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Kamikaze: Career Suicide, or A Return To Form?

by Samuel Abels

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, Aug. 31, the world was set ablaze when one of its most famed inhabitants unleashed hell upon the very soil of mainstream rap music and its new wave that has been building up over the years. That person was none other than Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known to the world by his stage name, Eminem.

The surprise release, titled “Kamikaze,” comes only eight months after the release of the Christmas-season release of Mathers’ ninth studio album “Revival,” a record which was met with both mixed reception and negative criticism for its pop-oriented, experimental production, disjointed song chronology and a vulnerability from the artist far greater than fans had seen present in past releases. Safe to say, it did not fare well with most audiences, and ultimately only 197,000 copies in the United States alone. “Kamikaze,” however, aims to do what Eminem did with “Recovery” and put the sounds of the past behind him. Instead of making an appearance as a socially conscious figure in hip hop culture, Eminem decides to turn and go back to what made him great in his prime: dissing everyone on the planet and not letting up for a minute.

The album itself opens with the sound of a plane crashing, and the rapper addressing the listener with the statement that he “feels like he wants to punch the world in the face right now.” What follows is a lyrical smiting on what would otherwise be a beat you would hear any number of the younger generation and the up-and-coming on, full of shots at artists such as Vince Staples, Lil Yachty, Lil Pump, Lil Xan and Iggy Azalea. The rapper angrily addresses media outlets and critics that have given him bad press and poor reviews just for the sake of building their own hype, a theme the record sees through to the very end, whilst still managing to deliver the listener the feels generated from the earlier works of the notorious “Slim Shady.” Take, for example, the songs “Normal,” “Nice Guy,” and “Good Guy,” all of which center around the ups and down of relationships laden with toxicity. This is an element that has been common throughout the bulk of Mathers’ career as a musician, as well as his personal life, and truly cements his place as someone who’s not afraid (no pun intended) to get personal.

Callbacks to Mathers’ earlier work also are inclusive of two skits “Paul,” and “Em Calls Paul,” where the rapper and his longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, exchange humorous, angry phone responses (the latter being Mathers going to drive to the house of someone who gave him negative criticism). He also does have some decent moments of self-reflection on the record, such as on “Stepping Stone,” a track that plays old school production and reaches back into the days of old to apologize for not promoting his old group, D12, in a way that would have given them the success they deserved.

This is a strictly hip hop record that Eminem hasn’t delivered to the listeners in years, and for the nine year wait for it, it seems to be quite worth the listening adventure, with features from fellow emcees Joyner Lucas, and Royce da 5’9” of Bad Meets Evil fame, the latter whose featured song includes a scathing diss from Mathers towards fellow white rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who made some rather…creepy remarks regarding his daughter, and who, mere months ago went on a song with the legendary Kansas City emcee Tech N9ne, and seemed to throw shots at Mathers for his subsequent action of “banning” Kelly from his radio station, Shade 45.

On the final track, Eminem appears to at least abandon the entirety of the newer age trap elements and fleshes out something in the vein of 2013’s “Wicked Ways” on the song “Venom,” a track which will also appear on the soundtrack for the upcoming Marvel Comics feature film “Venom” starring Tom Hardy. What the listener can gain from this is a lyrical smiting unlike any other, laden with references to Edgar Allan Poe, melting skeletons, Volkswagen, Danica Patrick and the overarching theme that Eminem is the “parasite” that has bonded to his fans. He also has another moment of self-reflection, where he realizes that if his music is what the listener grew up on, then he’s responsible for them, which is a drastic step up from the man who once rapped: “They say music can alter moods and talk to you. Well, can it load a gun up for you and cock it, too? Well if it can, then the next time you assault a dude, just tell the judge it was my fault, and I’ll get sued.”

If mumble rappers and literally colorful characters are viewed as the disease, then Eminem’s “Kamikaze” record is the cure. Marshall Mathers might have aged and sobered over time, but he’s hungry as ever on his tenth studio release. Tracks to look for on this album are “The Ringer,” “Greatest,”  “Lucky You,” “Not Alike” and “Fall.” Overall, this is worth many a replay, if you’re interested. 10 out of 10.

 

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