At midnight on August 31, just eight and a half months after Revival, Detroit rapper Eminem casually dropped a tweet that sent the hip-hop community into a panic. With the caption “tried not 2 overthink this 1…enjoy (middle finger emoji),” Eminem unexpectedly dropped his 10th studio album, Kamikaze.
Coming off he critically reviewed and downright awful Revival, Slim Shady had just about everything to prove. Since the glory days of the early 2000s which included three of the best rap albums ever conducted (Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show), Em has faced significant criticism for his cringe-worthy and corny music. Revival was the last and biggest straw in a string of criticized albums that led Eminem to release Kamikaze.
Instead of “Walk on Water,” the soft, torn-apart opening of Revival, Eminem gets right to business on Kamikaze. He opens the album with “The Ringer,” which starts with a vintage Em intro: “I’m just gonna write down my first thoughts / see where this takes me / ’cause I feel like I wanna punch the world in the fuckin’ face right now!” On this track, Slim Shady holds nothing back. This track is a direct shot at members of the rap community who have come at Eminem for his recent music. Although Em comes off bitter to a fault at points, the flow and lyrical skill exerted in the opening track draws a promising comparison to the old Eminem. Neither the bitterness nor skill stopped on the first track.
Throughout the album, Eminem uses his lyrical genius to fire back at people that have criticized him. Heavy critics of Revival, such as Joe Budden, Charlamagne Tha God, DJ Akademiks, and Tyler, the Creator receive backlash from the Detroit rapper in several songs throughout the project. Although many of the disses are clever, the constant complaining gets tiresome.
But Shady doesn’t just call out his critics. In songs like, “The Ringer,” “Not Alike,” “Fall,” and “Lucky You,” Eminem takes shots at the rappers of the new-generation “mumble rap” culture. He takes aim at their lyrical inability and lack of substance while also copying flows from songs like “Gucci Gang,” and “Bad and Boujee.”
Em is clearly upset with where rap culture is headed. “I’m gonna crumble you / and take a number two and dump on you / if you ain’t Joyner, / if you ain’t Kendrick or Cole or (Big) Sean / then you’re a goner.” Eminem even takes a massive shot a Machine Gun Kelly (29), who called his daughter “hot as fuck” in 2012, when she was just 16 years old. MGK has since responded with a diss track, coming at Eminem’s old age and complainers attitude.
Kamikaze isn’t just about firing back at rappers and other cultural figures that Em’s pissed at. The track “Stepping Stones,” Eminem bids a bittersweet goodbye to D12 reminds fans of songs like “When I’m Gone” and “Mockingbird” from his prime. “Not Alike” and “Lucky You,” feature Royce da 5’9 and Joyner Lucas, and are a couple of the best collaborations Em has ever released and appropriately showcase the lyrical firepower of each artist. On the other hand, songs like “Normal,” “Nice Guy,” and “Good Guy,” contain subpar production, choppy flows, and corny bars.
Shady shows flashes of his past greatness, puts most of his corny lyrics on hold, and raps about how he feels on Kamikaze. He finds a flow and style that matches his age better than it has in some time, with lyrics remaining dynamic and clever.
Although there are several low points on the album, Em deserves a ton of credit for his comeback after Revival. Look for a lyrical minefield to be dropped on Machine Gun Kelly in the coming days, as he does not take disses lightly.