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Back to reality: Eminem pursues a complete "Recovery"

of the Oakland Press

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Eminem knows there's plenty of anticipation for his upcoming "home and home" concerts with fellow rapper Jay-Z — first at Detroit's Comerica Park this week and then at New York's Yankee Stadium later in September.

But the Oakland County resident isn't about to reveal any details.

"I can't ... I don't want to get into it too much," Eminem says from his Ferndale recording studio. "I think it'll be good." He brushes off questions about special guests but does allow that the songs he and his nine-piece band perform "will probably be (from) all over the place" rather than only from his latest album, "Recovery."

"Hopefully it'll be songs that everyone is familiar with," he says.

Of course, it's highly likely those attending the four sold-out concerts will be well acquainted with the "Recovery" music, too.

The album, Eminem's seventh studio set and his first since being named the top-selling artist of the last decade with more than 78 million career albums sold, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 when it was released in mid-June and has so far sold more than 2.3 million copies. "Recovery" is still lodged atop the chart in its seventh non consecutive week, while Eminem also occupies the No. 1 slot on the Hot 100 with the album's second single, the Rihanna-featuring "Love the Way You Lie."

And the first single, "Not Afraid," was only the second rap single and 16th song of any style to debut at No. 1 and has netted eight nominations for this year's MTV Music Video Awards, which will be presented Sept. 12 in Los Angeles.

"I'm obviously happy with the way that people have received the album," notes Eminem, 37, who was born Marshall Mathers III in Missouri before moving to the Detroit area when he was an adolescent. "As far as what I've accomplished with it, I don't know. I'm just happy to be here. I'm happy to be able to have a career as long as I've had. I feel truly blessed to be in the game as long as I've been in it."

The road to "Recovery" was a hard one, however — and filled with very public potholes.

By 2005, Eminem had conquered the music world and significantly dented the film industry with his semi-autobiographical 2002 feature "8 Mile," which spawned the Grammy and Academy Award-winning hit "Lose Yourself." But he was laid low by an addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills, checking himself into Brighton Hospital that year and subsequently suffering a methadone overdose in 2007. He canceled a planned tour of Europe in 2005, and it would be four years before he'd release another album of all new material. He also suffered through a second divorce from his wife, Kim, and the shooting death of his close friend and onstage hype man, DeShaun "Proof" Holton.

By the time Eminem was finally sober in the spring of 2008, there was plenty of wreckage to sift through.

"This whole recovery process has been a learning process for me," acknowledges the rapper, who has one daughter, 14-year-old Hailie, and also helps raise a teenage niece and his ex-wife's younger daughter. "As I've gone through it I've kind of changed as a person over time. There were a lot of baby steps that led to bigger and bigger things ... but just finding my footing again, that was a journey in itself."

Eminem now considers 2004's "Encore" and last year's "Relapse," both Grammy-winning chart toppers, to be lesser works in his catalog — and is particularly vocal about the latter's shortcomings on "Recovery," declaring that "I've got something to prove to fans/I feel like I let 'em down."

"I guess that 'Relapse' album, you could look at it like you're watching the journey of me coming up out of my addictions and kind of learning how to rap again," he explains. "But the songs that I was recording were kind of flat, emotionally. I think that on 'Relapse' I was ... trying to prove to myself that I could actually write and rap again. And somewhere in that I feel like maybe I got a little lost."

Eminem wound up rediscovering his creative mojo by going back and listening to his older material, particularly potent statement songs such as “Toy Soldiers,” “Mockingbird” and the entirety of 2000's “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

“I wanted songs that you could pop in the CD and they would make you feel something,” he says. “I just felt like a lot of the songs on ‘Relapse’ didn't make me feel anything. What I wanted to go back to was song that provoked certain emotions, whatever they were.”

Though he initially planned to release a “Relapse 2” album from the same sessions (he did put out an expanded set called “Relapse: Refill” in December), Eminem had a creative breakthrough while vacationing with another mentor, Dr. Dre, in Hawaii during the summer of 2009.

“During that trip I probably recorded about 15 songs,” he remembers, “and I think the latter half of those, probably the last three or four, felt like, ‘OK, I'm starting to get back to normal again. This feels more like me now.’

“So when I left Hawaii and I came back to Detroit, I felt like, ‘OK, I'm starting to get back to myself. This is good ...’ ”

Plans for “Relapse 2” were scrapped and “Recovery” began to take shape as Eminem began accepting beats and production from new collaborators — among them Just Blaze, Boi-1da, DJ Kahlil, Havoc, Jim Jonsin and D-12 cohort Denaun Porter, who has assumed Proof's spot next to Eminem onstage.

“It gave me a break,” explains Eminem, who estimates he recorded 25-30 more songs beyond the 17 that appear on the album.

“It gave me a chance to just sit with the pen and not have to worry about making the beats, ‘cause they were already made for me.

“It was a way for me to get a different sound from a bunch of different people and kind of balance the album out.”

“Love the Way You Lie,” a rumination on dysfunctional, abusive relationships, came “kind of in the 11th hour of recording,” created by Alex da Kid and passed along by Eminem’s Detroit-born manager Paul Rosenberg. “Paul was kind of like, ‘I know you're done recording, but just listen to this,’ ” Eminem recalls. “As soon as I heard the track I was like, ‘Yo...’ The chorus just spoke to me.”

It also gave him a chance to work with Rihanna, which was apparently a longstanding desire.

“I kept mentioning it to the people just around the studio — like, ‘Yo, Rihanna's dope. What do you think about me doing a song with her?’ ” says Eminem, who also features Lil Wayne and P!nk on “Recovery.”

“She's a super talented vocalist ... But I didn't want to approach her until I had a song that I felt was the right one. I approached (‘Love the Way You Lie’) with her in mind. I felt like if she got on this chorus it could be crazy, and I was just amped that she'd do it.”

With “Recovery's” creative and commercial success, Eminem feels that he’s back on that “footing” he lost five years ago — and is ready to move forward. He's hitting the studio “probably about five days a week” but has no firm plans yet for a next album. “I just make music and always like to write just to stay mentally on my game,” he says.

Eminem is also working hard to stay on track personally, too. Though he “wasn't really getting anything from” attending Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he does speak with a rehabilitation counselor once a week, and Elton John, a friend, “reaches out and we talk about things as far as sobriety.”

And his parental responsibilities “help me keep my mind right.”

“But basically, man, I try to stay busy,” he adds. But even then, he voices a cautious approach to any firm commitments — like full-scale touring or even future acting opportunities that are continually rumored.

“I'm kind of taking everything as it comes, like a step at a time, and seeing what the next thing’s gonna be,” Eminem explains. “I haven't really planned too far ahead as far as what I'm going to do next or whatever. We'll just see.”

Eminem, Jay-Z and B.o.B. perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Sept. 2-3, at Comercia Park, 2100 Woodward Ave. A new block of tickets have been freed up and are on sale now. Call 313-471-2000 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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