When I saw Eminem had sneak-released his tenth studio album, “Kamikaze,” late night on August 31st, I shrugged and clicked out of obligation. When I read it was executive produced by Dr. Dre and Slim Shady, my interest was piqued. After the first verse, I was hooked. I wanted more. Please more. Two more songs of fire AND a Paul skit? Oh man, keep it rolling!…
Eh, okay. So “Normal” was not great. But another Paul skit? Sweet.
More fire before the brakes were slammed and the last three tracks left me feeling unfulfilled and wanting a proper resolution to what I had gotten myself into. I was happy, confused, and nostalgic. Slim Shady had stood back up, but had stumbled a bit trying to stick the landing. What to make of this album?
After a few listens, the parallel I draw is Tiger Woods.
Do you remember how dominant Tiger Woods was? It became a foregone conclusion that Tiger would win, and that it wouldn’t be close. We got used to it. Tiger was the greatest.
And then he wasn’t. He was decent. Some good days, some bad days. But he wasn’t Tiger. People began questioning his legacy, his decisions, everything. He wasn’t invincible anymore. But he wasn’t ready to give up the crown, either. Same could be said for Marshall Mathers. This record is an old lion letting folks know he still reigns supreme. His time will come, but it’s not quite up yet.
Kamikaze showcases Eminem firing off bars towards just about anyone. You didn’t like his last record? Well, he’s got some bars for you. Are you a mumble rapper? Yeah, he’s got bars for that too. Did you mention that his daughter was hot seven years ago? He certainly has not forgotten that. It feels good to hear Slim Shady again. The back half of “The Ringer” is some of his best work in years. Appearances by Joyner Lucas and Royce da 5’9″ add to the feeling that this record may be a preview of a full return to form.
However, that’s not to say the album hits on all cylinders. Having spent a few years in pop hooks and pop features, Em seems rusty at times. He admits to not understanding what popular hip-hop is today. The last three tracks on the record do not spit with the same hunger that permeates the front end of the record. The through-line attempted by the “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” falls short.
Overall, “Kamikaze” is okay. We need to accept that sustained greatness is a near impossibility. This record is reassurance that Em still has gas in the tank. It is unwise for any one person to try and light that fire. (Good luck, MGK.) But, hip-hop is better when Slim Shady is annoyed. Here’s hoping for a second encore.
Check out Eminem’s latest release “Fall” from the album Kamikaze, out now: From the album Kamikaze, http://shady.sr/Kamikaze