As the entire music-listening world knows by now, Eminem dropped the surprise album Kamikaze overnight on Friday (Aug. 31), and most 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 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 Em's first five ficial albums, advising him to tone his behavior down, either on or f record. In most those instances, though, Rosenberg's wary presence ended up paradoxically serving as a sort hypeman for his bad boy client -- like the angry police captain chewing out his detective for not playing by the book, or a pissed-f 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 f 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 the rapper's louder detractors no doubt did upon first hearing 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 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 f or in even in disbelief. He just sounds like a long-suffering employee trying to figure out the best way to inform his client bad news for the millionth time. Unlike previous Rosenberg skits, this interlude doesn't get you more hyped for Eminem's oncoming onslaught 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 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?