“I don’t know if I’m exposing myself,” Mr. Mathers said by telephone from his studio in Detroit. “I’m kind of just coming clean and exhaling.”
Get Clean, Come Back: Eminem’s Return.
“It’s hard core, it’s dark comedy, it’s what Eminem has always been,” said Dr. Dre, his longtime producer, by telephone from his studio in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. Eminem had been missed; the album’s first single, “Crack a Bottle” with 50 Cent and Dr. Dre trading verses went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in February, selling 418,000 downloads in its first week.
Despite his nine Grammy Awards, many MTV appearances and tens of millions of albums sold, Eminem hasn’t put himself on the celebrity circuit. “If it could just be about the music, I would only do the music,” he said. “I don’t hate the limelight, but I don’t like it.”
From the beginning Eminem was perfectly attuned to MTV: making videos full of snide pop-culture sendups and catchy pop hooks as well as news headlines with his marital and legal troubles. (Mr. Mathers has divorced, remarried and re-divorced Kim Scott. His mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, sued him in 1999 for defamation for $10 million but later said it was her lawyer’s idea and settled out of court for $25,000, most of it legal fees.)
He has been watching videos of himself onstage and in interviews from his drug days, including one from Black Entertainment Television that he said he has no memory of doing, when Ambien made him so befuddled he couldn’t even respond to simple questions. “I want to see what I looked like when I was on drugs, so I never go back to it,” he said.
On the album Eminem is self-consciously autobiographical when he rhymes about himself sometimes painfully frank, sometimes self-mocking. “Not only is honesty one of the biggest parts of recovery,” Mr. Mathers said. “I’m blessed enough to be able to have an outlet.”
Far from concealing his addiction battle, he’s making it the center of his comeback. The cover of “Relapse” (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope), the first new Eminem album since 2004, builds his face out of pills, and in some songs he raps, as directly as a rhymer can, about how drugs nearly destroyed him. Elsewhere on the album Eminem resumes or relapses into his main alter ego, Slim Shady: the sneering, clownish, paranoid, homophobic, celebrity-stalking compulsive rapist and serial killer who plays his exploits for queasy laughs and mass popularity.