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Eminem: Relapse (Aftermath/Interscope) 

Eminem is known for both his rock-star antics—like feuding with doggy hand-puppets and storming out of the MTV Movie Awards after getting up close and personal with Sacha Baron Cohen's package—and his talent as a rapper. He's counting on Relapse to resuscitate our interest by his preferred methods: 1) being one of the best rappers in the game and 2) using unnecessary shock tactics to generate "controversy."

Apparently, homosexuality is shocking to most Americans, or at least that's what Eminem is counting on, because Relapse contains the most references to gayness of any rap album, ever. This makes sense when you remember that he retaliated to charges of homophobia by ingratiating himself to Elton John. He's still dropping the word "faggot" all over the place, especially on "Underground." Then he's quoting The Silence of the Lambs' murderous tranny on "3 a.m." and spinning a lurid tale of incest that explicitly focuses on anal penetration on "Insane."

When he's not rapping about nonconsensual rear-entry, Eminem is obsessively worrying about his own relevance; he even dedicates one of the album's best songs, "Hello," to the issue. He's right to worry: His cultural references seem very five minutes ago (rapping about Sarah Palin?), as if his five years "in rehab" have left him a half-step behind.

But we can thank Eminem for delivering a strong new record that reminds us of his incredible talents while also reminding us that gay people exist—which in this cultural climate could be considered politically radical, even if he's calling us faggots and pedophiles the whole time.

More by Sean Bottai

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