Shady / Aftermath
Shady / Aftermath / Interscope

In an age in which vibes are celebrated above bars, it’s no wonder that Eminem feels frustrated. He's perturbed not just by the state of modern rap music, but its praise from fans and critics—and their apparent rejection of his own lyrical raps. Eminem's 2017 release Revival did not receive the glowing feedback he'd expected, and as his longtime fans know, he's never been particularly good handling criticism. These factors all provided the inspiration for Em's 10th solo studio album Kamikaze, which bottles up that brewing discontent and redirects it in the direction of his naysayers.

After the sound of what is presumably a kamikaze plane crashing into its target on opening track “The Ringer,” Eminem proclaims, “I wanna punch the world in the fuckin' face right now.” And that might just be the album's mission statement. No one is safe from Em’s wrath on Kamikaze. The hallowing beat laced by Ronny J and Illa Da Producer provides Em a fully equipped firing range on which he unloads lyrical tirades on a variety of people.

Lil Yachty, Lil Pump and Lil Xan are named explicitly, but “I heard your mumblin', but it's jumbled in mumbo-jumbo/The era that I'm from will pummel you, that's what it's comin' to” is shoe that can fit a wide range of new generation rappers. Em ends the nearly six-minute firing spree by unloading the clip on the media that disparaged Revival: “But my beef is more media journalists/I said my beef is more meaty, a journalist/Can get a mouthful of flesh/And yes, I mean eating a penis/Cause they been pannin' my album to death/ So I been givin' the media fingers.”

While some may feel the clap-back approach reeks of bitterness, there's no denying how skillfully Em runs through these six minutes of lyrical acrobatics. He keeps listeners more attentive than he has in quite some time with an abrasive attitude that was missing from Revival. On Kamikaze, Em trades predictable song structure—pop star-crooned hooks sandwiched between wordy verses—for bars that B. Rabbit might spit in an 8 Mile battle.

In fact, the most rewindable songs on the album feature Em and his friends stepping up to the mic and taking on the new kids. “Lucky You” is a rookie and vet tag team that includes a blistering guest verse from Joyner Lucas, with both rhymers taking on today’s mumblers. “Not Alike” with Royce 5’9" interpolates Drake and Blocboy JB's "Look Alive," but points out the differences between hip-hop generations. Em spits: “The only thing we have in common is I'm a dick and you suck/Otherwise one has nothin' to do with the other/None comes close to skunk, bug, soldier/Tongue, shrub, shoulder, one-month older/Sponge, mob, colder, none, rug, hoaster/Lug nut, coaster, lung, jug roaster/Young Thug poster, unplugged toaster.”

Yet despite how enjoyable it is to hear Eminem spray the choppa at everyone (MGK, Joe Budden and Tyler, the Creator get some of the most personalized vitriol), there are definitely some weak moments on Kamikaze. “Normal” finds Em longing for a meaningful relationship instead of something self-destructive, yet the song's execution is messy and difficult to follow. “Stepping Stone," one of the album's most vulnerable moments, finds Em opening up about the demise of D12, but he reverts to the formulaic power-rap ballad structure that has become a staple on his late career album. Still, the 13-track Kamikaze is a short spat of aggressive rap energy from one of the genre’s greatest MCs.

On Kamikaze's fourth track, an interlude titled "Paul (Skit)," Paul Rosenberg questions the album's angle. "I don't know if that's really a great idea," he cautions. "What's next? Kamikaze 2, the album where you reply to everybody who didn't like the album that you made replying to everybody that didn't like the previous album?" Now it seems like those worries may have been unwarranted.

See Everyone Eminem Disses on His Kamikaze Album

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