Happy Birthday, Eminem!

Eminem turns 36 today.  In addition, he’s readying a new album.

Eminem, healthy and confident, is set to reemerge, first with a much-trumpeted memoir, then with “Relapse,” his first new album in more than four years. No release date is set — the album may be out by year’s end — but a freewheeling single, “I’m Having a Relapse,” has already hit the Internet. There are even rumblings of a 2009 tour.

It remains to be seen whether Eminem can recapture his glory days of the early ’00s, when massive record sales, critical acclaim and priceless street cred converged to make him one of the world’s most recognizable celebrities. But the star born Marshall Mathers, chosen this month by Vibe magazine readers as the “best rapper alive,” seems hungry to give it a shot.

Eminem’s last album, Encore, was a disappointment.  There was some good material, but it was a large drop-off in quality from the three classics that preceded it.  Despite intense fandom on my part up until that point, when my friends told me not to bother with the three new tracks on his best-of album,  I didn’t.  A low point was reached when he was heard declaring “Bush knocked down the towers!” in a guest appearance on some no-name 9/11 conspiracist’s song that also included lyrics (not by Eminem) about how any black who wasn’t a Democrat needed to be killed.  (I’m not going to bother digging that one up.)

Let’s hope sobering up has improved both his music and his sanity.  I’ve got my fingers crossed, and I’m going to give him another chance.

Here’s “Square Dance,” a favorite of mine from The Eminem Show:

Best of luck, Eminem.  I’m rooting for ya.

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