By Chandler Morrison, Sports Editor—
There are two Eminems, and we’re not talking the Shady or Mathers or Stan personas. You could actually break down his career into the artist that wrote each album he’s ever released, but in 2017, the real Eminem–untarnished, broken down, humble, trying-to-do-the-right-thing kind of guy–emerged.
Maybe this was something he held back. Maybe it was a complete change in his lifestyle. Maybe he was just tired of be recognized as the “Real Slim Shady.” But something in his persona broke.
One of the more underrated albums produced by Em was released in December of 2017, Revival. Those who had held back their doubts about Mathers came out of the woodwork to bomb on the album, which was truly a lyrically conscious project that pointed out his flaws while featuring artists you wouldn’t normally peg with his brand: Ed Sheeran, X Ambassadors, Alicia Keys, and P!nk.
To understand Kamikaze, which seems like a complete 180 to the Em we heard in 2017, you have to understand that Revival was meant to be his artful, lyrically conscious masterpiece, but the hip-hop world basically rejected it because it felt too mainstream. It felt like Em was somebody else now, and maybe he was.
And so here we are, an Eminem that took on the contemporary hip-hop industry on one album, many times dissing a list of rappers in just a verse. And we’re used to Eminem opening up himself over the years, but in tracks like Normal, Nice Guy, and Good Guy, he speaks on his struggles in relationships while still spitting truths.
This album was truly a satire on entire rap industry, using similar backing tracks as other artists like in Not Alike feat. Royce Da 5’9” and Lucky You feat. Joyner Lucas. But all the while, he’s dissing some particular rappers in their own styles like the choppy flow he uses in The Ringer which could poke fun at any rapper that has emerged in the past two or three years.
But why is a diss album proof of conscious rap? Notice who didn’t make the hitlist: J Cole, Kendrick, and Big Sean. Not to mention Joyner Lucas who was featured on Lucky You.
But when you really put your ear to the ground listening to the album, the subtlety of some disses is often so subtle you may not even know who he’s talking about. Case and point, there’s a couple of lines in The Ringer that really shows just how petty Em got in the studio.
“But last week, an ex-fan mailed me a copy
Of “The Mathers LP” to tell me to study
It’ll help me get back to myself and she’ll love me (ooh-ooh)
I mailed the b***** back and said if I did that
I’d just be like everyone else in the f****** industry
Especially, aN eFfing “Recovery” clone of me (didn’t I think)”
Notice that he takes the time to step away from the expletives and just three words after he plants an F-bomb, he uses a replacement word. This is clearly a reference to Christian hip-hop artist NF who has been compared to Eminem in his flow, style, background, and physical appearance.
The subtlety paired with the satirical theme of this project not only show that Eminem still has the talent to take on any rapper on the planet, but when he’s gone and six feet under, we’ll never find another hip-hop artist that can mesh a lyrical conscience, superhuman rhyming schemes, and the ability to take on an entire industry seemingly overnight.