Welcome to the first addition to our new music review segment Journaling Eminem, where we look back and analyze the discography of legendary wordsmith and American rap icon Marshall Bruce Mathers III, more popularly known as Eminem.
Where do we begin? We could go chronologically, but, to me, it only makes sense to start with Kamikaze (2020), an album that arrived without warning, just like its successor, Music To Be Murdered By (2020).
Kamikaze is the tenth studio album by Eminem, released on 31st August, 2018, under the labels Aftermath Entertainment, Shady Records and Interscope Records. It’s 43 minutes long with 13 tracks and Eminem himself as the executive producer.
The album dropped with zero promotion, thus staying true to the purpose of its title “Kamikaze”. Kamikaze refers to the Japanese suicide pilots of World War II who would crash their aircraft into Allied ships, alluding to Eminem’s willingness to take down his critics and fans who were displeased by his previous album Revival (2017). Kamikaze was, therefore, an outlet for his frustration and an experiment that could potentially sabotage his own career.
The album cover is also a homage to Beastie Boys' classic album Licensed to Ill.
The opening track The Ringer is a return to Eminem’s aggressive and controversial opening tracks, reminding very vividly of White America from The Eminem Show, or Kill You from The Marshall Mathers LP. Honestly, nothing else could’ve opened an album titled “Kamikaze” more perfectly – Eminem was lashing out at everyone, from the US President to his previous co-workers and friends, which we will get into a little later.
But what’s most satisfying about The Ringer is that it’s literally impossible to imitate, not because it’s too fast, or technical, but it’s relentless, and it’s 5 minutes long without a single hook. Eminem switches up his cadence so quickly and disappears into so many flows that it’s difficult to keep up after a point. It’s like The Ringer is an album in itself.
The second track, Greatest is a continuation of The Ringer, with a catchy hook and Eminem’s signature angry delivery. The production is modern and makes a great Gym soundscape. After all, he does compare himself to Muhammad Ali.
Lucky You is a collaboration that nobody saw coming. Joyner Lucas compliments Eminem so well in this song that their back and forth feels as natural as Eminem and 50 Cents back in the day. It makes sense that this song stayed on top of the charts for a really long time.
Normal is one of the weaker songs. It is neither interesting nor pleasant, although I do catch myself humming I just want you to be normal once in a while. Guilty pleasure.
Stepping Stone is the more dramatic and nostalgic of the lot. Eminem finally talks about what happened to D12, his regrets with his choices, the friendships he lost in the process, ascribing it a very modern TES vibe.
The song that started the highly publicized feud between Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem. Eminem brings fan-favourite Royce back as a feature and delivers a fiery of disses, demonstrating his technical prowess and establishing himself as a juggernaut of rap, in what felt like a Bad Meets Evil reunion.
Fall is buttery smooth, and Eminem is still angry, and you know that’s always a good thing. Justin Vernon was great on the chorus, too. But it was quite frustrating to hear Eminem use the F-word, even though it was censored. I’m glad Eminem owned up to it and apologized in his interview with Sway.
The title track, Kamikaze, seems to be a modern (and less gross) version of Fack. It’s a ridiculous ear-worm and one of my favorite. Although conceptually, Kamikaze feels like a supplement to The Ringer, which embodied the album way better than the title track..
Nice Guy/Good Guy
Nice Guy and Good Guy are meant to be listened together, but neither is my cup of tea, as I’m sure they aren’t of many others. They feel like another attempt to re-create Love The Way You Lie without being too obvious. It is refreshing to hear Jessie Reyez on an Eminem album, but honestly, both thematically and otherwise, the album is better off without them.
I have contradictory feelings about Venom. The song obviously works, I’m not sure whether because it’s tied to the Marvel film and received tons of promotion later, but it did chart well and makes a great workout song either way. And still, Venom does feel like an add-on to the songs we already listened to in the album again and again.
Who got the heat?
'Cause Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service
To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin' him
– The Ringer
Tyler, the Creator
Tyler create nothin', I see why you called yourself a ******, bitch
It's not just 'cause you lack attention
It's because you worship D12's balls, you're sack-religious
Somebody tell Budden before I snap, he better fasten it
Or have his body bag get zipped
The closest thing he's had to hits is smackin' bitches (Pump it up!)
Machine Gun Kelly (MGK)
If you wanna come at me with a sub, Machine Gun
And I'm talkin' to you
But you already know who the fuck you are, Kelly
I don't use sublims and sure as fuck don't sneak-diss
– Not Alike
Lil Yachty, Lil Xan and Charlamagne The God
Lil Pump, Lil Xan imitate Lil Wayne
I should aim at everybody in the game, pick a name
Burger King, Gucci Gang, dookie, dang
Charlamagne gonna hate anyway, doesn't matter what I say
– The Ringer