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​Eminem misfires again in Kamikaze, attacks current state of hip-hop

Eminem finds himself outdone by hip-hop musicians both old and young yet again in Kamikaze.

After a rough ending to 2017, Eminem’s latest move is to fight fire with fire. After the publically and critically panned release of Revival, Eminem is back with the no-holds-barred Kamikaze, released as a surprise at the end of August. Kamikaze simultaneously sees Em stripping down to his roots of aggressive angst but also updating some of his sounds and lyrics to the world around him. While Kamikaze finds Eminem rapping with much more conviction, his lyrics and flows are only marginally better than Revival — and the end product is mediocre.

One of Eminem’s largest improvements is his triplet flows, especially given that one of Revival’s worst traits was the lazy production combined with boring duple staccato flows. Eminem spends a lot of time on Kamikaze rapping about how he doesn’t care what critics think and that he can do whatever he wants, but he obviously listened to the feedback. He tries to wear the shoes of the younger generation much more often than before, particularly in the first half of the record.

Tracks “Normal” and “Lucky You” are the biggest examples of his triplet capabilities. “Normal” has Eminem moving back and forth from triplet and duplet flows with relative ease between verses and bridges, but the story Eminem tells of his relationship struggles, a longstanding topic within his music, shreds any hope of the track being listenable. “Why you gotta be so extra/like a f*ckin’ terrestrial” is one of the worst lines on the album.

“Lucky You” features Joyner Lucas, whose most recent claim to fame is the viral music video “I’m Not Racist.” Lucas’ verse is probably the most sincere and well-delivered on the entire album. The following Eminem verse has a solid flow as he packs words tightly. But the verse also points out Em’s emptiness that ironically fills so much of Kamikaze: attacking the current state of hip-hop and how he stands above it all as its creator.

Eminem goes as far as to directly name a large number of other musicians throughout the record, including Logic, Kendrick Lamar, Migos and Tyler, the Creator. Out of those four, he only positively references two, but I can name at least one project from each of those artists released in the past six years that I would rather listen to than Revival, Kamikaze or even The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Eminem can write aggressive bars but there is still a difference between bark and bite, especially if there is no deeper meaning behind any of it. Many more rappers are named as part of the mumble rap generation that has taken over mainstream rap. Sure, some of the rappers named aren’t great — like Lil Pump or Lil Yachty — but overall, all the name-calling amounts to nothing since Em himself does nothing substantial with Kamikaze.

When Eminem isn’t crusading against the rest of the music industry, he spends his time throughout Kamikaze moping about his obstacles with love, like the aforementioned “Normal” or the pair of tracks “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy.” Eminem struggled to balance politics and love in Revival and he’s gotten no better since then, even if he has traded politics for the music industry. “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” in particular leave behind a sour taste, as he raps, “Oh, it's springtime, time for you to have a fling like a slingshot/You say don't come over 'cause you got pink eye/But I think I got just the thing, why/Don't I bring my fuckin' bat and just swing by?” Eminem’s brand of violence and unfiltered thought may have made him the star he is today, but it hasn’t aged well and all the shock value is gone.

It’s undeniable that Kamikaze is better than Revival, but that is the easiest thing to say about Kamikaze since Revival was so undeniably bad. Eminem’s latest attempt to stay relevant has flashes of technical prowess, but all of the jam-packed words on the album are some of the emptiest bars I’ve heard since, well, Revival. For someone to so audaciously take credit for creating the current generation of lyrical rappers and to so aggressively attack mumble rappers, Eminem finds himself outdone by musicians on both sides of hip-hop yet again.

Final Grade: D+

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