Kamizake

Album cover for "Kamikaze" by Eminem

With emo and mumble rap on the rise, the real Slim Shady has finally stood up among his modern day competition with a thirteen-track surprise which set the Internet ablaze.

Titled Kamikaze, the tenth studio album by Eminem was released on Aug. 31 to streaming services and digital music stores without any promotion or pre-announcement, which was a complete reversal from the extensive marketing done for his last album Revival.

The full album cover, front to back, features fictional fighter pilot Lieutenant Mathers III (a reference to Eminem’s real name, Marshall Mathers III) intentionally crashing a F-86 Sabre fighter jet into an unknown object.

The artwork appropriates the cover design of the 1986 Beastie Boys album, Licensed to Ill, and Eminem has long cited the hip-hop group as an “inspiration.” Released in the wake of chart-topping albums such as Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD and Nicki Minaj’s Queen, the album’s artwork somewhat symbolizes Eminem’s fight of a career, from solidifying his place as one of rap’s greatest to placing Kamikaze at the number one spot of the charts, with the latter feat he accomplished within days of the album’s release.

In the United States, Kamikaze entered atop the Billboard 200 with more than 434,000 album-equivalent units (including 252,000 album sales) made, according to Billboard.com. On the streaming music service Spotify, five tracks from Kamikaze were in the top ten of the week of Sept. 4, including the top two spots. As for the iTunes Store, Kamikaze topped the album charts in the first week of its release.

Since the beginning of his decade-long career in rap, Eminem has long been known for his confrontational style, as the rapper has not shied away from dissing notable figures such as Mariah Carey and the President of the United States Donald Trump. However, the disses delivered on Kamikaze has taken some critics and fans of the artists by surprise.

On his song “The Ringer,” Eminem opens up the album by takes direct aim at new-school rappers such as Lil Xan, Lil Pump and Lil Yachty over a Ronny J-produced beat, complete with drops and a melodic trap beat.

With the lyric, “I can see why people like Lil Yachty, but not me though / Not even dissin’, I’m just an MC,” Eminem clearly expresses his disdain for “mumble rap,” a microgenre of hip-hop that evolved with the rise of Soundcloud in the last two years.

In a 2017 interview with Billboard Magazine, longtime collaborative partner of Eminem’s and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin spoke to the fact of there being a new wave of hip-hop that “doesn't stand for the same things Eminem believes in.”

“I could see (Eminem) was frustrated by it,” Rubin said to Billboard Magazine in reference to the modern revelation of ‘mumble rap.’”

Eminem continues his lyrical assault on the new generation of rap with “Not Alike,” his eighth track on the album. The track mockingly interpolates hip-hop trio Migos’ No. 1 hit, “Bad and Boujee” and “Look Alive,” a song by Drake and Memphis rapper BlocBoy JB.

In addition to the diss tracks on Kamikaze, the album has garnered some controversy for the misogynistic themes and homophobic slurs Eminem used on the album. Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds has come out to criticize the lyrics along with fans and even Eminem’s collaborator on the track, Justin Vernon, has distanced himself from “Fall’s” backlash.

"Tyler create nothin', I see why you called yourself a f****t, b**ch / It's not just 'cause you lack attention,” Eminem raps on the album’s tenth track. “If you're gonna critique me, you better at least be as good or better.”

Songs such as “Greatest” and “Lucky You” are hidden gems among the controversy-laden album. In both of the fast-going tracks, Eminem uses a heavy multi-syllable rhyme scheme and unique wordplay in his verses, in which he declares himself as “the best to ever do it”. When compared to his past discography, the beats on these two tracks are unlike anything listeners have heard before from Eminem, which cements his versatility in the rap game.

While Eminem’s reactionary and angry lyrical content can be triggering, one must remember such lyrical content has long been a constant element of Eminem's style of rap. However, after years of critique and backlash, Eminem had a chance to showcase a more respectable side of himself with Kamikaze and instead he opted out, leaving both fans and critics stunned at his ignorant choice of lyrics.

Complete with a production value which cleverly incorporates structural mimicry and song features from non-mainstream artists such as Jessie Reyez and Joyner Lucas, Eminem’s latest release is a definitive return to the rapper’s old school sound and serves as a redemption from its lackadaisical-sounding predecessor, Revival.

Overall, Kamikaze is a 13-track project of proof showcasing Eminem’s ability to stay relevant in the constant change of the rap genre, a trait fans of Slim Shady can appreciate with the growing rate of “Lil” rappers taking hip-hop by storm.

Rating -- 4 out of 5 stars

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