It’s not every day that the highest selling rap artist of all time drops a surprise album. The hip-hop community, fans and critics alike had to give Eminem’s tenth album Kamikaze a listen, even after the release of his deeply underwhelming album Revival last year.
Aptly titled, Kamikaze is an aggressive attack on critics and new-age artists that showcases the rapper’s top tier wordplay and flow. Despite the lyrical talent the artist is known for, Kamikaze delivers persistent bitterness. It’s mostly flat production and direction indicate that the 45-year-old rapper is still resistant to grow with the genre.
Eminem’s technical prowess, unmatched wordplay and incredible flow have made him a force to be reckoned with for the past two decades. As the hip-hop music scene has evolved over time, Eminem has stayed the same. His brazen disapproval for most modern hip-hop artists has transformed his image into that of a cynical, middle-aged rapper throwing a tantrum when his music is criticized for being dull.
Since Revival’s release, the rapper’s insecurities and resentment for critics have only grown. Without any promotion, Eminem released his latest album alongside a tweet that read: “Tried not 2 overthink this 1...enjoy.” But the opening track, “The Ringer” delivers a less casual sentiment with the line “I’m just gonna write down my first thoughts, see where this takes me, ‘cause I feel like I want to punch the world.”
Kamikaze’s intro track does a spectacular job of setting the tone for the war that Eminem has declared on his critics, complete with a renewed sense of passion. It is one of the most impressive songs in the 13 track LP. From the very beginning of the album, there is a sense that Revival’s failure is a chip on the artist’s shoulder. On the fourth track, his manager, a disgruntled Paul Rosenberg, calls Eminem and tells him, “Are you really gonna just … reply to everybody who you don’t like what they have to say about you?”
Eminem uses the album to take shots at critics, media personalities, President Donald Trump and newer hip-hop artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Yachty, Tyler, the Creator and Drake. In an attempt to parody newer artists, Eminem incorporates various interpolations in which he raps using the triplet flow of the Migos and Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang.”
One thing is ultimately clear, Kamikaze is better than Revival. What this indicates is that there is hope for all the Eminem fans. Tracks like the high speed “Lucky You,” Jessie Reyez’s unexpected post-chorus in “Good Guy” and the killer beat switch at the latter part of “Normal” give a glimpse to a more refreshing Marshall Mathers, Eminem’s legal name.
When Eminem moves past the criticism and quits whining, the most enjoyable parts of the album surface. With producers like Mike WiLL Made-It, Boi-1da and Tay Keith, it seems he is at least attempting to reanalyze the drab production style that has plagued his previous works.
Eminem’s Kamikaze is not groundbreaking by any means. Its message is condescending and feels out of touch at times. However, Kamikaze also features Eminem at his peak writing game. Kamikaze hits right on the mark more often than anything Eminem has released in recent history. The album’s promising moments could signify change for the better if the artist accepts his musical shortcomings and uses them as fuel to re-emerge into the modern hip-hop scene.