Upon the release of his comeback disc, Relapse, Eminem established himself as Hip Hop’s premier technician. With a myriad of out-of-this-world flows and rhyme schemes, with flawless breath control and delivery to boot, Shady took the art of emceeing to a new level. Now that the album’s follow-up, Relapse 2, has been delayed, The Great White Hope offers a bonus edition of his 2009 release – Relapse: Refill. Whether you hated or loved his generally impersonal, horrorcore-style subject matter will determine how you feel about Refill, as this release is more of the same.
Refill opens up with “Forever,” which is actually one of the most disappointing things about the release. It’s not that the Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne-assisted posse cut is lacking in quality – quite the opposite, as each emcee surprisingly delivers a memorable verse. Rather, the issue here is that the song was already featured on the More Than a Game soundtrack, making it obvious that this is essentially a money-grubbing label move. The same goes for “Taking My Ball,” which was released with the “Renegade” edition of DJ Hero. Unlike “Forever,” this song falls into horrendous territory, falling alongside “Fack” and “Just Lose It” as one of Eminem’s all-time worst tracks. Fortunately, the rest of the bonus tracks are far superior to this one.
“Hell Breaks Loose” is the first of the previously unheard material on Refill, and it certainly lives up to its name. A hectic, sinister combination of piano keys and violins accompany Em and Dr. Dre, as the two partners-in-rhyme flow back and forth, switching up the flows as they go. Although it’s clear that Shady wrote the good Doctor’s rhymes, it’s nevertheless impressive to hear Dre’s double-time, which may be the fastest he’s ever spit. The flow clinic these two put on display (over a very challenging beat) is somewhat tarnished by an irritating hook, but it’s a fun listen regardless.
The subject matter goes back to the macabre with “Buffalo Bill,” which takes its name from the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs. Over menacing organs, Em spins tales of murder like only he can – with incredible detail and disturbing nonchalance: “Always, you can see him lurking in the hallways / Carcasses of Caucasian females in his crawl space / How the hell did he fit ‘em all in such a small place / Hide ‘em in the wall but how long will the drywall take? / Well fuck it then, I got nothing but time, I’ll wait / Until its dries, for the moment, I guess you’re all safe / After I sand it and buff it, I guess that I’ll paint / My chainsaw’s out of gas – my regular saw ain’t.”
“Elevator” is a clever, almost sneaky inclusion on Refill. Amidst tales of death and violence, this song details very real issues in Eminem’s life: people taking shots at him, fans who harass him, and the consequence of his rhymes. Even the hook tells a story all on its own, letting the listener in on a tender moment in Em’s past with his deceased best friend, Proof. Many will this subject matter, as Eminem brilliantly masks it with his Slim Shady subject matter.
“Music Box” is of the same ilk as Relapse’s “Underground” and Refill’s “Buffalo Bill.” Em aps through the eyes of a sadistic killer who likens his prey to a delicious meal. The minimalistic production, which consists simply of deep bass thump and a looping toy-chest’s song, provides the perfect backdrop for Mr. Mathers’ ferocious delivery. The hook here is something to behold, as Dre and Em both add nice touches to make it a memorable one. The album closes out with “Drop the Bomb On ‘Em,” which really isn’t about anything other than providing the Detroit emcee a chance to spit a foolish flow – and in that respect, it succeeds.
As it stands, Refill is exactly what the title implies – another serving of what Relapse had to offer. Because it shares so many of its companion piece’s qualities, those who found themselves nodding their heads to Em’s 2009 release will be doing the same with Refill. As for those who didn’t, they can take solace in the notion that Relapse 2 will supposedly feature more “serious” subject matter. Either way, no one’s opinion on Eminem is bound to change with this release; either he’ll have you fiending for more for more of his drug, or have you waving it off, hoping that this dose was the last.