Published Sep 03, 2018Eight months after the release of Revival, and without any clever billboards or marketing ploys, Eminem released Kamikaze — a conflicted piece of high-quality hip-hop. At its best, it's a return to the Slim Shady fans were expecting on his last album. At its worst, it's punctuated by cringe-inducing lapses of unnecessary shock value.
It's unfair to label this an angry album wholesale. Em clearly has a bone to pick with the media (who were universally unimpressed with Revival), rappers who have a had anything to say about him as of late and the new generation of artists (except Joyner Lucas) — basically, everyone. "Ringer," the title track and even "Not Alike" featuring Royce 5'9" — which sees him briefly and humorously adopt a Migos flow — find Em at his best, gunning down anyone who may have had the courage to question the skill of a GOAT MC.
But, the album does have some intriguing (and less aggressive) moments, such as the open letter to the members of D12, "Stepping Stones." It's long been rumoured that the group had been working on new music, but by the end of the genuine apology/explanation, he bluntly states the group is dead, adding that it died the day that the late-rapper Proof passed away, after being shot in a Detroit club in 2006.
Then there are the songs dedicated to relationships; every Shady album has a few, and as expected, there are mentions of domestic violence on his part. Kamikaze manages to reference hitting his partner in the face with a baseball bat twice: once on the seemingly out of place "Normal" — with its sing-song chorus and ironically new school flow — and one on the Jessie Reyez-featuring track, "Nice Guy."
"Fall," aside from the highly unnecessary Tyler, The Creator reference, is one of the most revealing songs on the project. It appears the most hurtful thing to Shady was that his pen game and legacy was questioned. "Don't tell me 'bout the culture," he laments before reminding listeners of his influence — and the fact that he brought the world 50 Cent.
Firing shots at everyone isn't revolutionary; anyone who's old enough to remember Em's first three albums when they initially dropped know that he produces better content when he's fired up. Ultimately, the LP is exceptionally self-aware, right down to the Paul Rosenberg skit that voices his long-time manager's concern that responding to everyone seems petty and unnecessary. Intertwined with constant reminders of his greatness, this album is — at points — a little much.
Eminem remains one of the genre's most celebrated exports, who merely needed a reason to be mad enough to (once again) become the Hulk we all think we wanted. However, as the LP unfolds he often feels like an angry old man unwillingly to accept the tides of change, and (evidently) is incapable of taking criticism, attacking anyone who didn't recognize the "subtle genius" of his past work.
Angry, reactionary Em is nothing new. Though his skill is absolutely unmatched, homophobic references and overly misogynistic bars in 2018 do feel excessively out of touch. It's not his best or his worst — but, it's definitely what fans deserved eight months ago. (Interscope)