First Reaction: Eminem – Kamikaze

Just a few hours ago, basically with zero promotion or fan knowledge that he was working in-studio on anything other than possibly a track for the upcoming Venom film, renowned Rap God Eminem dropped an album called Kamikaze out of absolutely nowhere. Available in the usual places you can listen to stuff, I’m going to give it a spin and give a first reaction after just a little background.

His last effort, the Rick Rubin-produced Revival, was largely underwhelming to critics and fans alike. This is chalked up in some part to Eminem wanting to sort of please everyone in a comeback phase of his career, as well as Rick Rubin being an expert producer capable of being a mainstream hit factory. That’s not a dig against Rubin, although he’s had hits and misses in his career, my favorite album of all time is his work with The Mars Volta’s first record De-Loused in the Comatorium, on which both founding members claimed some of their wilder ideas were reigned in to make it more palatable. Someone as aggressive as Eminem who is probably at his best in a rawer form might not come out as interesting or appealing after being refined through Rubin’s major-label sensibilities.

Despite being in the right age demographic, Eminem has never clicked for me beyond the bigger hits and heyday stuff. I’ll own that much-maligned “backpack rap” label, socially-conscious “hip-hop” like Talib Kwali or anyone that’s ever appeared at an Adult Swim-affiliated live event, that’s probably closer to my bread and butter on this end of the musical spectrum. Eminem is undeniable, however, and any release shouldn’t be ignored. On a technical level, he’s easily within the pinnacle of his genre in terms of skill and creative risk. In a scene that relies so much on promotion and hype for releases, it’s pretty gutsy on his part to drop this without any warning, especially when right off the bat most people are talking about it being a return to form. Reunited with mentor Dr. Dre as a producer, it immediately sounds angrier and harder than Revival. Continue reading →