Is Kamikaze, Eminem’s new surprise-release follow-up to last year’s dismal Revival, as much of a dud as its predecessor? No.
For one thing, it’s a tighter and more disciplined effort, with only 11 songs (not counting the two phone call recording interludes with manager Paul Rosenberg) and livelier beats overseen by executive producer Dr Dre.
In announcing the album, the rapper tweeted that he “Tried not 2 over-think this 1,” and his 10th album (and ninth to top the Billboard charts) does benefit from an immediacy and sense of purpose that’s lacking since his turn-of-the-century glory days.
Unfortunately, Kamikaze’s immediate purpose is to lash out at everyone who put down Revival for the bloated failure that it is. Anyone who thinks artists don’t care what critics say should watch the video for The Fall, where Em works himself into a snit by reading his own press on his phone.
The opening track The Ringer rages about journalists “panning my album to death”. Kamikaze also picks fights with next-generation artists like Migos and Earl Sweatshirt, hitting a low point by attacking Tyler the Creator with a homophobic slur.
The 45-year-old rapper’s vaunted technical skills haven’t diminished: Kamikaze’s lyric sheet is full of interior rhymes and intricate switching up of rhythmic meter. But it’s also loaded with complaints about trends that have overtaken hip-hop since his heyday, from trap music to AutoTune.
Kamikaze is the rare Eminem album that sounds better if you don’t pay attention to the words. When you focus in, it sounds more like a get-off-my-lawn old man rant. But here’s the thing: It’s not his lawn. — Dan Deluca/The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service