On May 15, 2009, Eminem released Relapse, his sixth studio album and the first since 2004's Encore. America stood still that day as one of our most beloved rappers spoke like a ridiculous parody version of himself for 76 minutes.
That’s right. In 2009, the year of our Lord, Eminem chose to rap in a weird, vaguely Middle Eastern accent and we were too scared to tell him.
In ninth grade at the time, I couldn’t have been more psyched for Relapse. I had followed every tiny development and rumor about a new Em album for nearly four years, counting down to the release by the millisecond. After all, Eminem is my hero. (I swear, I'm not a rapper, just a white kid with anger issues.)
Eminem was finally returning from an intensely dark hiatus. After the death of Proof, his best friend and fellow founding member of D12, his drug addiction spiraled out of control and lead to an overdose that nearly took his life. Following Encore, which was considered a disappointment by critics and fans alike, people were excited for a possible return to form.
I still remember waking up early like it was Christmas to listen to the single “We Made You” the morning it was released. But I was not emotionally prepared for what followed.
“Why the fuck is he talking like that?” I thought.
That accent. Was it Middle Eastern? Was it Irish? Was it Jamaican? The world may never know.
Once Relapse hit store shelves, we learned that Eminem decided to spit most of his verses in that same inexplicable accent.
It wasn’t the first time he utilized this voice choice—he used the same “da doing doing doing” cadence on 2004's “Ass Like That”—but this was the first time he employed the accent across an entire album. How did this happen?
It’s been nine years since Relapse and we deserve answers. So I took matters into my own hands. For the past seven months, I've been working around the clock doing strenuous research on Eminem’s "accent" phase.
First off, to fully understand Eminem’s accent phase, we need to grasp the sheer scale of just how huge this phase was. Below, you will find a list of every song in which Eminem uses some kind of accent, including features and leaked songs.
- "Ass Like That" (Encore)
- "Leave Dat Boy Alone" (D12 World by D12)
- "My Ballz" (The Longest Yard Soundtrack by D12)
- "Touchdown" (T.I. vs T.I.P. by T.I.)
- "Jimmy Crack Corn" (The Re-Up)
- "3 a.m." (Relapse)
- "My Mom" (Relapse)
- "Bagpipes from Baghdad" (Relapse)
- "Hello" (Relapse)
- "Same Song & Dance" (Relapse)
- "We Made You" (Relapse)
- "Old Times Sake" (Relapse)
- "Stay Wide Awake" (Relapse)
- "Must Be the Ganja" (Relapse)
- "Hell Breaks Loose" (Relapse: Refill)
- "Buffalo Bill" (Relapse: Refill)
- "Elevator" (Relapse: Refill)
- "Taking My Ball" (Relapse: Refill)
- "Drop the Bomb On ‘Em" (Relapse: Refill)
- "Chemical Warfare" (Chemical Warfare by The Alchemist)
- "So Bad" (Recovery)
- "Framed" (Revival)
- "Oh No" (leaked)
- "Syllables" (leaked)
- "Things Get Worse" (leaked)
- "Ballin Uncontrollably" (leaked)
Looking at this overwhelming list paints a disturbing picture of just how prevalent this artistic approach had become. This was clearly more than a phase; it was an epidemic.
But that still leaves us with the question: how did this happen? How did one of the most successful musicians of all time rap in a bizarre accent for no god damn reason on so many songs?
I have four theories...
THEORY No. 1: Eminem’s drug problem temporarily convinced him that he was a leprechaun from Pakistan.
Drugs can do some pretty crazy things to you. Even though Eminem finally got sober and defeated his demons, maybe the drugs were still swimming around in his system and they somehow convinced his brain that he was a mythological little bearded man from a Middle Eastern country, and that was just his normal voice. It can happen to the best of us.
By the time Recovery came out, the drugs were finally fully out of his system and he apologized for his delusional shenanigans on "Not Afraid" with “perhaps I ran them accents into the ground.”
Honestly, it adds up.
THEORY No. 2: It was all a deep, highly-calculated political metaphor.
In the early aughts, Em was never shy about his distaste for the Iraq War, or his hatred for George W. Bush. Now that Barack was in office, Em wanted to approach his political commentary in an alternative way.
To express his disgust for the way America intervenes in the Middle East, he decided to use this accent while rapping some of the goriest, most disturbing songs of his career. He rapped about raping puppies (rude) and shoving umbrellas in vaginas (unsanitary) in a vaguely Middle Eastern accent to symbolize all of the horrors that the United States has inflicted on the Middle East.
This “Relapse,” was America relapsing, if you will, into an erroneous vision of itself as an authority to police the rest of the world even though they’re only causing further obliteration to it.
THEORY No. 3: This was not Eminem at all, but an imposter with a weird voice.
Think about it. Maybe Eminem’s time out of the limelight was because he was kidnapped. In 2009, an imposter emerged, and while this imposter looked exactly like Em, he had a totally different voice. Instead of learning how to sound more like the actual Eminem, he just used his natural voice and none of our dumb asses suspected anything.
In early 2010, Em finally escaped from his captors, presumably murdered his imposter with a shovel, and released Recovery, an album about him recovering the trauma of being held captive by a dude with a weird ass voice. Inspiring.
Last year, Eminem revived his Relapse voice on “Framed.” On the song's chorus, he hollers, “I was FRAAAAMED.”
THEORY No. 4: Eminem’s (unlikely) explanation that he just was trying to “bend words.”
Em actually answered this question himself, avoiding my rational theories and instead, giving us his own implausible version of the events.
Last year in an interview with Vulture, Em touched on Relapse and the infamous accents.
“I recorded at least 50 to 60 songs for that album and on each one I would get a little more drastic with the accents, trying to bend the words and make them rhyme in ways they wouldn’t if you just said them regular. It was this gradual thing and I didn’t even realize how accent-heavy the album got. Paul [Rosenberg] didn’t realize it either until he went and played the music for somebody at Interscope and they were like, 'Why is he doing all those accents?'”
Yeah, Em. Likely story.
Em has since apologized for the accents and made fun of himself for them multiple times in his own lyrics (“Not Afraid,” “The Reunion,” and “Heat” are a few examples.) And America forgave him. But we will never forget.
Many of my heroes have been caught in scandals. But no celebrity scandal will ever be as intense or disturbing as AccentGate™️.