10 Things We’ve Learned From Eminem’s ‘Kamikaze’ Album
"Tried not 2 overthink this," Eminem tweeted earlier today, 10 minutes past midnight, to announce the release of his new album, Kamikaze. "Enjoy," he added, with a middle-finger emoji for good measure.
Like any unexpected project release by an artist of Eminem's caliber, Kamikaze quickly put rap Twitter and the internet at large in a frenzy. In part, it was the mere element of surprise. But listeners also quickly began to chatter about the shots that Em fired, his clapbacks to critics and overall defensiveness with regard to his recent music.
There's a lot to takeaway from Eminem's latest, despite having dropped Revival less than one year ago. Aside from being more prickly than ever, Em is candid about the state of his career, his former group D12, the contemporary artists he enjoys—and those who he despises.
Em pulls influences from his 1980s rap heroes—LL Cool J's "I'm Bad" is sampled for Kamikaze's title track, while the album cover pays homage to Beastie Boys' 1986 classic License to Ill. But overall, it's shaped by sounds of today, as beatsmiths like Tay Keith, Jahaan Sweet and Mike WiLL Made-It provide heat.
Eminem hasn't let up on his Donald Trump onslaught either. While his jabs aren't as prolific as on Revival, Em doubles down on the disrespect for both The Donald and his vice president, Mike Pence, despite a visit from Secret Service.
In short, there's a lot to catch up on with Eminem. After a few listens, XXL highlights 10 takeaways from his new album, Kamikaze.
Beastie Boys must've been on Eminem's mind in the making of Kamikaze. The album's artwork is a recreation of the legendary rap group's License to Ill album's front and back cover, depicting a mid-collision fighter jet. The tail of the aircraft reads "FU-2."
Perhaps Em's interpretation is that he's throwing caution to the wind and lashing out at everyone he's got an issue with, regardless of whether he's hurting himself in the process.
Eminem seems to be big mad with the reception of his previous album, 2017's Revival, and the music he released around that time. He spends a great deal of the album's runtime defending the project and responding to negative reviews, calling out detractors like Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks and Vince Staples.
Slim Shady has never been shy about saying names on wax in a disrespectful manner. But he's perhaps never had this much heat for members of the hip-hop community. On Kamikaze, he takes shots—both subliminal and direct—at the likes of Vince Staples, Joe Budden, Lil Pump, Lil Xan, Tyler, the Creator, Lord Jamar and Machine Gun Kelly.
Vince and Charlamagne clowned Em's 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher, Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks were harsh when evaluating "Untouchable" and Tyler, the Creator tweeted ill of Revival single "Walk on Water." Meanwhile, Lord Jamar once called Eminem a guest in the house of hip-hop, MGK tweeted about his attraction to Em's daughter, Hailie Jade, and Lil Pump and Lil Xan catch some smoke merely for existing. Check it all out here.
After Eminem's onslaught of disses against Donald Trump last year, he says Secret Service pulled up on him to see if there's any credibility to his threats. He raps:
I know at least he's heard it/'Cause Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service/To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin' him/Or ask if I'm linked to terrorists
Still, it doesn't seem that Em is letting up anytime soon:
These verses are makin' him a wee bit nervous/And he's too scurred to answer me with words/'Cause he knows that he will lyrically get murdered
Eminem meant well when he delivered a freestyle at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards, eviscerating Donald Trump. But not everyone accepted his message with open arms. On "The Ringer," he directly addresses criticisms to the a cappella rhyme, citing ways he'd adjust it in retrospect:
If I could go back, I'd at least reword it/And say I empathize with the people this evil serpent/Sold the dream to that he's deserted.
Marshall recalls his earlier albums by, ahem, reviving his trend of including his general voice of reason Paul Rosenberg on a skit. As he's done on albums like The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, Rosenberg advises Em against his latest antics (in this case, dissing those who've panned his music).
Eminem has been checked into hip-hop's current generation. He makes references to current artists and songs throughout—there's a sly nod to 21 Savage on "The Ringer" and he mocks Lil Pump's "Gucci Gang" on the same song. On "Not Alike," he parodies Offset's flow on Migos' "Bad and Boujee." Elsewhere, he grumbles about artists who mumble in their music and others who chase trends.
Eminem also invites hip-hop producers of the moment along for the ride here, as guys like Mike WiLL Made-It, Tay Keith, Ronny J and Jahaan Sweet all contribute here.
Eminem brings resolution to an important chapter in his career. On "Stepping Stone," he discusses the demise of his group D12, addressing the guilt he's carried for not taking the group further, resentment due to shouldering the group's momentum and citing Proof's death as the reason for the group's disbandment.
"Done all we possibly can, I know we kept our hopes up/But the longer we spend livin' this lie that we live/The less is left for closure, so let's let this go/It's not goodbye to our friendship, but D12 is over," he raps.
Eminem has the utmost respect for Kendrick Lamar as a lyricist, and he shows as much throughout Kamikaze. On "The Ringer," he exempts K. Dot from his lyrical hit list. Elsewhere, he nods to the Compton rapper's music, interpolating "Humble" on a line in "Greatest" and flipping "DNA" for a bar in "Lucky You."
Eminem seems to be coming to terms with being past his hip-hop prime. On "Stepping Stone," he raps about the feeling of declining fame and success.
One minute you're bodyin' shit, but then your audience splits/You can already sense the climate is startin' to shift/To these kids you no longer exist/Went from rainin' cats and dogs in this bitch/To tiny drops, little drips/And by the time your reign is over, you'll hardly be missed.