A year later, however, much has changed, according to those close to the Detroit MC. Eminem released Recovery on Monday (June 21), a project that represented a departure of sorts for the rapper. He collaborated with a bevy of producers (Just Blaze, DJ Khalil, Jim Jonsin, etc.) for the first time in his career and worked with high-profile pop stars (Pink, Rihanna), and rather than lead with a satirical first single, the project's first offering was the moving "Not Afraid."
To hear it from those who really know, Eminem is all the way back.
"He's back. He really brought it," DJ Khalil, who helmed the most songs on the project, told MTV News. "Every song that he played me, it just seemed like he had so much to say since Relapse, and Relapse is just a moment in time for him, and now it's just a different moment. Every record is where you're at at that particular time. With him, I feel like he wanted to really express himself and really get out whatever feelings he had. He talks about being sober, and he's been sober for over a year now, so he talked about that. He's gone through a transformation. And I was at Staples Center, and I saw him perform [last week at Activision's E3 concert]. I had goose bumps. He came out to 'Won't Back Down,' and I thought, 'Oh my God.' It was powerful. It just seemed like his passion and everything is back."
Khalil, who has worked under Dr. Dre for years, was recruited by Em's camp to work on Recovery — but he wasn't asked to change his sound for the album.
"There was no direction," Khalil said. "He's a fan. [Eminem's manager] Paul Rosenberg and Em both called me, they said they'd been following me since the Slaughterhouse records, the Clipse/Kanye record and all the stuff that I've down with Kobe. They were into my production, and it's different than everybody else's, because it's dense. There's a lot of music going on. Even with 'Won't Back Down,' he told me the track was beating him down. He had to scream to be able to rap over that track. They just wanted what I do.
"When I talked to them, they said I was a big part of the direction for the record," the producer continued. "And for Eminem to say that, that's amazing. That's like the biggest compliment you can get."
What do you think about the sound of Recovery? Let us know in the comments!
It's Eminem Week at MTV News, so stick with us as we celebrate the release of Recovery and take you inside the making of Em's latest album.