Eminem, hurt from the criticism last year's 'Revival' received. Returns with 'Kamikaze' unfortunately the rage filled follow up once again fails to ignite a creative spark.
It’s only been 8 months since the release of Eminem’s last album ‘Revival’ but after receiving a barrage of poor reviews from critics and fans, Mathers felt the need to hit back at his detractors with surprise release ‘Kamikaze’.
In its essence, Eminem’s 10th studio album is the complete antithesis of ‘Revival’. It’s arrived inconspicuously overnight compared to the drawn-out promotional campaign of its predecessor, It has zero pop-star features, so that means no more Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys or Beyonce. Instead, we’re treated to fiery verses from Joyner Lucas and Royce Da 5’9”. Songs are stripped back, now more focused on Mather’s witty lyricism and puns instead of metal infused instrumentals and samples. Most importantly though is that Eminem has placed a focus on quality over quantity, So whereas ‘Revival’ was bloated and overdrawn reaching over 90 minutes in length, ‘Kamikaze’ comes in at a much leaner 45 minutes, 11 tracks (and robotic-like skits) total. Unfortunately, it is still lacking that something special which kickstarted Shady's career.
However, I can’t get over the feeling of hypocrisy exuded by Eminem when listening to this record. ‘Kamikaze’ was born out of rage, the rhymes are rapid and full of razor-sharp wit. Whilst it’s a welcome return to lyrical form for Mathers, the criticisms against last year’s lacklustre record are more than justified. Opening with the line “I feel like I want to punch the world in the f**king face right now” you just can’t help but feel that Eminem doesn’t like the fact his ego has taken a battering over the past nine months. Instead of proving everyone wrong, he’s turning the narrative, Mather’s is the victim and he’s out for revenge. ‘The Ringer’ is full of these observations, even the entire previous paragraph I’ve just written has been foreseen by Eminem.
For the man who brought us “Don’t give a fuck” back in 1999, it certainly sounds like he does now. Despite this, ‘The Ringer’ is, in fact, one of his hardest and strongest tracks in recent years, fuelled by rage into snapping back, like a provoked wild animal. Unfortunately, the rest of the records first half lacks anything even remotely this interesting. ‘The Greatest’ sees Mathers spitting at a ridiculously wild and impressive pace yet both the hook and beat come across as corny and irritating. It does, however, feature a very funny take on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘humble’ flow with the ‘Revival didn’t go Viral’ line.
I honestly can’t find much from the opening half to either praise or recommend, it’s all very one note. ‘Lucky You’ features a fierce verse from Joyner Lucas but is let down by its trap, Migos styled flow, which is generic. ‘Normal’ meanwhile is ironically just that. It’s in the second half the most intriguing material sits, ‘Stepping Stone’ see’s Mathers touch into the flows, lyrics and melodies which made ‘Recovery’ such a success back in 2010, it’s easily one of the most enjoyable joints on the album. It feels like a thought out track, attention paid to more than just the lyrics with an invigorating beat and a thrilling, authentic intensity to it. Much unlike the bitter streams of consciousness that consume the early songs.
‘Not Alike’ is a clever stylisation and interpolation of the trap flows and beats that can now be found everywhere in the modern mumble rap trend. Unlike earlier where he seemingly copied the rhythm, this instead, is the sort of witty attack on mediocre rappers the industry desperately needed and the sort of assault Mather’s does best. The single most interesting and controversial track on the record is the Bon Iver featuring and disowned ‘Fall’. Applying a much more measured speed and flow to the rhythm allows Mathers to really strike hard on his lyrics. At points it’s unnecessarily brutal, especially when aimed at some undeserving targets such as Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, however, anyone who has a memory of the early Eminem days will appreciate Mathers ability, now decades on to strike up a conversation and create controversy. Not to mention Justin Vernon’s searing, robotic-like vocals which create the albums only memorable hook.
The album meanders off at its tail end with a Jessie Reyez featuring double track split of ‘Nice Guy’ / ‘Good Guy’. The former being crude and aggressive, lacking any sort of wit or humour whilst the latter is a sombre, well-paced ballad, a significant improvement. Both, however, highlight rising talent Jessie Reyez’s impressive vocals. 'Kamikaze' concludes with ‘Venom’, a track created to tie into the upcoming movie of the same name, it's about as inspired as the title. For a man who has spent the course of the entire album taking aim at artificial musicians and rappers who mumble, he sure does a lot of both in its finale.
‘Kamikaze’ is a large improvement on ‘Revival’, unfortunately, that isn't a hard task for anyone to achieve. Ultimately the result is just another sub-par effort from Eminem, who has yet to release even an album which can be considered ‘great’ this entire decade! the triumphant ‘Recovery’ may have only been eight years ago but it seems like a lifetime for the sober, yet inspiration starved Slim Shady.