Is Eminem’s “Recovery” The Best Rap Album of All Time?

Posted on 26 August 2010 by johngillette

I’m an avid fan of rap music. There’s so many different styles to it these days. For me, growing up in the south, I have to like and feel comfortable with southern rap. Usually, not always, southern rap is more about the delivery than the content.

About 2 years ago i was talking to Bret Lowery (President of Megastar Records) about mechanics of rap. Bret used to be a recording artist signed to MCA. And his manager was Eric B from “Eric B and Rakim” . So, needless to say, he was around some of the greats on a consistent basis.

Well, more than anything, I thought lyrics were the most important part to being an MC. After talking with Bret, I learned that there are 4 major parts that define an incredible MC – Lyrics, Cadence, Delivery, and Storytelling. After he taught me that, it opened me up to a whole new understanding of rap.

Now, Eminem has always been a favorite of mine, but I never really considered him the greatest rapper. He has always been lyrically genius, and comical as hell. And of course we all know his storytelling abilities from his major successful single “Stan”.


But, I’ve been listening to him more and more often over the past few years and going back to previous albums and listening to his earlier content, and I must say that he has grown into THE BEST MC OF ALL TIME…. at least in my mind. I know, big statement…. I usually make big controversial statements, but I always have something to back it up with. In fact, let’s move right long into the big controversial statement… I think Eminem’s latest album Recovery is THE BEST RECORDED RAP ALBUM OF ALL TIME.

First and foremost, the album has a complete delivered message from beginning to end. Every song discusses how hard it’s been for him to deal with the things in his life the past few years and furthermore discusses details about the effect the death of his closest friend had on him.

He also admits that during these times, he released a couple albums that, according to him, weren’t good enough. Of course he has a few tracks that discuss his ability as an MC, and lyrically takes you from A to Z without thinking about it.

Second, Eminem has completely mastered the art of Delivery! For example, in the song ” Seduction” on the second verse, he says

“I’m the logo on that Dallas Cowboy helmet, a star

And I’m not about to sit back and just keep rhyming in one syllable, nah

Switch it up and watch them haters not give it up, cause they’re just not good enough

But I’m not giving up til I get my respect, and I won’t stop til I get enough

Cause I’m not living up to my own expectations, aww “

If you pay close attention to this line, he chooses which words to accent very carefully. It’s not about just the lyrical content… it’s about everything at once. Same thing in the song “25 To Life” at the end he says “Fuck you hip hop, I’m leaving you, my life sentence is served.” The emotion that is put behind that is so honest and real. I believe him whole heartedly.

There’s no point to discuss the lyrical portion of the 4 major components. Listen to ANY Eminem song, you will see the amazing genius at work.

Now let’s talk about my favorite part of all the components. The part that i believe to be the TRUE factor that separates him from everyone else…cadence. If you are unsure of what cadence is, cadence is the rhythm, or melody on how you are rapping.

So for example, if I were to show you in 8 counts like a dancer… whole counts would be

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8…

Half counts would be:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8

Triplets would be:

1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a 5 and a 6 and a 7 and a 8 and a…

And lastly quarter counts would be:

1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a 5 e and a 6 e and a 7 e and a 8 e and a ….

Now in music terms these are discussed with different terminology. They are 8ths, 16ths, 32nds, and 64ths. These are known as time signatures in music.

This is Eminem’s bread and butter. Most, if not every other MC, stays within a certain cadence on each verse. It doesn’t change much. Eminem rarely stays in the same cadence on any verse on this album. Every verse switches and moves from 16ths to 32nds and 8ths. It’s quite amazing to witness how he can constantly keep you entertained with the ability of cadence.

The crazy thing about it is most of us don’t even realize it unless you’re really starting to pay attention to it. It’s THAT good. All you know is that you’re constantly entertained, and you can’t explain why. Time for some examples, and I have a lot on this one.

In “No Love” with Lil Wayne, listen to his verse. First, he changes the cadence when he says “I’m a little bit sicker than most, shit’s finna get thick again” than again which is amazing when he says ” But I’m afraid it ain’t gonna make no difference when I rip the stage and tear it in half tonight.”

So essentially he goes from 16ths to 32nds to 64ths and back to 32nds all in a matter of seconds. I could probably give an example for every single song on the album, but perhaps I should just show you my favorite cadence change in the album that solidifies his position at the top for me.

In the second verse of the song ” Unkown ” he says ” Google it till it pops up, y’all are so muthaphuckin full of shit you get stopped up ” go listen to how he changed the cadence entirely in the middle of the verse. Ridiculous, not to mention that almost every time the cadence changes, the delivery changes as well.

These are the signs of a great MC and this is also why i believe this album is the GREATEST RECORDED RAP ALBUM ever !

Please keep in mind this is only my personal opinion, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I challenge you to show me an album that embodies the 4 elements of a master MC better than this one.

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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Rich Says:

    Dude, are you high? I respect Marshal and all, but her is a long way from being the best MC. Biggie, Nas, several Wu Tang members are all much better MCs.

  2. K Warner Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have never heard a rapper who combines so many different elements of brilliant analogies, hyperbolic lyrics, comic elements, absolutely uninhibited subject matter, syncopation, etc. I love his work, and I think Recovery is the best rap album I’ve ever heard. It just makes me wonder…how freakin’ long does it take for him to write this stuff and lay down the tracks. The only complaint that I have about his work is that too many songs are rapped in the same tone of voice. Most songs, even if they are more light-hearted, still have that angry, yelling type of timbre to them. There are notable exceptions, of course, but I think it would take his music to a new level to mix up his delivery with different volumes and tones too. Just my opinion…

  3. johngillette Says:

    i agree to a point. i think it depends on where he is in his life. He’s proven that he can do that in his hit single ” stan “. He didn’t get angry until the end. He took you on an emotional journey with tone as the leading factor of the delivery. I just think he’s in a place where it’s more about disappointment and grief compiled with anger.

  4. Daysi Camden Says:

    I’m incredibly thrilled that I found your blog. I’m going to do some much more reading through and attempt to be an productive person with your other members. I am thrilled to read more.

  5. Stormy Inzana Says:

    Gold! you save my day ;)

  6. Chris G Says:

    in response to Rich’s comment, I’m not sure what your personal preference is in regards to what aspects of rap music you give most priority in your talent assessment, but if you really think Nas or Wu Tang produced more quality rhymes than Em, as a physician I’d recommend you seek out some high dose haldol and reassess your thoughts. I’ll admit I’m biased cause I’m all about lyrics but c’mon, Em dominates in almost every aspect of hip-hop. I was profoundly comforted after reading this post just to know there are people out there who recognize Em’s exceptional and unparalleled lyrical quality that has practically ruined rap for me since he makes every other rapper sound so bland and pathetic. His lyrics have finally become proufoundly meaningful, his rhymes flow in perfect harmony and connect on multiple levels as eluded to in this post, and on top of that nearly all of his lyrics have metaphorical undertones.

    I almost had a seizure trying to follow the lyrics the first time I listened to “no love” and still every time I listen to it I pick up on new metaphors:

    “my hip don’t hop anymore”
    “roasted cause marsh is not mellow”
    “you spit, these fools can’t drool or dribble a drop”

    He’s always been light years ahead of all other rappers, but now that his lyrics have attained the meaningful substance that was rare in the past, he’s escalated to a level that practically puts him on his own planet. As with everything in life they’ll always be an opposing opinion, but essentially become the Michael Jordan of hip hop. Their are a few Kobe’s out there that might come close enough to feel some gravitational effects from that planet he sits alone upon but even Biggie, as talented as he was, is immortalized by his death which def exaggerates his skills. Oh, and my favorite part about this album was that for the first time he shows NO signs of slowing down even though he’s hinted at burning out on nearly all of his previous records.

  7. Chris G Says:

    I couldn’t help but notice seeing several posts ridiculing the mere idea the mention of this album with the greats of all time. But its funny how not a single one of you have taken the author up on his challenge to post an example of better lyrics. Face it, even if you don’t like his music his lyrics are untouchable. Accept it or post some proof to the contrary.

  8. bryant Says:

    I agree that on a technical level eminems flow is fantastic on this album but if you think this album is lyrically good,you are sadly mistaken and I strongly urge you to study hip hop further because you clearly have no idea what it is. This album is tied with encore as eminems worst album lyrically.And ill give you my reasons
    1.the whole”underdog getting back on track” thing is great,but it does get annoying and midway through the album I couldnt help but feel eminem was just playing a card.

    2.lyrics from the album[does not qualify as even decent]:
    now can I get that lap dance?
    She’s got a tattoo of me right above her ass man
    In the streets of Warren, Michigan we call ‘em tramp stamps
    That means she belongs to me, time to put the damn clamps
    Down and show this hussie who’s man, now get amped, dance!
    But when it comes to them trailers in them south parks, muffle it
    Cause homie, that hood’s tighter than Kenny’s
    So ladies if your belly button’s not an innie, them I’m outtie
    Now hop in my minivan, let’s get rowdy cmon!
    you can get the dick, just call me
    the ball sack, im nuts
    fuck it a sick duck, i want my duck sick mommy,
    and my nuts licked
    gobble them up tric, yummy
    bitch you dont fuckin think that i know you suck dick, dummy?
    you get your butt kicked,
    like Elton John, cause im just a mean cock sucker
    this shit is on cause you went an pissed me off,
    now im shittin and pissin on, everybody
    stick my dick in a circle, but im not fuckin around
    call me a faggot cause i hate a pussy
    [I could go on and on about the lyrics because this god awful wordplay are all over the album,these are some of the worst and thier are moments where lyrically he sounds good but its much like on relapse when he had a good flow,the accent would fuck it up, well the same principle holds up here for the lyrics. These terrible bars overshadow any gretness the song may have had].

    3.and the fact that lil wayne is the only feature just puts the icing on the cake for me,When relapse came out I thought surley that eminem had reached rock bottom,lyrically it was decent but the accent made for an unbearable listen,then recovery came out and I was expecting somewhat of an improvment but he actually outdid the last album and made something less intresting.Eminem was lyrically gifted from 96-2003 and then i really dont know what happend but i am fairly confident to say i could go 1 on 1 in a battle with him and hold my own easily, he is just not very good anymore.Im not trying to claim to be the best rapper ever but I would be happy to show you Im a better mc than him in his current state,if thats the proof you need.

  9. Mac G Says:

    Alrite listen I get that your an avid fan of rap music and thats nice. I get that you’ve listened to Eminem and felt that he’s amazing because he is no question he is one of the best MCs ever. To be honest on a list I dont know where you place him because those type of lists are usually impossible to complete and are ridiculous to even match different eras and styles and try to say that one is “better” than the other. That being said coming across this blog post and seeing that title I had to comment and tell that frankly and in the kindest way possible you are wrong. Dead wrong, this isnt even Eminem’s best work and I’m pretty sure that he would admit that if you asked him. His work on this album is an appeal to the masses if thats what you believe makes a great album than fine perhaps this is the best rap album ever, I mean it did get nominated for album of the year at the Grammys and that can be considered the height of popularity in music. He has big name producers, billboard sized guest appearances, and his flow is refined and mature. And if all of that is what you need to say greatest rap album of all time than fine. But you are forgetting this about the music and the songs just arent there I will name ten albums right now that best this one and I could name 50:

    Ready to Die
    The Chronic
    Marshall Mathers LP
    Liquid Swords
    Black on Both Sides
    Only Built for Cuban Linx
    The Blueprint
    The Master

    All of those albums are by single artists though The Chronic features alot of Snoop Dogg and is Dr. Dre’s album. I am confident though in saying that all of those albums are better than Recovery. I am actual holding myself back and trying to be as a respectful as possible but I honestly can’t believe you listening to the 10 albums I just said or many others including those done by duos and groups and tell me that Recovery is better. If the reason for your post was to start a conversation about what makes good hip hop and what does not than I commend you. If you believe that mass appeal and radio friendly hits are what makes a good rap album than yes Recovery if not the best definitely deserves mention (again I dont like lists or rankings).

    And to the point that no lyrics stack up or if you want melody and cadence I give you these examples”

    I’m slamming niggas like Shaquille, shit is real
    When it’s time to eat a meal I rob and steal
    ‘cos Mom Duke ain’t giving me shit
    so for the bread and butter I leave niggas in the gutter
    Huh, word to mother, I’m dangerous
    Crazier than a bag of fucking Angel Dust
    When I bust my gat motherfuckers take dirt naps
    I’m all that and a dime sack, where the paper at?
    -Biggie “Gimme the Loot”

    Yo, from the first to the last of it, delivery is passionate
    The whole and not the half of it, vocab and not the math of it
    Projectile that them blasted with, accurate assassin shit
    Me and Kweli close like, Bethlehem and Nazareth
    After this you be pressing rewind on top your master disk
    Shining like an asterisk for all those that be gatherin
    Connectin like a roundhouse from the townhouse to the tenaments
    Cause all my Brooklyn residents, rollin heavy regiments
    -Mos Def, Black Star “Definition”

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