2009 saw Eminem not only release his much-awaited comeback album, but also an expanded version of it and a promise for a sequel within that very year. Relapse 2 would be its name and Dr. Dre the main producer behind it. But the recording sessions eventually took Eminem in a different place and everything was scrapped in favor of totally new material: “But as I kept recording and working with new producers, the idea of a sequel to Relapse started to make less and less sense to me, and I wanted to make a completely new album.” Relapse 2 became Recovery and producers such as Just Blaze, DJ Khalil and Mr. Porter joined Dr. Dre.
If Relapse saw Slim Shady reimagined as a serial killer, then Recovery loses the alter-ego altogether, instead focusing on more serious and personal themes. Or, as Just Blaze put it, the album is “more emotionally driven”. The linear notes read “To anyone who’s in a dark place tryin’ to get out. Keep your head up… It does get better!” and many songs indeed have empowering messages towards the listeners.
Not Afraid, the lead single released from Recovery is such an example. A choir backs up Eminem in the anthemic chorus that deals both with his problems (“I’m not afraid to take a stand”) and encourages the listener to do the same (“Everybody come take my hand / We’ll walk this road together, through the storm”). His newly-found sobriety is mentioned (“It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me / Admittedly I probably did it subliminally for you”) and the new direction is further amplified by the dismissal of his previous album (“Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was “ehhhh”).
Not Afraid spent 1 week at number one in Billboard Top 100, before being dethroned by Usher’s OMG (feat. will.i.am).