Eminem began his weekend by celebrating another #1 album in Kamikaze and unleashing a response record to Machine Gun Kelly’s “Rap Devil.”
Just a few years ago, the idea of an Eminem-MGK beef would’ve been rightly viewed as lopsided and unnecessary. But with Em’s inconsistent streak of albums this decade, you’ve had many fans siding with MGK’s “tough love” diss approach that accuses Marshall of jealousy against the new wave of emcees and losing his songwriting ability by getting too technical with his rhyme schemes. Not to the mention, the “weird beard” and “corny hats.”
What can’t be denied is Eminem has been searching for an identity in his twilight years as a superstar rapper. For someone who is on the short list of the most technically proficient emcees to ever touch the mic, he’s struggled to age gracefully. He’s experimented with power ballads on Recovery, accent-heavy voices and addiction themes on Relapse, and awkward attempts at socially conscious songs on Revival. While each project has had flashes of brilliance, none have lived up to his talent level.
If anything, Em’s struggles this last decade have shown the importance of adversaries and naysayers to fuel his competitive fire. Early on, it was the manufactured nature of pop culture and its subsequent stars that drew his ire. His attacks on them made a line in the sand demonstrating that although their record sales were similar, he was not “like them.” In the early 2000s, it was Murder Inc and The Source magazine stepped in as rivals due to his signing of 50 Cent.
But who has been the “enemy” the last few years to give Em that Jordan/Kobe-like psychopathic edge to destroy all foes? Mariah Carey notwithstanding, there hasn’t been any. He tried in vain to get something going with the Donald Trump diss at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. And certainly, the bars at Joe Budden and MGK on Kamikaze were done as bait.
As an elite emcee, I’m sure he preferred Budden coming out of retirement over MGK, but on “Killshot” I hear an Eminem returning to form…albeit slowly. Is it as strong a diss as Em’s dismantling of Benzino on “The Sauce” and “Nail in the Coffin?” Creative like his Everlast country record diss “I Remember” or channeling Pac on “Quitter” and “Hail Mary?”
Absolutely not. Hell, even Mariah got it worse on “The Warning.”
But let’s be real — those level of diss records aren’t needed to best MGK. The rhymes on “Killshot” are put together better than “Rap Devil” by any metric you could possibly use — wordplay, flow, facts and so on. Em correctly points out that MGK seems unsure at whether to battle or praise Em (“Wait, you just dissed me? I’m perplexed/ Insult me in a line, compliment on the next…“).
The “you’re not on my level” approach is cliched, but in certain instances, it fits. Em focuses on explaining how MGK is following his blueprint with lesser results. And fittingly, he reminds MGK what tier-level he’s on as a rapper by comparing him to Iggy Azalea
Got the Diddy okay so you spent your whole day
Shootin’ a video just to fuckin’ dig your own grave
Got you at your own wake, I’m the billy goat
You ain’t never made a list next to no Biggie, no Jay
Next to Taylor Swift and that Iggy ho, you about to really blow
Kelly, they’ll be putting your name
Next to Ja, next to Benzino—die, motherfucker!
Like the last motherfucker sayin’ Hailie in vain
Make no mistake — a song on this level would not be enough against Budden or Jay Electronica. But all older fighters need a tuneup before facing a dangerous opponent, right?