Let’s just begin with the fact that Eminem definitely doesn’t care what I think about Kamikaze, his new album which dropped completely without warning on August 31. Anyone writing about Eminem should probably note the fact that Eminem is less interested in critical reviews and more interested in delivering a solid album to his fanbase.
That said, the Detroit rapper doesn’t entirely ignore critics, as is clear on Kamikaze.
On the opening track “The Ringer” Eminem snaps back at critics and fans alike for being “too stupid” to understand his rhyme schemes. For Marshall Mathers to withstand scorn from music critics and rap fans alike for nearly 20 years, it seems only fair that he can make occasional jabs back at those taking him to task.
Do some musicians make bad albums? Sure. But do some critics write terrible reviews, completely missing the point of the work they’re reviewing? Definitely. If it’s part of the critic’s job to point out bad music, maybe it’s part of the artist’s job to point out weak criticism. For that matter, how in-depth a review could any critic give to an album they just heard less than 24 hours ago?
I’ve been listening to the album for around three days and I’m just now feeling I can talk about Kamikaze on more than just a surface level.
Aside from hitting back at the media journalists, “The Ringer” is a great opening. It’s subdued in terms of the instrumental, but on the mic, Eminem delivers one of his strongest and most abrasive performances to date. Lyrically put, the whole album is untouchable. Eminem’s talent with lyricism isn’t up for debate. His content, instrumentals, and style of music may be a matter of taste, but his delivery and writing skills still surpass any other MC on mainstream radio.
“The Greatest,” followed by “Lucky You” featuring Joyner Lucas, make it clear by this point that Eminem is flexing his rap and lyricism muscles on this album, but furthermore, Slim Shady’s distaste for the current state of mainstream hip-hop is going a theme on the album. Eminem blasts rappers who use ghostwriters and people he accuses of “mumbling” instead of rapping.
He goes on to lay his group D12 to rest on “Stepping Stone” and never relents lyrically through the title track, “Kamikaze” or “Fall.”
Simply put, Eminem is in beast mode on Kamikaze until the conclusion of the closing track, “Venom.” I don’t think it’s my favorite Eminem album, but I can also recongnize the fact that he’s probably never been better.
Full disclosure, I’m a fan. I was awake at 2:00 a.m. back in the late-’90s and saw “My Name Is” come on MTV After Hours weeks before it premiered on Total Request Live, where Eminem ultimately became a household name. I’ve listened to every album numerous times, just like I will this one.
But how does the album work for the current state of music?
The truth is, I’m not sure, because I avoid current music as much as I can, which would make perfect sense if I was Eminem’s age, but he’s 12 years my senior. I’m just generally not impressed with the current state of hip-hop or music in general.
Probably because I grew up on rappers like Eminem.
The thing about Kamikaze is a lot of people are calling it a comeback album for Eminem, but I was unaware he’d ever gone anywhere. He’s made some weaker albums, sure, but none of those records were absent at least a few good tracks.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Johnny Coleman stated that Eminem hasn’t had a good release this decade and barely in the century, which was news to me. Encore and Relapse weren’t great, but they have some fun tracks.
However, if memory serves, Recovery was nothing short of amazing. It had a slew of lyrically impeccable tracks, most notably “Won’t Back Down” which featured Pink and touted some of the best rhyme schemes Eminem had ever demonstrated at the time. Not to mention Recovery had solid hit-singles like “No Love” and “Love The Way You Lie.” Even the lesser-known tracks off Recovery are great. “Cold Wind Blows,” “25 to Life,” and “Untitled” still remain some of my personal favorite Eminem tracks.
Did people just forget this album existed?
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 had the indisputably-amazing single “Rap God” where he clearly lives up to the song’s title. I could type thousands of positive words about both of those albums and for that matter, Revival wasn’t nearly as bad as most outlets claimed it was. It was just different. Eminem hasn’t gone anywhere, he’s as good as he’s ever been.
What’s changed isn’t Eminem, it’s the world Eminem inhabits.
In 2000, Eminem was cutting edge and daring. In 2018, he’s seen by much of the youth as a try-hard or an “edgelord.” It’s difficult to shock people as a rapper when the president of the United States has been recorded casually talking about committing sexual assault.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, in the midst of the Me Too movement, a lot of his lyrics are seen by many as inappropriate. It’s simply a bad time for Eminem to be releasing new music to mainstream audiences. It’s not the same world that made him famous.
The statement I got from Kamikaze is that Eminem is well-aware that evolutionarily speaking, in order to survive, one must adapt to the world around them. But if survival means adapting to this world, he’s rather stay set in his ways and fade into obscurity.
If that’s the message he was trying to deliver, I find it to be a rather poignant one. If it’s not the message, his flow is no less impressive.
Some have suggested that Eminem hang up the mic, but I hope his next record comes as quickly as Kamikaze followed Revival and with just as little warning. It would, however, be great to see Eminem finally work with some of the underground rap acts he’s inspired so heavily. If you want to find good lyricism these days, the mainstream is far from the place to search.
This could be a pivotal moment where Eminem’s fame and hype is put on the back burner and the rapper finds out how big his most dedicated fanbase actually is. One thing is for sure, rapper Hopsin will definitely be counted among Eminem’s serious fans. If the video of him reacting to being name-dropped on Eminem’s new album doesn’t make you smile, you have no sense of joy.
Kamikaze is a great record in a long line of quality releases from Eminem, but in 2018 America, it’s nearly impossible to impress anyone, yet simultaneously easy to outrage everyone.
You didn’t do anything wrong, Slim, on this record or the last. Keep up the good work.