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Guess Who's Back: Book, Music Projects Herald Eminem's Return

Of the Oakland Press

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It was all well and good when readers of Vibe magazine voted Eminem the Best Rapper Alive earlier this month, handily outdistancing runner-up Jay-Z.

But a couple of questions lingered; where [i]was[/i] Eminem, and what was he doing?

Now we have answers. In the multiplatinum Detroit MC's own musical words, guess who's back? And in a big way.

After being out of sight for the better part of three years -- first to recover from a sleeping pill addiction in 2005, then recovering from the August 2006 shooting death of Proof (Deshaun Holton), his best friend and longtime musical cohort -- Eminem has started a highly visible blitz that will lead to the release of his sixth studio album, "Relapse," possibly before the end of the year.

It's a comeback the world, and not just the Vibe crowd, have been waiting for. "For a couple of months now people walk in hearing rumors, a little bit of buzz, asking 'When is it out?' Is it out yet?' " reports Mike Himes of Record Time in Roseville.

"A lot of people still expect him to pick up right where he left off. There's still a lot of anticipation for something new by him."

The good news for fans is that Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) is giving them some [i]things[/i] new. To wit:

* A revealing memoir, "Eminem: The Way I Am," that came out Tuesday and in addition to his prose features reproductions of his handwritten lyric sheets, intimate behind-the-scenes photos and a "mini documentary" DVD;

* Guest appearances on new albums by fellow rappers 50 Cent ("Before I Self Destruct," due Dec. 9) and fellow Detroiter Trick Trick ("The Villian," Nov. 25);

* A second volume of "The Re-Up," a compilation of music form his Shady Records stable;

* A starring role in the 2010 action film "Have Gun -- Will Travel" to follow his well-received performance in 2002's "8 Mile;"

* And though he'd probably prefer to ignore it, a book by Eminem's mother, Debbie Nelson ("My Son Marshall, My Son Eminem: Setting the Record Straight") that chronicles their difficult and occasional litigious relationship and, not surprisingly, paints the rapper in an unflattering light.

On the musical tip, Eminem announced "Relapse" -- his first set of all-new material since 2004's "Encore" -- during an Oct. 15 appearance on his Sirius satellite radio station Shade 45. He played one of the album's tracks, "I Need a Relapse" and revealed that Dr. Dre, his mentor on his 1999 major label debut "The Slim Shady LP," was producing most of it.

"For the last five months I've been working pretty much straight with Dre," Eminem said during a subsequent interview last week with the BBC. "Obviously his beats are insane, but aside from that I can rap. I can write and not worry about what the beat has to sound like and how loud a snare drum is.

"All those things are taken care of for me," adds Eminem, "I feel like a spoiled rapper. I get to pick and choose everything."

Eminem also said that he has no plans to tour (he was last on the road in 2005) and "no desire to be that big again," but after 80 million career record sales, nine Grammy Awards and a long, mysterious layoff, that may be unavoidable.

"He can say, 'My album's coming out on Christmas day,' and I bet that thing sells a million copies -- that day," says Trick Trick (ne Christian Mathis), who features Eminem on three tracks from "The Villain" and considers him "an executive producer" of the album.

"That's the kind of artist he is. That's how anticipated he is. Eminem is Eminem; he's gonna be that no matter who he (works) with, and that's always gonna be big."

He writes about his rise to superstardom in the 210-page "Eminem: The Way I Am," remembering a troubled, transient childhood with no father ("The worst part about the way I grew up was that I never had a real home."), having no money and few friends until he began making inroads in Detroit's underground rap scene, assisted by the late Proof. "If Proof hadn't gotten me ... into the rap game," Eminem writes, "I don't know where I'd be. I certainly wouldn't be someone you've heard of."

The book, which also includes a "mini documentary" DVD, also trips over his 2000 assault arrests in Oakland and Macomb counties, his relationships with his mother and his high school sweetheart and two-time ex-wife -- and mother of his daughter, Hailie -- Kim, and the drug issues that sent him into Brighton Hospital in 2005. "I'm glad that I realized it and set myself in the right direction," he notes.

Proof's death, he writes, laid him even lower than the drugs: "After he passed, it was a year before I could really do anything normally again. It was tough for me to even get out of bed, and I had days when I couldn't walk, let alone write a rhyme. I have never felt so much pain in my life. It's a pain that is with me to this day. A pain that has become a part of who I am."

It's not all angst and turmoil, however; Eminem reveals that his turn to blond was "just being stupid on drugs," throwing some peroxide in his hair after two hits of Ecstasy.

The book ends with some brief comments acknowledging that he's been "recording the new album mainly in the crib" in Macomb County, working with "hundreds of songs." We'll be hearing some of those in the near future, apparently. As the song also says, "Shady's back, tell a friend..."


Follow the tracks of Eminem's return to the spotlight...

* "Eminem: The Way I Am," a new memoir just out in stores.

* Guest appearances on Trick Trick's "The Villain" (Nov. 25) and 50 Cent's "Before I Self Destruct" (Dec. 9).

* "Relapse," his first new album in four years, expected out before the end of the year.

* "The Re-Up," a second volume of songs by artists in his Shady Records stable, due in 2009.

* "Have Gun -- Will Travel," an action film, expected in 2010.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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