When are we going to stop picking on Marshall Mathers? To imagine arguably the biggest rapper of all time as trod upon is undeniably goofy, but when Eminem insists he’s underappreciated, is he wrong? Ever since Relapse, Slim Shady has been grasping at straws, desperate for the love he onced enjoyed to return to his life. And we continue to kick him around like a lost, unloved, problematic puppy.

To be sure, Eminem's recent efforts have been patchy at best. Recovery tried offering fans what he thought they wanted after the shock-rap of Relapse, returning to personal strife and simmering anger, but the glossy pop production (and his constant yelling) felled the album out of the gate. The sequel to his definitive classic didn’t fare much better, with an odd mix of nostalgia, botched experimentation, and chart-grasping singles. Finally, his desperate flailing led to his first truly irredeemable dud.

Revival was awful. There’s no way around it. Still, the question looms: would we be so quick to tear down others? KRS-One long ago descended into self-aggrandizement and repetition, yet his albums are generally greeted with relative warmth and understanding by fans and critics alike. Examples are abound. In short, rappers are generally given more room, at least from their own fan base, to age.

When Eminem makes a bad album, we seem take it so damn personally. The surprise release of Kamikaze, then, is Mr. Mathers finally standing his ground. As he said himself: “[I] tried not to overthink this one, enjoy.” Whatever you make of Kamikaze, at least, Eminem is Eminem once more.

Finally addressing nearly every fan complaint regarding his recent output, the yelling is practically gone, replaced by his zaniest flows in years (beyond stunting on features), his beat selection is finally freed of Alex da Kid and varying drek, with the likes of Mike Will Made It doing the heavy lifting. Recalling a seemingly random video from January with Mike Will, Marshall, and Dr. Dre in the studio, it’s not hard to imagine that the latter earned his executive producer credit here, saving his aging white apprentice from his own ears. At 45 minutes (less, should you cut the seemingly tacked on Venom soundtrack song), the album is also mercifully scaled back from the usual 70+ minute bloat that comes with an effort from Slim Shady.

Eminem is even having fun again. For a man that’s been practically a rapping robot for years, bitter and miserable, it’s surprising and even charming to hear him goofing around singing, “I love you but I hope you fuckin’ die, though,” in the middle of a fiery verse. The return of the Paul skits is also welcome, shedding a bit of self-awareness on a project that might have felt self-serious without them.

This isn’t to say Kamikaze is without problems. ‘Stepping Stone’ stands out as the only track fully mired in Eminem’s recent obsession with clumsy song structures, with a bungled chorus and awkward bridge it sadly blights what is actually a rather insightful reflection on Mather’s relationship with his former D12 bandmates, complete with more bracing honesty (“I’m barely charting myself”).

Worse still, is the Tyler, the Creator diss. Already unavoidable, it goes without saying that it’s tone deaf and unfortunate. Moreover, it’s a barb sure only to prove a thorn in Eminem’s own side, distracting from what otherwise is his best work in years. Still, the speed with which the media has created a narrative in which Mathers is purely a bully is rather fantastical, it not being all too hard to imagine how Tyler’s slide from idolizing Marshall to downing his projects on Twitter might have irked the aging titan. Sure, Tyler was right, but maybe don’t throw people who’ve helped your career under the bus unprovoked. It’s regrettable Em had to make it nuclear. I mean, c’mon, I’ll give you a freebie: “It took you 4 albums to drop a classic, flower boy,” - was it really so hard to avoid the homophobia, Marshall?

Still, the absolute fervor around the remark seems rather calculated. “Get off these nuts” is just about the most obvious rap insult available, are we really surprised? It conveniently stands as yet another reason to tear down a former great that’s disappointed his audience for years while irking those outside of it. An excuse for a public eager to do away with a past that embarrasses them, an excuse to ignore a solid album.

Kamikaze’s fate was decided the moment it materialized seemingly out of nowhere. Eminem was really rapping across an entire LP again (something I’d never say elsewhere: Rihanna is not missed), stans were going to like it too much, while his inflammatory remark is sure to prevent most any of the unconverted from being able to engage with the music itself. I can’t help but find that a bit unfortunate. Hell, at least LeBron likes it.