Ten years ago, Eminem presented one of his defining songs from his “Recovery” album, “Not Afraid,” the lead single.
Today, ten years ago, Eminem came through his seventh studio album Recovery with the lead single, the Boi-1da produced “Not Afraid.” Contextually, the song served as a major stylistic start for Slim, particularly in the afterglow of the twisted Relapse album in 2009. Nearly entirely produced by Dr Dre, Relapse found Em slipping into the skin of a heavily accented serial killer; while his rhyming was arguably his technical best, many vocal fans quickly turned on the album, citing the macabre subject matter and Em’s cadence as two main issues.
The criticism surrounding Relapse seemed to rattle Eminem, who after a long-fought battle with addiction had only recently made a return to rap. When “Not Afraid” dropped for the first time it became clear that he was taking his music in a completely different direction. Em had sought production away from his camp for the first time in his career, enlisting Drake’s go-to hitmaker for a batch of beats in Boi-1da. One of them was “Not Afraid,” an anthem that openly addressed Em’s return to sound mental and physical health, while setting in the process a variety of new artistic habits.
For one, “Not Afraid” bucked the anticipated “goofy song” trend, last seen on Relapse’s “We Made You.” It also featured an instrumental that was certainly more uplifting than fans used to, particularly after a relentless slew of Dr Dre-produced horrorcore. “Not Afraid” encapsulated a shifting outlook on both a musical and a philosophical level between the triumphant synth strings and Em’s equally inspiring lyrics — perhaps more so than any single from a major rap artist before it.
“Not Afraid” has since become a staple in Em’s live set for a decade removed from its initial release, sometimes serving as the closer to its concerts. In the United States, it’s even gone diamond, a testament to Em’s faithful and widespread fanbase. Although it can be argued that “Not Afraid” pushed him further away from the release of Relapse 2, a forgotten album that has found a revived following in recent years, it can not be denied its impact on the man behind it. Be sure to replay the video below, and sound off —
What do you think about “Not Afraid” in Em’s career’s greater context?
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