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Kamikaze: Eminem's 10th album takes down fellow rappers with sniper shots, song by song

Eminem charts a viral world in all its senses in 'Kamikaze'.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 16, 2018, 11.28 AM IST
Kamikaze: Eminem's 10th album
Kamikaze: Eminem's 10th album
Forget for a minute about the cover art — with its homage to the cover of 'The Beastie Boys' album Licensed to Ill — of Eminem’s tenth album, 'Kamikaze', depicting not just self-destruction, but a Samson-like self-destruction that takes down everyone else in its tow. For a minute, also forget about all the noise about Eminem dissing fellow rappers, not so much machine-gunning them, but taking them out with each sniper shot song by song. For around 45 minutes and 13 songs, take in the bigger picture — with your ears. This is Marshall Mathers III delivering prime cuts like 'Cutts the Butcher' serving bull’s balls.

The anger is honed into a two-pump low-growl beat in the opening track, ‘The Ringer’, where Eminem scythes down not just music critics but also the social media insta-judgmenters. ‘I’m sorry, wait/ What’s your talent? Oh, critiquin’/ My talent? Oh, bitch/ I don’t know who the f*** y’all are/ To give a sub-par bar/ Or even have an opinion or view/ You mention me, millions of views/ Attention in news.’ As always, he manages to present himself (a less slim Slim Shady et al) as a character and thereby makes seemingly ‘personalised’ songs take on a larger role. The last time critics were put down so effectively was Estragon hurling the final and most damning insult towards Vladimir — ‘Crritic!’— in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Eminem’s great ability for the dramatic monologue — so brilliantly evident in his 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP — jumps out in ‘Normal’. With the playfulness of an alligator’s jaws, the song has Eminem deceptively meander along to a hip-hop backbeat: ‘My ex hates to talk, she’s a texter/ Even when I’m in bed/ layin’ right next to her’. And yes, it is indeed a song about love. Just not the hormones dripping kind rappers showcase to sing praises about divine bonking powers.

The Zappa-musik bounces off the walls in the tour-de-force of a title track. Once again, Eminem is channelling Eminem (or is it Marshall Mathers?) and spewing word-gobs not so much at individuals, as much as at the world itself. ‘Smash into everyone/ Crash into everything/ Back and I’ve just begun/ ‘Fack’ 2017,’ they come out with the bass-line smirking away.

A piano and Jessie Reyez’s Lata Mangeshkar-meets-‘Barbie Girl’ voice greets us in ‘Nice Guy’. This duet — stanza-response — is laced with venom, especially in the context of world that’s trippin’ on and out of #MeToo. When Eminem struts out the line, ‘I’m not a cheater,/ but if I’ma be accused, might as well be,’ one hears the sound of damaging, corrosive, double-tongued and dueted self-righteousness.

Through his word-swirls, Eminem has to be the finest chronicler – in any art/entertainment form – of our times, and by ‘our’ one isn’t only talking about American Rap-istan. He charts for us a viral world in all its senses in 'Kamikaze', and what makes it so damn brilliant is the intelligence with which he does it. And, of course, with his playful seriousness. Make that serious playfulness.
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