12 Things We Learned From Eminem’s ‘Kamikaze’ Interview With Sway
Eminem has never been one to hold his tongue on the mic. Since the days of Infinite and The Slim Shady LP, Em has become known for telling his truth or spilling tea on others, whether detailing his troubling relationships with women or declaring his disdain for the likes of Benzino and Ja Rule.
These moments of candor feature prominently on Kamikaze, the surprise retaliation album created in response to the hoards of Revival haters. On the album, Em doesn't pull any punches and goes straight for the jugular of all those who had less than positive things to say about his previous project. Though he explicitly airs out several people—rappers, pundits and politicians alike—there was still a lot for fans to decode in the wake of the 13-track Kamikaze's crash landing.
To clear the air, Marshall sat down with longtime friend, legendary journalist and Shade45 host Sway Calloway for a four-part interview that was as enlightening as it was blunt. Right after Em gets Sway to sign a copy of his In Control / Devastating / Bum Rush The Sound album, the two get down to brass tacks. The hour-long conversation provides a lot more context to the scathing bars—he speaks about his shots at Tyler, The Creator, Joe Budden, Machine Gun Kelly and Donald Trump, while also opening up about the artists that he respects and admires, from Joyner Lucas to Drake.
XXL went through all 60 minutes to sum up the 12 biggest takeaways. Check out the full breakdown below.
Tyler, The Creator has been on record calling Eminem one of his greatest inspirations, although he's been outwardly critical of his idol in recent years. After Tyler trashed Em's ShadyXV compilation project in 2014 and tweeted that the Beyoncé collaboration "Walk on Water" is "horrible," Eminem fired back on "Fall," with a cutthroat four bars that included "I see why you called yourself a faggot."
In the interview, Eminem, who says he felt he and Tyler shared a mutual respect, claimed that his gay slur might have taken things too far.
"The word I called him on that song was one of things that I felt like, This might be too far," he said. "In my quest to hurt him, I realize I was hurting a lot of other people by saying it. At the time, I was so mad it was like whatever. It was one of the things that I kept going back to and saying, I don’t feel right with this.”
One of the hottest topics revolving around Kamikaze was Em's retaliation to Joe Budden's critique of Revival's "Untouchable." After establishing that he and Joe "aren’t friends like that" and claiming that he was the one "keeping the ship moving" for Slaughterhouse, Eminem said that he has never discredited Joe's music and expected the same courtesy from his signee.
"I’ve never got in a fuckin’ interview and been like Joe Budden’s shit is fuckin’ trash, that last album he put out is fuckin’ trash," he said. "So that’s kind of the attitude I took to this whole album."
Eminem's involvement with Slaughterhouse recently came into question when Joe Budden accused Em and Paul Rosenberg of taking all the group's album profits. Em told Sway that not only did he want to see them succeed, but never made any money off the group's musical endeavors.
"I hate to say this because I think the guys are super fucking talented but the album didn't do much to even recoup the first budget," Em revealed. "Then we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the second album that never came out. I don't know if I made a fucking dime off Slaughterhouse. I don't care if I made nothing. I believed in them."
Perhaps the biggest storyline that has emerged since Kamikaze's release is Em's feud with Machine Gun Kelly. What started as a seemingly cold war turned into an all-out lyrical knife fight when Em dissed Kelly on "The Ringer" and "Not Alike."
Many people thought that Em's diss was in retaliation for MGK's tweet calling his daughter Hailie "hot as fuck," but it was much more rap-related. Em stated:
"The reason that I dissed him is actually a lot more petty than that. The reason I dissed him... First he said, 'I'm the greatest rapper alive since my fave rapper banned me from Shade 45.' I could give a fuck about your career. You think I actually fuckin’ think about you? Do you know how many fuckin’ rappers that are better than you? You’re not even in the conversation."
On "The Ringer," Em raps, "'Cause Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service/To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin' him/Or ask if I'm linked to terrorists." The bars reference his Trump-targeted BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher from October 2017. Sway asked him if the Secret Service actually pulled up on him and indeed they did. Em says:
"They came to my studio. They was just basically asking me questions about my lyrics to see what the intent was behind them, and if I was making an actual threat or just expressing myself."
Em also briefly touches on the backlash he received for the aforementioned cypher. He said that while he understands the criticism, he doesn't regret the rhyme. "At least when when shit is all said and done, maybe I can just be on the right side of history."
Kamikaze's back-to-back deep cuts "Nice Guy" and "Good Guy" feature Canadian singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez on their respective choruses. She has already made some serious waves in the industry with songs like "Figures" and "Body Count" making rounds on radio and playlists, but Em is convinced that she will "blow up" across all genres.
When describing how the two Kamikaze songs came together, Em said, "She comes from a real place, she writes her own shit. I think that I would put my money on her that she will absolutely be huge."
Despite being one of his best-performing albums commercially, 2009's Relapse makes Eminem cringe in 2018 just like it turned some critics off nine years ago.
He admits: "Relapse is something that I hadn’t looked at in a couple years, went back to and cringed at... I was like Jesus Christ, I didn’t even realize I was doing that many accents."
Some Kamikaze listeners thought that Em was dissing Drake with some of his bars on "Lucky You," on which he raps, "You got a couple of ghost writers/But to these kids it don’t actually matter/They’re askin' me, What the fuck happened to hip-hop?/I said I don’t have any answers."
Em denied that these bars are directed at the Toronto rapper: "Here’s the thing: Drake will always be in my good graces because he did something for one of my daughters that I will never forget and he will always be in my graces."
Towards the end of the interview, Sway asks Em what he likes about Joyner Lucas (who appears on "Lucky You") and Em had only glowing remarks about the Massachusetts rapper.
"The first time I saw him was like five years ago at one of the BET cyphers," he said. "I peeped how he was saying a lot of lines—I saw some of me in that. Early on in my career, I wanted write until my shit stands out and he stood out so much to me."
There have been lots of artists—especially in hip-hop—who have given up on the Grammys. Eminem is one of those artists. He vowed, "Never again will I fucking go to the Grammys."
He acknowledged Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z both getting snubbed at the 2017 Grammys as well as 50 Cent not winning Best New Artist back in 2004.
Em wrapped up his feelings of disdain by saying, "It's like they're so fucking tone deaf to what is actually going on."
Dr. Dre is credited as an executive producer on Kamikaze. As Eminem's longtime mentor and producer, Dre's input is highly regarded in the album-making process. So when the Doc said he felt Slim Shady had gone too far, Eminem conceded and removed those songs from the final tracklist.
"There were a couple songs, he kinda deaded them," Eminem says. "Just because he didn't have a good reaction to them and felt one was going too far. It definitely went too far."
On the final question of the four-part interview, Sway shares the notion that people think he's reclusive and extremely introverted. Em cuts him off. "I think that's hilarious," he says. "I go more places than people think I do. I just do it under the radar. In Detroit we don't have paparazzi like L.A. or New York."