Mike A. Bryan, A&E Editor
“I’m that cracker, bend the law, fuck the rules/Man I used to risk it all, now I got too much to lose,” Eminem raps on one of the best tracks of his new album, “Kamikaze,” featuring Joyner Lucas.
Coming up, Eminem made a name for himself as a battle rapper and was able to spit freestyles like no other. Those skills landed him a contract with Dr. Dre, who broke him as a new artist and is responsible for much of the best music in his discography. Over the years, his lyricism changed, and he became a master storyteller with unparalleled rhyming skills. In more recent years, maybe due to maturity, maybe due to having children, Eminem’s lyrical style faded a bit and he self-produced some albums without the best results. His last album, “Revival,” is passable at best, and received little critical or fan praise. As he raps on “Kamikaze,” “Revival didn’t go viral.”
Critics and his fans were disappointed and wondered what had happened to one of the greatest lyricists of all time, alive or dead. It seemed that his career was at a standstill, if not done. Then in 2017 he dropped the parking garage video freestyle about Trump and our current situation, and suddenly everyone realized the master was back. His freestyle in that video is historical and will go down in hip hop history as one of the most politically important things a rapper has ever recorded. Some people on the internet actually made fun of him because his cipher was so hard, but he was done holding back his passions.
That’s exactly what Eminem has done on “Kamikaze,” leaving it all on the field and not holding back. He raps quickly on almost every song, spitting bars at such a rapid rate that it’s hard not to miss a few words here and there. This frenetic approach works and imbues each track with an intensity that is catchy and memorable. In terms of collaborations, “Lucky You” with Joyner Lucas is the best on the album. Royce da 5’9” makes a notable appearance on “Not Alike.” There is not a lot of variety on the album, and the track produced by Mike Will Made It, “Greatest,” is just plain annoying. Other than that, the production works with his verses, even though it would be better if Dr. Dre was behind the boards.
Overall, it isn’t the production that makes this album special. There are some notable exceptions like “Fall,” but it is Eminem’s lyrics that make the album. He goes hard on every track, letting everyone know that he is back, not willing to hold back any longer no matter the consequences. There are two skits on the album about this topic, one where he is called and told not to go off on everyone, and another that is his response. Of course, he doesn’t take the caller’s advice, deciding to go ahead with his “Kamikaze” mission even though the caller is Eminem’s longtime manager Paul Rosenberg.
Relatively unknown singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez appears on two tracks toward the end of the album and contributes interesting R&B-style hooks that are super catchy and different from anything Eminem has ever done. The lyrics are intense to say the least, but her voice is remarkable and makes the tracks stand out from the rest of the album. Each track has its own unique vibe that is separate from the rest of the album but add a lot to “Kamikaze.”
Overall, Eminem fans should really enjoy this new album. Pitchfork only gave it a 5.0 out of 10, but it deserves a higher score than that. The Eminem present on this album is the one that fans want, the no-holds-barred in-your-face persona that made him famous.