In an effort to maintain his reputation as the controversial and scandalous rapper he once was, Eminem’s most recent work, “Kamikaze,” is unfortunately nothing beyond a strong sign for retirement.
The respected rapper pulled a surprise drop with “Kamikaze” by simply releasing his 10th album overnight. Although the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart, it’s more accurately a choppy attempt at relevancy in an ever-changing rap game.
“Kamikaze” is a slightly stronger follow-up to “Revival,” a scattered venture into Eminem’s brain, which apparently consisted of political commentary and romantic regrets. Although “Kamikaze” is a bit more focused, it still feels rather frantic thanks to the Kendrick Lamar references and wannabe Migos allusions. Eminem will always be a valued and respected father of rap, but his attempt at appealing to current hip-hop fans is tiresome.
It’s not to say that “Kamikaze” isn’t decent. It’s surely not Em’s best work (or anything remotely close, to be honest), but it’s not the worst thing he’s released. The beats on entry tracks “The Ringer” and “Greatest” are relatively strong. He’s able to maintain his signature flow, and while the lyricism is adequate, it isn’t anything ground-breaking.
It’s Time for Curtain Call
In short, after listening to “Kamikaze” front to back, it’s obvious that there’s something missing. The album’s 13 tracks consistently feel empty and virtually meaningless, mainly due to Eminem’s lack of ability to pinpoint a central focus.
It’s a stunning feat, since at one point in time, he was one of the most innovative and original rappers out there. He was releasing music that was completely advanced — in fact, I’m pretty sure the world momentarily paused the day “The Eminem Show” came out.
But it seems that that’s exactly what 2018 Eminem is missing. It’s not so much the quote-unquote shock factor that got him in trouble for years on end (cue the homophobia accusations), but it’s the novelty that seems to be absent.
Sure, the rapper’s spitting on “Kamikaze,” but it’s not anything worth noting. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear yet another verse about how Eminem doesn’t think he’s like current rappers in the game. Side-note: that’s your indication to skip “Not Alike.”
The originality that he’s lacking isn’t exactly something that can suddenly be tapped into. I would never expect Eminem to release another “Stan,” solely because that era is over. That’s not even what his fans are looking for. It’s more that “Kamikaze” solidifies that he’s making mediocre music, but has also completely stunted any form of musical growth.
There isn’t one track on “Kamikaze” that gives fans hope. From start to finish, there’s never a moment that makes audiences go, “oh shit, Eminem is back!” It’s consistent in confirming that the rapper is stale and worn-out while simultaneously attempting to stay relevant and significant.
If anything, that might be the most painful aspect of “Kamikaze.” Em spends an odd amount of time dissing other rappers and verifying the fact that he’s number one, yet tracks like “Normal” are a desperate cry for relatability.
I mean, he’s 45 years old, and he’s rapping bars like, “Why can’t you bitches be normal? Always gotta be so extra / Why you always need a lecture? My ex hates to talk / she’s a texter.” Not to mention the opening lines to “Nice Guy” are, “Suck my dick, you fuckin’ suck, man.”
While trying to stay current, there’s also this looming theme of wanting to be portrayed as a rebel. Sure, Eminem was definitely painted that way back in the day (“The Real Slim Shady” will always be monumental), but at 45, it feels pretty desperate.
He spends the entire first song criticizing those that expressed dislike for his last album, “Revival.” The skits on the record, a nod to Em’s younger work, consist of his manager politely advising him to, well, maybe not release an album called “Kamikaze” in an effort to avoid any backlash.
By deciding to go forth, Eminem clearly tried to make some kind of unruly, controversial statement. A message that perhaps says, “I’m Eminem, and I can do whatever I want.” However, it falls short yet again, and instead seems immature and unnecessary.
It’s an unfortunate truth, but the record sincerely proves that his monopoly on rap is gradually slipping out of his hands. The lack of creativity exuding from anything current demonstrates the one thing Eminem so obviously fears: retirement.
Given that, for someone as massively important as Eminem, I wouldn’t say that retirement is something he should dread. He will always be honored as an innovative hip-hop forefather. His influence won’t suddenly be forgotten just because he’s no longer making music.
With that being said, it’s not like anyone needs to push Eminem into sequestration. He could very well continue to produce and write music that falls short and continue to succeed financially. But for the sake of maintaining that rap god reputation, I feel as though his time is up.
Putting a pause on his career would possibly be more admirable than continuing to produce and write music that constantly feels forced and weird. Eminem didn’t even go on a promotional tour following the release of “Revival,” nor has he expressed the urge to do one for “Kamikaze.”
With borderline insignificant bars and scattered subject matters, withdrawing from the rap community could put Eminem on an even higher pedestal. Plus, he wouldn’t have to make any more forced appearances on award shows or at music festivals. It seems like a bit of a win-win solution.
Eminem’s evolution — or lack thereof — is increasingly painful to watch. He’s not like Jay-Z, who, at age 48, maintains the same control he held years ago. Em’s music is a constant downfall, but maybe that’s what happens when you rap about wanting to kill your wife for three albums straight.