I think it is safe to say that the veteran, record-breaking, Grammy-winning rapper’s 2017 Revival was a disappointment to just about everyone. Really, Eminem’s music has resulted in a “last straw” moment for many fans. Some have just lasted longer than others. Many ditched him after the 2013 Marshall Mathers LP 2. Some left after 2010’s Recovery. Some even left after 2004’s Encore. Everyone’s favorite edgy and politically incorrect rapper has had ups and downs artistically. As hip-hop music becomes more melodic and the mainstream becomes more acquainted to the “Lils” of the world, it has been easy to hear Eminem’s music and think it has gradually become more and more dated. Where Revival seemed to have showed Eminem’s age with his silly and off beat flow, Kamikaze embraces its age with an aggressive and opinionated Marshall Mathers on an album that feels authentic and necessary for rap today.
Hip-Hop has become such a large genre in the last 20 years and its constant evolution in sound calls for us as fans to finally realize its best categorized in sub-genres. On Kamikaze, Eminem raps with animosity towards the mumble rap generation and reasserts himself as a real character in the game that does not have any time for a subliminal. Names are dropped in this album and just like Pusha T’s diss track to Drake, “The Story of Adidion”, this summer, it feels like Em is bringing respect back to old school rap. The Detroit rapper lets you know he feels: sometimes that happens in a more respectable tone. The intro track, “The Ringer”, takes on many rappers including Lil Yacthy as Em raps “I can see why people like Lil Yachty, but not me though, not even dissin’, it just ain’t for me, all I am simply is just an MC.” This track had the most quotables and was Em’s best display of lyrical destruction. Lil Pump and Lil Xan were both name-dropped as Lil Wayne copy cats en route to five and half minutes of satirical flow switches.
Ultimately, each track was either another episode of disses or vengeful comebacks to media personalities that were not fond of his 2017 stumble. I mean, he REALLY came at Machine Gun Kelly on “Not Alike” in Eminem’s first collaboration with 2018’s hottest producer, Tay Keith. He even takes two skits to profile Paul Rosenberg advising him against an album charged with disrespect from opinionated members of the media.
In addition to being a more lyrically compelling album than Revival, Eminem was at his best sonically in five or so years as well. Some tracks have that awkward modern Eminem pop chorus like “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” both sung by Jessie Reyez. It is not that the performances are bad, but they come across as the most out of place in today’s music climate ironically since Reyes is only 27. It is more so the song structure that makes those songs struggle. “Venom” also has a “Berzerk”-esque chorus that fits better in 2007. Putting those aside, the album does do a very good job of keeping everything we love about Eminem and combining it with a flow that is refreshing in 2018. Nabbing lyrical feature artists under the age of 30 like Joyner Lucas helped this project’s flow with “Lucky You” being one of the hardest tracks on the album. These two share bars and embarrass the credibility of today’s rappers as Slim Shady raps “You got a couple of ghost writers but to these kids it doesn’t really matter.”
Kamikaze has a lot of appealing components. A Bad Meets Evil rekindling brings a lot of joy to hip-hop purists. Eminem, Illdaproducer, and Dr. Dre’s production may not be the most interesting, but they ultimately fit Eminem’s technical prowess. More melodic risks like “Normal” work really well for Eminem as well. While this type of rap is officially considered a “niche” genre in my eyes, it is about as good of an album as we are going to get from an artist at this point in their career (Jay Z’s 4:44 serves as a good parallel). Kamikaze is a welcomed addition to the legendary MC’s discography and proved that The Real Slim Shady can still stand up.