Eminem's chart-topping 2009 release Relapse was the first album the Detroit rapper recorded sober, hitting the studio after a stint in rehab for addiction to prescription pills. But that doesn't mean the drugs didn't negatively influence the work -- withdrawals rendered him "not sharp enough" to reach the next level of songwriting.
"I was still working the drugs out of my system, so there was a lot of... just jokey shit," Eminem told Complex. "It was a lot of punchline-y, funny, shock value -- kind of going back to The Slim Shady LP."
"My thinking became sharper again as I went along. If you were to take a song like 'My Mom' or 'Must Be the Ganja,' those were cool -- but they were the beginning stages of me coming out of the [addiction]," he added. "It wasn't until it got into songs like 'Stay Wide Awake' that it felt like my mind got sharper. I became more on-point towards the end of recording the album."
And now, with addiction and withdrawals behind him, Em is in the studio recording Relapse 2 for 2010 release -- and he's stepped up his game.
"The new material is definitely different," he said. "Now I'm going for songs instead of one-liners. I don't want to make shit that you hear once and then the joke's over; I want to make records that you could play a hundred times, a thousand times."
"Right now, I feel like I'm more focused than I've ever been. I still feel like I have room to get better but I feel like I'm definitely on my game right now."
Relapse: Refill, an expanded release of Relapse featuring new songs, drops Dec. 21. Listen to "Elevator" and "Buffalo Bill" right here.