Wait, what!? I’m back!? And so is Eminem unexpectedly, after he dropped this full-length album without warning, without any promotions or any advance notice, at midnight last night. Let’s check it out.
Warning: The language in the album or my review is not for kids – viewer discretion is advised. That means you, kids who figured out mom and dad’s parental lock.
At this point, I don’t think Eminem needs any introduction. But here is the tracklist for the few of you who have not listened to it yet:
- The Ringer (5:37)
- Greatest (3:46)
- Lucky You feat. Joyner Lucas (4:04)
- Paul skit (featuring Paul Rosenberg, of course) (0:35)
- Normal (3:42)
- Em Calls Paul skit (0:49)
- Stepping Stone (5:09)
- Not Alike feat. Royce da 5’9” (4:48)
- Kamikaze (3:36)
- Fall (4:22)
- Nice Guy feat. Jessie Reyez (2:30)
- Good Guy, also feat. Jessie Reyez (2:22)
- Venom (Music from the Motion Picture) (4:29)
Seems nobody wants to see Marshall no more, they just want Slim Shady. And Shady – what you might call “angry Eminem” as opposed to the more introspective “Marshall Mathers” half of his persona – is definitely back with a vengeance on this record. These lyrics are savage just from the first track, with plenty of dissing and hate to go around for mumble rappers, critics of his last album Revival (lots of that on this album), the media in general, and even his own fans. I can’t blame him with the mumble rap thing, personally.
It also sets the tone for the album as the next chapter in the fight pitting the old-school rappers like Shady, Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes and others against the new school: Lil’ Pump, Machine Gun Kelly, 6ix9ine, and others. This is the sort of pop culture commentary that I – and I’m sure many other fans – have missed from Eminem’s tracks since the Nineties, from the days of The Eminem Show and even earlier. Call me nostalgic, but I had missed Eminem’s cynical griping from the days of the culture wars, openly mocking a certain uptight subset of America alongside other shock entertainers like Marilyn Manson. It doesn’t get to quite that level on Kamikaze, but it feels like a return to form either way.
It’s not even the rhymes that seem to signal the triumphant return of angry Eminem. Look at that album art, an obvious reference to Beastie Boys’ debut, Licensed to Ill. Apart from probably being symbolic of his “return to roots,” the (now vulgarized) plane from the Beasties’ album art is clearly crashing into something, which is probably supposed to say something about the self-destructive nature of the Slim Shady persona who is totally unleashed with mouth frothing on this release.
I have also heard it suggested the cover art is another part of the old-school vs. new-school battle playing out on this album, where Licensed to Ill is practically Elvis-esque in stature and age. Maybe a new-school fan would say Ill seems quaint in today’s rap environment and our cultural age in general, whereas an old-school fan (or maybe Eminem himself) would point out that the lyrics still have plenty of bite (after all, I’d argue their juvenile rhymes probably inspired the vulgarity of early Eminem, just like you can see the roots of Tyler, the Creator in Eminem) and how dare you belittle it as something old-fashioned.
Eminem’s love of wordplay is back as well, another feature of his songwriting I have loved and missed. Because that’s just what it is: there’s something about this guy that he has such a strong grasp of words that it is play for him. He’s the sort of rapper that’ll make your English teacher bust a nut (while pretending to be offended). On Kamikaze, that masterful manipulation of language is back in top form, so rejoice!
I will admit though: the beats and music seemed a little hit and miss for me for at least the first half of the record. I didn’t mind; I mean, I was listening to it for the words, not the music. The background music seemed very contemporary and modernized (for rap, at least): understated, a lot of emphasis on electronics, not quite like the guitars and horns of Nineties Eminem. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. I had also thought at first that the record seemed angry, but in a kind of dark and serious way, like Marshall Mathers LP. Angry like Slim Shady, but not goofy.
And then the title track came on, and it was like a blast from the past: Kamikaze. It has all the old caustic sense of humor and wacky accompaniment of the classics. The track sounds like it could’ve come right after Under the Influence or something. Come to think of it, it also has the sophomoric goofiness of an early Beastie Boys song too . . . Anyway, I hope it gets a music video or something because it has all the energy of an Eminem classic hit.
It is really hard to be the judge of a giant like Eminem, but I’m going to give Kamikaze a 9 out of 10. It is a true return to form for the old guard white rapper, and I hope we see more like it in the future. Until that day, put a certain finger on each hand up and sing as loud as you can. Oh right, how does it go?
See you next week!
If you loved this album, if you hated it, if you’ve listened to Kamikaze, share your thoughts in the comment section!