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Eminem: 'Not Afraid' To Make Amends

Earlier this year, Morning Edition launched a feature that explores popular music and the cultural phenomena surrounding it. After addressing Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Usher, the discussion turns to Eminem. Click the "Listen to the Story" link above to hear music writer Maura Johnston and Jay Smooth (of Illdoctrine.com) discuss the song and the cultural contributions of the best-selling rapper. And be sure to listen to the Culturetopia podcast, in which Johnston and Smooth discuss Eminem further.

Eminem's 2009 album, Relapse, was a major commercial success, but the album drew a lot of criticism for living up to its title in all the wrong ways. After a five-year hiatus, Detroit's tormented rap genius returned to everything many critics were hoping he'd outgrown: the same stale lyrical themes, uninspired production, and a grating faux-European accent that stifled his usually flawless delivery. Now, Eminem is preparing a follow-up album titled Recovery, and its first single, "Not Afraid," suggests he's taken that tough love to heart and is determined to make amends.

Previously, Eminem has used the same jokey, poppy formula on each album's debut single, but "Not Afraid" breaks that mold, eschewing catty pop-culture references for sincere introspection. Over a solemn keyboard riff, he speaks of wanting to be a better father to his daughter and ponders his recent struggles with drug addiction. He even directly addresses the response to his last album, admitting, "Let's be honest / That last Relapse CD was 'ehh' / Perhaps I ran those accents into the ground." Listeners need not worry that Slim Shady has lost his bite, as he still peppers each verse with a dash of potty-mouth humor. But as the chorus of "Not Afraid" invites listeners to "walk this road together / through the storm," Marshall Mathers sounds less enthused by youthful rebellion, and more focused on redemption.

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Jay Smooth
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