HomeMusicEminem's Passionate Vitriol on 'Kamikaze' While An Improvement, Shows Bitterness To Current...

Eminem’s Passionate Vitriol on ‘Kamikaze’ While An Improvement, Shows Bitterness To Current Times

Let’s briefly revisit 2010’s Recovery which is considered to be the album that Eminem returned to form. The album is approaches a matured Eminem from inner healing and shows Eminem with a new energy that is settled and motivational rooting in conquering his demons. There’s a song called “Talking 2 Myself,” and in that song Eminem mentions:

I went away, I guess, and opened up some lanes
But there was no one who even knew
I was goin’ through growin’ pains
Hatred was flowin’ through my veins
On the verge of goin’ insane
I almost made a song dissin’ Lil Wayne
It’s like I was jealous of him ’cause of the attention he was gettin’

After Eminem went back to the drawing board with release of 2009’s Relapse after a four year hiatus, he admits to being a little jealous of the runs that Lil Wayne and Kanye had.  It was after Relapse and songs like “Survival” and “Phenomenal,” where the Eminem transformed from the bully of the 2000’s to someone who had experienced coming back from the brink of death from addiction.

2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 almost seemed like an ending to that bookmark of Eminem’s legendary career. However, there were cracks starting to show in the foundation. Perhaps the opponent that Eminem hasn’t figured out yet is time. With that, turns into resentment. “Talking 2 Myself” serves as a foreshadowing to 2018.

You either change with it, it changes you, or it leaves you behind. 2017’s Revival was a snapshot of a legendary artist struggling with a concept of a music world that looks past his merit. Eminem’s career is full of well deserved accolades, but in an era where there are perpendicular roads that artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty travel with their own popularity, this is clearly hard for Eminem to embrace.

Each of these newer artists are forming their own subset of hip-hop that concentrates on melody. Lyricism may be the litmus test for some, but as rap music grows, so does it’s influence in other genres. Eminem speaks on being an influence to artists like Kendrick Lamar, but on the flip side, there are things that he can learn from them as well. Especially in this new world that’s he’s trying to make a mark in. Being a student doesn’t detract from your greatness.

The “surprise” release, Kamikaze seeks to reclaim some of that bite that Eminem had in the beginning of his career. Only this time, he’s on defense. Kamikaze confirms what Revival did — that some people do not look at Eminem with a cloak of invincibility anymore. You have two different types of fans and artists. There are those who have grown up missing the explosion of The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show. They aren’t referring to these album. Then, you have the fans and artists who are familiar with Eminem’s prime run and noticing that there’s a dip in quality. Mostly responding to those detractors of 2017’s Revival, Kamikaze plays less like an album and more like an angry stream of consciousness.

The album begins with “The Ringer,”  a five minute, thirty eight second verbal assault that varies from mumble
rappers, media who gave Revival low marks, and even Donald Trump – but it was more of a clarification as to why he dissed him in the first place. The cover of Kamikaze is an homage to Beastie Boys 1986’s Licensed to Ill and like the cover art depicts, the album plays as a missile with no real target intended. The collateral damage is all over the place.

Gone are the Rick Rubin – rock sample infused tracks that were predominant on Revival. Kamikaze features production from the likes Mike WiLL Made-It, Ronny J, IllaDaProducer, and more. The music is manufactured towards a more aggressive Eminem, in fact, this doesn’t really resemble an album at all outside of a couple themes that are touched. Consider it more akin to a mix-tape that was made in the moment.

Ironically, “Paul Skit” has Eminem’s long time manager, Paul Rosenberg leaving a message wondering if he’s going to record a respond album to the response album. It’s a real question you have to ponder now! Is Eminem letting the narrative control his actions other than setting it? The curse of the standard? Kamikaze is the second album that serves that

“Greatest,” the up-tempo track is where Eminem recalls his legacy is where he allows his flow to match the energy of what Backpack and Mike Will-Made It gave him. He sounds natural here. “Lucky You” featuring Joyner Lucas finds both rappers switching up cadences at will. Lucas takes the role as the talented underdog. Eminem is the one on the comeback trail – which is funny because he used to be where Lucas is currently.

“Not Alike,” welcomes back Royce da 5’9″ over a trap beat that serves as part parody/part diss to MGK specifically. Eminem mocks the Migos-style singing on the chorus while committing a bulk of attention towards MGK in response to his words on Tech N9ne’s lead single, “No Reason.” Like “Rap God” and “Offended,” Eminem goes on these tangents where he deviates from the main point in efforts to show everyone he can still rap.

Previous Eminem albums are usually longer to the tune of 19-20 tracks.  Kamikaze is a change of pace and there are a couple themes that audiences may be familiar with. “Stepping Stone” recalls an introspective side when Eminem speaks about the dissolution of D12. “Normal” and “Nice Guy/Good Guy” featuring Jessie Reyez plays with the warped sensibility of a relationship with Marshall Mathers. With the aggression that’s apparent on this album, these tracks may feel a bit out of place even though the familiarity is there. That’s not what Kamikaze’s purpose is.

“Fall,” a mid-tempo track that features vocals from Justin Vernon serves as the apex of Eminem’s venom tipped focus as he engages at Revival detractors such as Joe Budden and DJ Akademics. The two interesting figures here are Tyler, The Creator and (potentially) Drake. He states that Tyler, The Creator’s now defunct group Odd Future is just a copy of once active D12 in addition to using a gay slur in his direction.

The Drake subliminals and illusions to ghostwriters are littered all over the album. It’s to the point where its hard to ignore. That’s been a criticism of Drake for while, but while Eminem’s power is in his pen, it seems like he’s jumping on the pile way after every one else did. It’s like a star wide receiver in the NFL. After a while, you lose a step. You don’t break out of a pattern as fast as you used to. Eminem’s isolation between albums hurt him more than helped.

There are three pillars that have been consistent themes with Eminem’s career – lyricism, confrontation, and introspection. Eminem can still go the introspection route as seen in the latter part of Revival and songs like “Stepping Stone.” At some point, there has to be a shift. Think about previous albums where Eminem could tell a story in verbiage to make each line appear in your head – no matter how far fetched it could be. Once you get to that Eminem during these recent albums, it’s too late.

Then we have confrontation. As the best selling artist of the decade in 2000, Eminem used to be the avatar of counter culture. Bleached blonde hair with a white t-shirt that would shoot you a middle finger as quickly as possible. Rebelling against pop music while simultaneously earning accolades in a music genre that is predominately African American. Now it seems that Eminem is rebelling against change. Change is a constant. That’s how music stays alive.

Lyrically, Eminem seems to be in overdrive compensating for the other two. No one has questioned his acumen as far as the art of rap, but in the fight for what he is viewing that is legacy is, in his mind, it’s not settled. There’s still more to prove which is why he seems to cram every last combination into a song. It’s a once deadly three point shooter that is trying to shoot their way out of a slump. You can only refer to your legacy so much that everybody begins to tune it out.

Kamikaze is a step up from Revival, but the problem is still apparent. We aren’t in the days of the Marshall Mathers LP where shock is king. Substance works best. Eminem, the artist has to be able to come to terms with that instead of choosing to be a relic of his accomplishments.

RATING: 6 out of 10

Kamikaze is now available at retailers everywhere, and all digital platforms.

Murjani Rawls
Murjani Rawlshttp://www.murjanirawls.com
Murjani is a journalist, self-published author, podcast producer, and photographer working out of the tri-state area. Since 2014, Murjani has been stretching his creativity and passions. He has contributed over 18 websites and over 1,000 articles to his journalism portfolio, providing timely commentary on music, television, movies, politics, sports, and more. Murjani has photographed over 250+ artists spanning many musical genres, is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, and has covered festivals such as Lollapalooza, Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW. Murjani has five self-published books of poetry, three of which have reached the top ten in new releases on Amazon upon release. He is currently the Culture Editor at DraftKings Nation / Vox Media. He was previously staff writer at The Root, senior editor & writer at Substream Magazine, and senior writer, editor, and podcast producer at The Pop Break.

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