Let’s be real — no one likes a bitter old diva.
In the music industry, newer and more innovative sounds are constantly rising as a reflection of the changing culture we live in. Yet some artists have a hard time letting go of the past to embrace a more inclusive future. One of these artists is Eminem, who recently released a surprise album on Thursday, Aug. 30, called Kamikaze.
Although Eminem is frequently regarded as one of the best rappers of all time, he’s been faced with a hefty amount of criticism for failure to stay relevant in today’s hip hop culture. After winning a Grammy award in 2015 for Best Rap Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration song, Eminem released his ninth album in 2017 called Revival. Yet the album was mostly met with disappointment from fans and backlash from entertainment new sources, who felt the rapper was trying to imitate his old self to no avail. Pitchfork even called Revival a “late career album that does little for his legacy”, filled with “overwhelmingly bland hooks” and “cringe-worthy humor”.
Now with the rapper’s new album, Kamikaze, it seems as though Eminem is more focused on condemning new rap than trying to improve his own. He imitates certain flows and beats that newer rappers use in an effort to mock them. Ironically, these songs have become the most popular so far on streaming sites like Apple Music and Spotify.
One of those songs is “Ringer”, which addresses Eminem’s beef with today’s rap industry, ridicules the “syrup and lean” culture and disses mumble rappers like Lil Yachty. He discusses his frustration with music critics and imitates the “choppy flow” popularized by Migos, and the familiar “ooouuuu” popularized by Young Ma. At one point, Eminem compliments some of today’s rappers like Joyner Lucas, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Big Sean, but claims he’s better than anyone else currently performing rap. However, he acknowledges his diminishing popularity in hip hop and attributes this to the high standards he’s held to by the public. Towards the end of “Ringer” he asks, “Has the court of public opinion reached a verdict?”, implying that it’s become popular to hate on and condemn him.
This petty attitude is present throughout the rest of the album, although a couple of songs like “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” are centered more around his relationships with women. For the most part, the album comes off as a giant “f-you” to young rappers and the way they’ve changed rap for the worst, according to Eminem. It also addresses a number of critics like Charlamagne tha God, who Eminem says only talk about him for “views”, but that he’s too big and famous to take seriously.
However, it’s obvious that Eminem is severely put-off by the negative comments about his recent music. Throughout the album he frequently talks about the good old days in hip hop, while making it seem as if new rap is headed toward a dead end. He mocks the flow and production value of new songs but imitates them on his album, even if it’s just to make fun of it. He includes voice messages between him and his manager Paul Rosenberg, in which the two argue over whether he should be firing off against everyone who’s ever critiqued him. He claims he doesn’t “hate trap” or “wanna seem mad”, but goes off on tangents about mumble rappers and popular artists like Migos, Lil Wayne, Tyler the Creator and Drake.
In the song “Lucky You” featuring Joyner Lucas, Eminem says, “They’re askin’ me ‘what the f*ck happened to hip hop’, I said I don’t have any answers.” Yet in another song called “Greatest”, he talks about his frustration with the standards he’s held to as an artist, saying, “You set a mark too high when platinum sales are looked at as a failure.” This is borderline contradictory, because if he’s still the great rapper he claims he is, he shouldn’t have to worry about staying relevant in hip hop today and competing with new artists. And if rap really is relying less on talent like he says it is, he should be doing better among audiences. It’s clear from these lyrics that he’s intimidated and worried about his position in rap.
Putting aside the lyrics and contradictory production value, the songs just don’t sound that great. His obsession with fast rap, similar to the rapping on “Rap God”, is tired and overused, making it seem as though he’s relying too much on fast rap to be considered great. Overall, the album deserves a 1.5 out of 5 stars.