Never one to employ subtlety when a sledgehammer will do,
The image that will grace the MC's first disc of new material in more than four years features a headshot of Slim Shady staring out with eyes narrowed composed entirely of thousands of pills. The not-at-all-veiled nod to the rapper's struggle with addiction to prescription medication is in keeping with Em's career-long habit of putting his personal struggles on display in his art, from his problems with twice-ex-wife Kimberley Mathers to his disputes with his mother and beating at the hands of a bully in high school.
The iconic backward E that has been a part of Em's graphic persona makes another appearance in the lower right-hand corner at the end of the album's title in a sticker made up to look like the label on a pill bottle. It lists the patient's name as Mathers, Marshall, with an address in his old stomping grounds, Detroit's 8 Mile Road, and counsels him to take one tablet once a day at 3 a.m.
The refill date on the prescription reads 5-19-09, the album's release date, and the prescribing doctor is, of course, Em's mentor and beatmaster, Dr. Dre. In a recent cover-story interview with XXL magazine, Em explained that the death of best friend and D12 member Proof in 2006 was part of what put him on a downward spiral of prescription drugs after he'd already visited rehab to work on an addiction to sleeping medication that scuttled his 2005 European tour.
"I think it kind of hit me so hard," Em told the magazine about Proof's shooting death in a Detroit bar. "It just blindsided me. I just went into such a dark place that, with everything, the drugs, my thoughts, everything. And the more drugs I consumed — and it was all depressants I was taking — the more depressed I became, the more self-loathing I became."
The cover has a decidedly more serious look than the first video for the album, the celeb-slamming "We Made You," which has drawn fire from right-wing talking head Bill O'Reilly for its digs at former Republican vice-presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin. Relapse will be followed by a sequel album tentatively slotted for later this year titled Relapse 2.