Eminem confronts critics, returns to form on surprise album

Posted on Sep 13 2018 - 5:50am by Adam Osman

Eminem released his newest album, “Kamikaze,” on Aug. 31 to the surprise of many fans. This, his 10th studio album, is a big deal for the Detroit native, because his last album, “Revival,” was regarded by many fans and several critics as the worst album of Eminem’s career. Even before listening to “Kamikaze,” many Eminem fans were hoping that it would be a return to form.

For Eminem fans that didn’t like the heavy political themes of “Revival,” there is no need to worry. Though Eminem does reference his 2017 BET Awards freestyle, “The Storm,” and the backlash to it, this album’s themes are more about introspection and anger than political uproar.

The opening song, “The Ringer,” starts out feeling like a classic Eminem song, with Eminem’s signature flow and heavy themes of violence. He goes after the critics that didn’t like “Revival,” and the raw anger that comes from this track feels more like the Eminem of old and less like the subdued mood present on the tracks of “Revival.”

Though “Kamikaze” starts off strong, the next few cuts drop the momentum quickly. “Greatest” and “Lucky You” have nice hooks, but besides that, the tracks are largely forgettable. A meaningless feature from Joyner Lucas takes up over half of “Lucky You,” so it is hard for the song to truly feel like an Eminem song. The same could be said about “Normal,” which features an ethereal beat and doesn’t sound like an Eminem song until the last third of the track.

It is nice to see a return of the “Paul” skits, which haven’t appeared since 2009’s “Relapse.” Through these phone messages, the listener gets insight into Eminem’s mindset when making this album.

“Stepping Stone,” helps the album really pick up its pace in the second half. This track acts as a sort of apology letter to his former group, D12, and is reminiscent of “Like Toy Soldiers” from his album “Encore,” as he tells a real-life story of regret and sadness.

Another track, “Not Alike,” which features comical disses against rapper Machine Gun Kelly, has blown up the internet and reignited the feud between Eminem and MGK. Eminem hasn’t dissed anyone in this manner since he attacked Ja Rule on “Do Rae Me (Hailie’s Revenge),” so it was refreshing to hear him come back in full force with a diss track.

In the titular track, “Kamikaze,” Eminem continues calling himself out about “Revival,” comparing the album to his panned song “Fack.” After that, he disses almost every rapper in “Fall.” He shows how he inspired so many rappers that are in the game now and highlights some by name while calling out critics, radio hosts and other rappers in one of the most ferocious tracks on the album.

“Nice Guy” and “Good Guy,” two of the album’s strongest songs, work well as companion tracks. Jessie Reyez’s vocals on these tracks have an eerie quality that really works well as a parallel to Eminem’s bars on the former of these tracks. Both songs together tell a psychotic and lovesick story very typical of Eminem. However, these tracks are two of the shortest on the album and feel cut off too soon.

The final song, “Venom,” is difficult to talk about in a critical way. The song is going to be a part of the upcoming Marvel film of the same name, and Eminem makes references to the film and character of Venom in other songs. Eminem has always been seen as a very anti-establishment artist, and the fact that he drops an album whose final song is a film tie-in is difficult to reconcile. However, this intense and fierce track is one of the best songs on the album.

Overall, “Kamikaze” is a serviceable album. It isn’t his best, but it’s better than “Revival.” The album has gotten a lot of negative press because of all of the rapper call-outs, but don’t let that distract too much from an album with some fairly decent cuts.