If you were thinking you’d get anything different from Eminem in his ninth LP Revival, based off the pre-release singles, you better think again. Aside from the two useful political tunes, “Untouchable” and “Like Home,” the rest is an extended pummeling of hypocrisy in which Eminem attempts to make amends with loved ones he’s wronged but also spits, kicks and screams in vulgar, violent fashion as usual.
“Chloraseptic” causes the first major symptom of Interscope-slash-Eminem-made toxicity by way of gratuitous, inappropriate sexuality and the next comes in the raunchiness of “Remind Me.” The macabre Eminem comes back full force in “Framed,” in the form of a guilty man making a weak plea of innocence on wax. The next three songs continue to unabatedly supply bitter spitting at misperceived enemies (“Nowhere Fast”), objectification of women (“Heat”) and then extreme misogyny (“Offended”). Right before he tries to explain himself in the last two tracks, Eminem admits in such a way that he is literally out of his mind via “In Your Head.”
When all is said and done, all the big name singers, Eminem’s famous wordplay virtuosity and even Rick Rubin’s classic pop-rock resurrections (if you’re into his slightly cheesy style of it) together can’t make up for Eminem’s awful rap persona ruining the vast majority of the project. Once again, his sharp rhyme mechanics have been employed to twist and confuse the minds of listeners. If Eminem continues his relationship with Interscope Records (subsidiary of Universal Music Group, subsidiary of Vivendi SA) or another major label and especially if he continues to pump out filth, his credibility as an integral artist is hereby gone. (1 out of 5 stars)
Brooklyn Black Star and Reflection Eternal emcee Talib Kweli had been teasing his Radio Silence solo album since 2015 (at the most recent) so for it to come a full two years later is just enough time for fans to wait, even with the other projects Kweli’s label Javotti Media made in the interim. Relax and exhale because the anticipated album, finally here, passes the hardest critical tests. With that cool, post-2010 Talib Kweli feel (in other words the first impression made after Javotti’s inception), Radio Silence is an indie affair of flyness, anthems, calm vocal protest against violence in the streets, love, and guests from the under- and aboveground, all of them, even Waka Flocka and Rick Ross, pulling substance out for this particular artist and occasion. Despite all the wisdom and awareness in the author, the subject matter takes only some risks and not quite seismic, and the production, while prominent, won’t have everyone coming back for seconds or thirds. It doesn’t match the perfection or near-perfection of Talib Kweli‘s earliest work, but because it’s nicely conscious, free of any major slip-ups and arriving at a time when mainstream rap is lowering its performance-related standards, Radio Silence really can catch on and silence the radio. (3 out of 5 stars)
The genre-fusing swing of Brass Menažeri is slightly new musical terrain for complex, conscious emcee Mr. Lif (not to mention more organic and acoustic than he’s used to) but a compliment to his deep lyrics anyhow. In their collaborative project, Lif puts politics in play a few times though he also leans back to simply enjoy the ride, intermittently letting his band partners shine by themselves, like the sheen of their instruments. Resilient could use more rapping, and original rapping at that (“What About Us” is a remix of the 2009 Lif single), but for the most part, the album is a full-bodied treat for the refined palate. (3 out of 5 stars)
Off Def Jam and onto another major label, Mississippi-born emcee Big K.R.I.T. is still locked in by one of the big boys though perhaps not the most well known of them. His third album and a double LP at that, entitled 4eva is a Mighty Long Time, comes via Multi Alumni, but only after receiving the green light from BMG Rights Management, a subsidiary of multinational corporation Bertelsmann. Needless to say then, we get some superficial subject matter, and much of the first section is its home. Disrespect towards women, drug use plus money, spending and just propaganda for consumerism make praising this portion of the album extremely difficult. Before the more meaningful close, K.R.I.T. even acknowledges the duplicity in “Mixed Messages.” He tries to justify his conflicting themes and inconsistencies as all natural, fine and even cool, if you believe the tone of the song and fail to question the motives of the company with which he’s involved. The large amount of material helps a little bit and so does the fresh production that mainly works as verse accompaniment as opposed to anthem- and hit-making support, but it’s simply mired by hazy language and contradictory beliefs that can’t be taken as genuinely K.R.I.T.’s own. (2 out of 5 stars)