[artist id="502642"]Eminem[/artist] was on edge after the release of his Relapse album, his first project after a five-year layoff during which he battled depression and drug dependency. The stakes were high for the Shady One, and although Relapse landed atop the charts — and scored the biggest-selling rap release of 2009 — the heralded Detroit lyricist received lukewarm reviews for the collection.
So yes, he was back, but, in a sense, he hadn’t quite made his return.
But then he unleashed a vicious freestyle while visiting Tim Westwood in the U.K., and followed that up with his dominating verse on Drake’s superstar-laden “Forever” collabo. Ahead of the release of Recovery, Em dropped his official comeback anthem, the reflective “Not Afraid.”
Directed by Rich Lee, the clip balances the darkness of Eminem’s struggle with flashes of light that ultimately lift the rapper to new heights. The video opens with Em standing on the edge of nondescript office building. As he begins his rhymes, the video quickly cuts back and forth between Em spitting on top of the building and in the bowels of a dark basement.
“You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ‘em,” he raps. “But you won’t take this thing out these words before I say ‘em/ ‘Cause ain’t no way I’mma let you stop me from causing mayhem/ When I say ‘em or do something I do it, I don’t give a damn.”
Filmed in Newark, New Jersey, Eminem ventures from the basement to the busy streets of Brick City and crosses a dense multilane street. It’s almost as if the heavy-traffic crossing symbolizes Eminem’s clouded mind during his darker days. He makes it across the street and later bursts through a broken window to his personal light.
The visual is a stirring narrative and culminates with Eminem flying up in the air, landing on top of the building from the beginning of the clip.
He’s no longer on the edge, but overlooking his new beginning.
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday. The party starts with MTV News’ VMA Pre-Show at 8 p.m., followed by the main event at 9 p.m. ET.