‘I feel like I wanna punch the world in the fucking face right now!’ is how Eminem chooses to open up his latest record Kamikaze. It’s immediately clear that slim shady is not a happy bunny.
For those that didn’t know, the iconic rapper’s last album Revival (released only a couple months ago) was not well-received. Many people, myself included, thought it was his worst record to date. The critics were particularly harsh – Consequence of Sound gave it an F, which Metacritic translates as a score of 0.
The disgraced hip hop legend clearly felt he had to respond to the hate. As a result, it’s been barely a few months since Revival dropped and we now have this new album.
Let’s return to that opening line: ‘I feel like I wanna punch the world in the fucking face right now!’. Eminem pretty much succeeds at punching the world in the face on first track ‘The Ringer’. He begins by lashing out at critics before then turning his sights on other modern rappers, and then finally turning on his fans. Whilst it’s more passionate than anything we heard on Revival – it isn’t pretty hearing a forty-something-year-old rapper throwing a tantrum, especially when he goes so far as to blame his fans for not getting his last album. Featuring a basic beat and no hook, it also more of a rant than a song.
Fortunately, second track ‘Greatest’ is a lot more enjoyable. Em disses other rappers in the game for bragging about their success when it’s nothing compared to his own. Rather than sounding butthurt, he delivers his hyperspeed bars with a mean swagger. Most importantly of all however, it feels like an actual song rather than a rant – it has a decent Mike-Will-Made-It beat and a tolerably singalong chorus (Em’s nasal singing voice hasn’t aged well, but at least he’s not singing corny nonsense any more).
From here on in, things get exciting. Eminem is still angry, but he sounds more composed and he proceeds in dropping some of the best verses he’s dropped in years. He collaborates with Joyner Lucas on ‘Lucky You’ (the perfect choice of guest) and delivers a flurry of bars that even sees him admitting he ‘took an L’ on Revival. He then teams up with long time ally Royce Da 5’9” on ‘Not Alike’ in which he plays the kids at their own game by jumping on a trap beat, whilst also proving he and Royce are in a different league in terms of rapping ability.
Certainly, there is a lot of arrogance to be found here, which is nothing new for Em. But unlike what was found on Revival, the arrogance feels justified. This is because Eminem spends time writing good songs and not just showing off his ability to rap at speed. The bars aren’t half as corny as on his last project and the beats and hooks are actually enjoyable – there’s not a rap-rock instrumental or Skylar Grey chorus in sight. Even a song like ‘Normal’, which delves into relationship territory (an area where Em has been known to let his corniness seep out) ends up being a fairly humorous attack on his exes (yes, even his exes are under attack).
Only towards the end of the album does the quality start to slip. ‘Kamikaze’ has some mean bars and a zany old-skool Em feel, but the constantly shouted ‘fack’ is kind of obnoxious (plus, I really don’t want to be reminded of the worst song of Em’s discography). ‘Nice Guy’ and ‘Good Guy’ meanwhile romp up the obnoxiousness with sweary choruses from Jessie Reyez whilst Em’s bars start to grow a little cheesier. Movie soundtrack ‘Venom’ then closes the album off – the album’s one and only cash grab, seemingly shoved on the end in case his new material doesn’t sell well.
Despite its weaknesses, Kamikaze is far from career suicide. It’s definitely an improvement from Revival and gives me hope that Eminem may be able to restore his legacy. Since the album’s release, he’s already been getting in feuds with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, proving that he has more in the tank. In fact, with Kamikaze we could be witnessing the true revival of Eminem – the rapper could still do with toning down the penis references and devoting more time to songwriting rather than going off on wordy soliloquys, but at least he’s got some good production behind him now and some knockout bars that are enough to remind people not to mess with shady.