Rap Icon Eminem rocked the hip-hop community on August 31 when he dropped “Kamikaze,” a surprise album that served to address his previous release and those who spoke out against it.
Ever since the release of “Recovery” in 2010, Eminem’s music has been decidedly less aggressive and hardcore and more pop-influenced than in his early years. This was taken a step further about nine months ago when Eminem released “Revival,” which showcased a newfound “woke” persona. The album garnered a lukewarm response from critics and fans, some of whom disapproved of the album’s anti-Donald Trump bent and overuse of pop features and rock samples.
Kamikaze is Eminem’s attempt to give fans more of what they wanted: less politics and more of the mudslinging, crude lyrics that defined the Slim Shady persona of the late 90’s. “The Ringer,” the albums first track, succeeds tremendously. The five-and-a-half-minute song has no hook, but the lyricism is larger than life and Em’s dynamic flow effectively conveys his anger.
On “Lucky You”, Eminem addresses his frustration with modern hip hop and how he has been phased out during recent years despite his influence on the genre. He is joined by Worcester-based Rapper Joyner Lucas, whose intense, chopper-style flow blends well with Eminem’s hard-hitting delivery.
The album is not without its handful of duds, however. “Nice Guy” is a piano-accented tune about an unstable relationship featuring up-and-comer Jessie Reyez. The song feels like an amalgamation of incompatible parts and Eminem’s verses are shockingly dull.
Disses permeate the album. Many of the targets are modern rappers such as Lil Yachty, Lil Xan, Lil Pump, Machine Gun Kelly, Tyler, The Creator and Joe Budden. Although verbally attacking others was a trademark of Eminem’s early days, many of these disses seem totally superfluous, and some have ignited pointless rap beefs.
On “Not Alike,” which features long-time collaborator Royce da 5’9”, Eminem spends an entire verse mocking rapper Machine Gun Kelly due to an incident that occurred on social media six years ago. This led to Kelly releasing his own diss-track, “Rap Devil,” thus further igniting the feud. The fact that Eminem felt compelled to start beef with a 28-year-old rapper in the first place is beyond comprehension.
Even more concerning is Eminem’s use of a homosexual slur to insult Tyler, the Creator on the song “Fall”. The word is blurred, even on the explicit version, but it’s use is still unacceptable. Eminem has since expressed regret regarding using the slur, but the offensive word is damaging to one of the albums more effective bangers.
The album concludes with “Venom,” which comes off the soundtrack of the upcoming Marvel film of the same name. While far inferior to many of his other songs that have been used on soundtracks (“Lose Yourself” from 2002’s 8 Mile, “Phenomenal” from 2015’s Southpaw, for example), it’s a solid closer to an entertaining, albeit inconsistent, album.
Kamikaze will not go down in history as a hip-hop masterpiece, it’s no “Marshal Mathers LP,” but it is a welcome return to Eminem’s ferocity on the mic.