Eminem is a figure we grew up with. A father to some. And this generation is certainly fatherless. Maybe that's how we got here, to this moment in culture, this moment in hip-hop. In 2000, there was no one like Em - poignancy was never so expertly blended with irreverence, but each step of the way was calculated and careful. The humanity always came through the madness. This is what the best art has always achieved. This shark-like precision has not been dulled, as evidenced by Slim Slimmy's Kamikaze
. Whether it's the random, "anything goes, bruh" stylings of the modern mumble rappers, or the forced ironic gimmickry of faded flavor-of-the-week Odd Future/Loiter Squad alumni, or the intentionally unlistenable "artsiness" of Death Grips and their ilk, there's no trend left unskewered by Slim Shady's lyrical kabob stick. The hot dogs are on the grill, and they aren't being pulled just yet. Set the timer for 45 minutes.
The nature of culture in 2018 has of course led to a predictable backlash for Maestro Marshall. Knowing Eminem's history of deliberately embracing the role of urban court jester, it's reasonable to assume that this is Kamikaze
's intended effect. A man who grew up with us just as we grew up with him, Eminem doesn't seem to care what people think. The Slimster's tendency for division is not a thing of the past, and this sharp split in many ways mimics the division of our very cultural climate. Politics running rampant, protests galore, capitalism left unchecked, an orange fool running the nukes - what better time is there for a new Eminem release"
lives up to its bold name. If history classes are still permitted in modern times, then this should be a mere reminder that "kamikaze" pilots killed themselves for their convictions. No matter what side of the fence you're on, these were principled fighters who cared about protecting what was their own at any cost. Eminem is no different. As a gay man myself, the discomfort I feel when Slimfast uses certain slurs could likely result in what amounts to career suicide for the aging rapper. Knowing full well these slurs are offensive and uncalled for adds to the thrill of the ride, kind of like watching an old Nazi exploitation film from the 70s. Subversive as ever, but the campiness of the whole package makes it hard to be truly upset by Em's antics - no omelette was made without broken eggs. When in Rome, you do as the Romans do, and listening to a new Eminem album makes it clear that you're in the court of Nero. You might be a bit uncomfortable, but you're going to do what the son of a bitch says. We pay for roller coasters and horror films, but we somehow get irked by a great artist who's back to his old tricks. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if your fingers are clean before you point fingers. Or keep pointing, Slim Shady probably doesn't care.
The best track here is undoubtedly the album's closer, "Venom." In the age of pseudo-intellectual hip-hop scrubs feigning profundity to win over the uninitiated young listeners of today, it's refreshing for one of the elder statesmen of the game to drop such a celebration of silliness. Evoking the spirit of the comic books which inspired it, across this epic track Marshall Mathers references Edgar Allen Poe, McDonald's menu items, energy drinks, and in a tongue-in-cheek reference to his trademark whiteness, he even celebrates mayo, a food known by longtime fans to be one of the rap legend's favorites. Although the track is receiving much flak in critical circles, lyrically it isn't much different from the likes of Frank Zappa or Ween.
It's easy to see that after two decades as a major player in the hip-hop game, after Em's refusal to budge, after his refusal to become a corporate shill, after his refusal to be tamed, after his refusal to die
, some people would like nothing more than to see Marshall Mathers castrated and whimpering in a corner somewhere. But just like in 2000, the man is nothing like his contemporaries. They may have dabbled in hip-hop at times, but the similarities end there. He's not starring in Law and Order, for Kamikaze
is the direct antithesis of the very phrase.