The Best Diss Track On Eminem's 'Kamikaze' Is Toward Eminem Himself
As the entire music-listening world knows by now, Eminem dropped the surprise album Kamikaze overnight on Friday (Aug. 31), and most of the headlines surrounding the new set have been about the lyrical grenades he throws in seemingly all directions. Everyone from Donald Trump to the Grammys to Lil Yachty to Pitchfork get some words on the new set, with fans both cheering on and recoiling from Em's more venomous bars.
But for all of Marshall Mathers' many burns on Kamikaze, the most scalding one might be the one he himself gets. The rapper's manager Paul Rosenberg shows up on "Paul - Skit" in an answering machine message, sharing his skeptical feelings about the album and its many disses. "Are you really gonna just...reply to everybody who you don't like what they have to say about you, or stuff you're working on?" Rosenberg asks incredulously. "It's like, what's next, Kamikaze 2? The album where you reply to everyone who didn't like the album you made replying to everybody that didn't like the previous album? It's a...slippery slope. I don't know if it's a really good idea."
Of course, this is hardly the first time Rosenberg has appeared on an Eminem album cautioning him against putting that very album out into the world: He's played the naysayer in a similar fashion on each of Em's first five official albums, advising him to tone his behavior down, either on or off record. In most of those instances, though, Rosenberg's wary presence ended up paradoxically serving as a sort of hypeman for his bad boy client -- like the angry police captain chewing out his detective for not playing by the book, or a pissed-off parent yelling at his kid for wrecking the house over the weekend, it mostly allowed Eminem to silently play into the just-don't-give-a-fuck persona he'd long become a superstar with.
This time, though, Rosenberg's words can't help but cut a little deeper. With Eminem now deep into his 40s, and coming off his least-successful album to date, it's harder for him to credibly play the misbehaving scamp who you still can't help but love. And Rosenberg's message to Em isn't just about toning down his album's more questionable content, or about not needlessly getting himself in trouble on the way to the studio -- he's questioning the album's need to even exist in the first place, as many of the rapper's louder detractors no doubt did upon first hearing of Kamikaze's surprise release overnight.
The "What's next, Kamikaze 2?" bit is particularly withering. Not only does it serve as a shot at his client's previously-demonstrated willingness to milk past glories, but the reply-to-the-criticism-to-the-reply-to-the-criticism scenario that Rosenberg lays out feels dangerously plausible, especially given some of the backlash the album has already received. As Rosenberg sighs about it being a "slippery slope" that Marshall's headed down, he doesn't sound pissed off or in even in disbelief. He just sounds like a long-suffering employee trying to figure out the best way to inform his client of bad news for the millionth time. Unlike previous Rosenberg skits, this interlude doesn't get you more hyped for Eminem's oncoming onslaught of bluster -- it just makes everyone involved sound tired.
Of course, it's to Eminem's credit that he has enough self-awareness to put such a skit on the album; as someone who's frequently served as his own toughest critic on record, giving Rosenberg a track on Kamikaze to let the air out of the entire project shows that he still knows what critics are going to say about the album, and that he realizes there's even some truth to it. And indeed, Em himself responds to the skit later in the album (on "Em Calls Paul") by doubling down on his own myopia, decrying one specific critic and claiming to even be on the way to his house to confront him (with Google Maps voice instructions audible in the background), while barely even addressing the previous skit's legitimate criticism. He knows his manager is the one hater who he doesn't have bars for. When does Rosenberg's own surprise album drop, anyway?