushed back multiple times or even scrapped entirely in favor of fresh tracks is not exactly a shocking development these days. But when the artist is Eminem and the release is the highly anticipated sequel to his comeback album, 2009's Relapse, every scrap of information is treated like a Dr. Dre-blessed gold nugget.
So it was confusing on Wednesday when Slim Shady shocked fans by telling them that there would be no Relapse 2. Just like that, after a year of hype, Em had given up on part two, which was reportedly going to be more emotional and lyrical than the first installment.
Just hours later, though, he revealed that it would be replaced by a whole new album called Recovery, due out on June 22. Wait, what?
The long and winding road to Recovery began way back in November of 2008, when details first began to leak out about Relapse. By January of 2009, 50 Cent revealed that Relapse was "almost done" and we soon learned that it would drop in May.
By March, it was already known that Marshall had recorded so much material that he planned to put out a follow-up LP by the end of 2009. Because the reclusive rapper didn't do many major interviews to set up Relapse, most of the news about his plans came out through 50 and other members of G-Unit.
"You can't ask for more excitement from a hip-hop perspective than two Eminem albums," 50 said in March of 2009. "One is great. It's a treat. But the second one is exciting. ... Actually, it was my idea for him to release two albums, because he had so much material over a time period," Fif added. "The [second album] kind of feels like a sequel. They're both written to one album topic almost, that it felt like part one and part two of the [same album]. They tie together."
A month later, Em himself revealed on his Shade 45 Sirius satellite station that he was planning to release Relapse 2 at the end of 2009, since he was already almost done with it.
"It's extremely close to being finished," he said of the sequel LP at the time. "It just depends on how many songs I wanna put on it." Around the time of the first album's release, there was a lot of talk about the blood-drenched video for "3 A.M.," the run-in with Brüno at the MTV Movie Awards and some smash first-week sales, but then things got a bit quiet for most of last year, save for a few beefs with the likes of Mariah Carey and her hubby, Nick Cannon.
By September, talk of Relapse 2 heated up again as DJ Whoo Kid promised a more "maniacal" Slim Shady. "The comeback is crazy," Whoo Kid said about Em's return earlier in the year while previewing new tracks he'd heard. "What I really laughed at was the Mariah Carey [dis record]. That was funny. But that's nothing compared to Relapse 2. What I heard, that's just 2 percent [of the intensity]. Eminem from back in the day has returned. The crazy, lyrical, maniacal Eminem is back. Maniac! ... Now that he's comfortable, now he's gonna be like [a monster] in Relapse 2. Good luck, people."
A month later, Em said that he was bringing in production help for 2 after letting Dr. Dre helm all but one of the first album's tracks. Again speaking on Shade 45, he told Whoo Kid that Just Blaze would be sparking some tracks, along with Mr. Porter, a D12 member.
"I definitely feel like I'm in a little different space right now," Em said about the sequel album. "With the last record, it had a lot to do with me getting sober and just my eyes being open again and my brain went into overdrive. With Relapse 1, I was just trying to prove to myself that I could do it again. It was a [re-introduction] and what made me in the first place with the zany, loony, ridiculous sh--. I felt like a lot of that album, I kind of wanted to [spit] rapid-fire and [do] punch lines."
Shady also revealed that he and 50 had recorded songs for each other's albums and that a duet with Fif would likely end up on Relapse 2. At that point, the album was still expected before year's end.
That same week in an interview with DJ Tony Touch on Shade 45, Slim said the second effort would portray his more emotional side. "[The album] is gonna be a lot different than people expect," Eminem said. "As far as the contrast from the last album to this one ... I went back to songs that are more emotionally driven. The last record I made, I think I was concentrating more on spitting. On this album, I feel like there's some of that, but I went back to songs with [feelings] to them as opposed to just rap records."
While he tried to prove he could spit again on Relapse after suffering from some crippling writer's block during its genesis, Shady said he broke free and wrote three albums' worth of material, which his camp decided to cut down to two releases. Because he was working so hard on the second half, Em said he made few appearances over the last year, but would consider touring once both parts were out.
"During the process of me getting sober and starting to record again like I used to, I got so excited about making music again that I wanted to concentrate [just] on that," he said. "I started recording so many records that we thought about putting out two albums. Then that became my motivation. I wanted to stay grinding and keep making music. But the time I got engulfed in [Relapse 2], it just kind of worked out this way, where I wanted to fall back from live performances for right now and concentrate on making the best music I could make. After this record comes out, we'll see what happens from there."
Blaze confirmed in late October that things were going well with his new collaborator and that they had made solid progress on 2. In mid-November, there was a sudden shift in plans and it was announced that a bonus version of Relapse entitled The Refill would drop on December 21, with five new songs and the hit Drake track Em guested on, "Forever."
"I want to deliver more material for the fans this year like I originally planned," Em told his official Web site. "Hopefully these tracks on The Refill will tide the fans over until we put out Relapse 2 next year." In an interview with Complex magazine in December, Shady further explained, "When I finished Relapse, I had a whole album of material that didn't make it that I wasn't ready to throw away, so that was going to be Relapse 2. But then I got with Dre in Hawaii and started recording more, and now the new material has knocked out all the old songs. But yeah, the new material is definitely different."
And then radio silence ... until this month, when Blaze popped up again and said that Eminem "[is] really back spitting. The wordplay is crazy, the metaphors are crazy. He's really back on his game. He had his ups, he had his downs, he's back way, way, way up. This is definitely going to be up there with the best of his albums, for sure, for sure. The fact that he's branched out working with a lot of different people now, collaborating in a lot of different ways that he never has before, I think he's going to surprise a lot of people."
That hype boosted expectations, until Em mysteriously announced on Wednesday that "there is no Relapse 2." Period. No explanation. Fans were left dumbfounded. Was it really possible that one of the most anticipated and hyped albums since Wayne's Tha Carter III could just vanish into thin air without ever getting released?
And that brings us to a few hours later when, just as abruptly, Shady announced that while he's scrapped 2 he's got a renamed effort, Recovery, slated for release in June.
"I had originally planned for Relapse 2 to come out last year," Eminem said in a statement. "But as I kept recording and working with new producers, the idea of a sequel to Relapse started to make less and less sense to me, and I wanted to make a completely new album. The music on Recovery came out very different from Relapse, and I think it deserves its own title."
We don't know much about it, except that it has production from Blaze, DJ Khalil, Jim Jonsin and Boi-1da and that it's coming out in six weeks ... unless it doesn't.
Are you looking forward to hearing Eminem's new songs? Let us know in the comments below!