Jeremy Deputat // Instagram (@eminem)
'I Guess' is Kathy Iandoli's battle cry of #shruglife. It's everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.
Eminem is the king of the world…
At least that's what Kamikaze has us believing. This past week, Em dropped off his tenth studio album, and it's one of those situations where you don't know how to respond. You know that GIF where Ralph from The Simpsons is talking to Lisa and then rolls down a hill?
Well, that's how I feel when anyone tries to discuss Eminem with me. And here's the reason why—at least for me.
Eminem is sickly gifted, lyrically. His ability to thread words and phrases together is so intricate that I have to blink twice while I'm listening, as if that visual sense would somehow transfer over to my ears. There's an abundance of that on Kamikaze. But then there's this ickiness to it all, especially when it comes to Eminem's ability to say anything and everything under the sun and everyone smiles. It's like despite boasting his being raised in a trailer park, the white male privilege is the same as if he were born with a platinum spoon in his mouth. And you're left wondering why it's okay to congratulate his bigotry, yet pull the fire alarm on anyone else who says anything remotely out of pocket. That's also not to say that you want to fold your arms and return to an era where the dark side of freedom of speech was allowed. But if everyone else has to learn the definition of accountability, why doesn't Eminem?
Earlier this week, my good friend KC Orcutt wrote a great piece for REVOLT on modern-day cancel culture and the bullshit of it all because, yeah, when someone says something or does something awful, an internet dragging campaign is launched, but it's usually temporary. Still, Eminem gets to skip that faux outrage.
While there were fragments of that prehistoric canceling early on in Eminem's career, it's since dissipated. He will never be "canceled," nor will the threat of cancellation ever arrive. Is it because he's a man? Is it because he's white? Is it because he's so talented? Is it because he says it and forgets it? Because let's be honest, the only time that people who say irreverent things are beaten into submission is through some lengthy apology on their part. When you recklessly don't give a fuck, the rest of the world angrily and reluctantly joins you. It's what Trump's entire campaign was built upon. I'm digressing. Point is, I can't really point out what makes Eminem so teflon, and despite this new album being half-revered as a lyrical win and half-regarded as an epic fail, Marshall Mathers will still prevail. I guess.
I'm not an Eminem fan, and I don't mean that rudely like so many of his critics do when they hear his name. I have no response after all this time. As a member of the media (his least favorite assembly of humans), I'm knowledgeable on his catalog, and as a member of hip-hop I know his lyrics. But here's the thing: when I think of Eminem lyrics, I think of the awful ones. I can close my eyes right now and when I ask myself to think of some Eminem lines, these are the ones that come to mind—from The Marshall Mathers LP:
Skibbedy-be-bop, a Christopher Reeve / Sonny Bono, skis, horses and hittin' some trees, hey! / How many retards'll listen to me? / And run up in the school shootin' when they're pissed at a tea…cher? — "Who Knew"
"Hey, it's me, Versace! Whoops, somebody shot me! / And I was just checkin' the mail / Get it? Checkin' the male?" — "Criminal"
In 2018, these lyrics would make anyone clutch their pearls and say, "Oh, that would NEVER fly nowadays." Oh, but it would—with Eminem. And it has. On Kamikaze. Here are some Cliff's Notes on what Kamikaze teaches us:
It's ok to steal ideas.
If you place a small baby anywhere near your album cover, you will be thrown into a pool of piranhas for attempting to replicate Biggie's cover from Ready To Die. If you even try to squat in your underwear, you better thank Lil' Kim and her iconic Hard Core pose. But Eminem takes the Beastie Boys' License To Ill cover and it's like, "Yay! Way to go, fella!" I'm just saying.
The marginalized still don't matter.
He says "whore" and "bitch" and "suck my dick," which are sadly par for the course for an Eminem album but, then again, so are slurs against the LGBTQ community. Here's one on "Fall," aimed at Tyler, the Creator:
Tyler create nothing, I see why you called yourself a faggot, bitch / It's not just 'cause you lack attention / It's 'cause you worship D12's balls, you're sac-rilegious / If you're gonna critique me, you better at least be as good or better.
It's like, really? We're still doing THIS? And over Tyler not liking one of your songs? What? Which leads me to my next point…
Feelings are fine.
So despite Revival hitting No.1 when it was released, there were so many mixed reviews that it apparently drove Eminem into a tizzy. Kamikaze is one elongated response to that, punctuated with voicemails from Paul Rosenberg and Eminem. I don't want to believe Eminem was really upset over his last album's success, but there is something refreshing about it.
He's coined the G.O.A.T. in many circles, and considering he still cares what people think (media included), it means he does strive for artistic excellence on all fronts, which includes the audience response. That being said, this album leads us to believe he was, like, really triggered by it all. And what's even weirder is that while he drags people like Lil' Xan on this project, who are byproducts of a generation of rappers built on feelings, he seems to be bathing in the most feels of all. The irony is not lost on me, no sir-ee!
Trap is trash, unless Eminem makes a trap song.
"Maybe 'Stan' just isn't your cup of tea / Maybe your cup's full of syrup and lean." That's a line from his opening track "The Ringer," where he fires off at everyone (including the aforementioned Lil' Xan among others) for being a part of the Mumble Rap generation, but references lean which is more akin to trap music, along with the cadence he imitates as part of Mumble Rap. But then you listen to "Lucky You" with the sublimely awesome Joyner Lucas, and it's like, "Sir, what kind of song do you think you just made?"
Young men can't flourish, but grown men can fight.
There's a considerable amount of shit thrown at the younger generation for simply existing, yet he can come for guys like Joe Budden, who (once again) didn't like Revival. You're threatening an alum of your own collective's (Slaughterhouse) life for not liking your last album's tracklist? I'll take a Lil Yachty song any day over that kind of whining.
Machine Gun Kelly released his diss track about Eminem, "Rap Devil," just the other day, taking umbrage to Em's whole angle of being mad at anyone who isn't him—which included MGK to an extent. "I'm standing up for not just myself, but my generation," MGK said in a tweet. "I'm doing the same shit you did back in your day. Life is still real on my side, and I had to take time from the grind to defend myself from someone I called an idol. Love, Rap Devil."
The song reads Eminem for filth, questioning why he's so mad at the world yet has so much money for making the music everyone supposedly has criticized. Someone had to bark back. It was bound to happen.
Here's the column plot twist: I actually think Kamikaze is a great album, made by a very flawed human. I take Eminem's discography like I'm re-reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where you shake your head at the level of slurs that were allowed back then. The only difference is it's still happening now, and Eminem is still winning. And here he is, still complaining about it.
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