Let's talk about it.
It's no secret that Eminem has been a master at lyrical combat. A likely byproduct of his battle-rap upbringing at The Shelter, Em's mastery of the verbal takedown has led to no shortage of incendiary diss tracks. Despite being embroiled in no shortage of feuds, history has often shown Em to emerge victorious, while his foes are left nursing tarnished careers in his wake. To be fair, a few lines on Ja Rule's "Loose Change" did sting, but Murder Inc was simply unprepared for the combined forces of Shady, Aftermath, and G-Unit records. As such, time itself has declared Em the victor, and these days, Ja Rule is regarded as a shadow of his former self.
Is it fair to say that beefing with Eminem is akin to tempting fate? Some of his most ardent Stans and loyalists would be quick to liken the process to a deathwish. Yet what happens when it is Em who casts the first stone on wax? Save for a few errant shots at popstars (and Iggy Azalea), Em has always been more of a defensive fighter, employing a counter-riposte strategy. On Kamikaze, however, he made sure to call out Machine Gun Kelly by name, putting him on blast for sending subs on Tech N9ne's "No Reason." The end result was "Not Alike," a track that often goes forgotten within the greater context.
"This little cock-sucker, he must be feeling himself, he wants to keep up his tough demeanor," rapped Em, on the Kamikaze highlight. "So he does a feature, decides to team up with N9na, But next time you don't gotta use Tech N9ne if you wanna come at me with a sub, Machine Gun / And I'm talkin' to you but you already know who the fuck you are, Kelly." A warning shot, but a shot nonetheless; considering Kelly has been open about his respect for Eminem, it must have stung all the more. Considering the track having surfaced on August 31st last year, Machine Gun Kelly had all of Labor Day Weekend to plot his retaliation.
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During a conversation on Everyday Struggle following the release of his Hotel Diablo project, Kelly revealed his first time hearing "Not Alike," and the thought process that followed. " "I remember I was listening to what he had said about me, or whatever," he reflects. "I was like, oh this is funny. Then he said one line, and I was like, okay I'ma dog this motherfucker. Hook the mic up. We went in the locker room of a place we were performing at, and I just did that on the spot. Hours after that shit released. Like, fuck this motherfucker! Load the protools up. We loaded a picture of him and just rode the motherfucker."
He continues, explaining that "Rap Devil" might not have packed such a punch were it not for the guidance of YBN Cordae. "I did three verses, I called Cordae, played him the first three verses," explains Kelly. "He was like "this Em, man, you gotta go off." I was like "I just went off!" He was like, 'Nah, just finish him!' I put that fourth verse, and that fourth verse was the mean shit."
On September 3rd, one year ago, Machine Gun Kelly released "Rap Devil" upon the world. The track, produced by Em's own collaborator Ronny J, would go on to be one of the biggest song releases in HNHH's recent history. In fact, following its arrival, the masses couldn't get enough of the feud, prompting "A Complete History" to be penned in response to the sheer volume of curious onlookers. And no wonder. From the moment Kelly dragged the infamous beard, all bets were off. Though many have taken potshots at Slim within the media, few had prepared an assault as elaborate and scathing as "Rap Devil." At least, not since the days of Ja Rule and Benzino, and even they never managed to line up such a consistently vicious attack.
At this stage, the bars have been analyzed at length. Between MGK's clear understanding of Em's history, and thus, his insecurities, Kelly becomes increasingly confident as the track progresses. By the fourth verse, the "mean" one by his own admission, Kelly has checked off all the right boxes. Kim mention. Old-shit-is-better. Weird beard. Sweatsuits. Yelling. Old age (Em himself did once say "nobody wants to hear their grandfather rap). The list goes on, made all the more potent through Kelly's palpable smugness. Whether you ride with him or not, you can't deny that he managed to put Em on blast like nobody ever has. In fact, it's fair to call "Rap Devil" the greatest Eminem diss track thus far, matched only by Royce Da 5'9's scathing "Malcolm X," should a D12 diss truly factor into the equation.
Now, one year removed from its arrival, we can safely examine "Rap Devil" under a new light. The war is over, and both sides have since moved on. In truth, neither party seems particularly interested in rehashing the battle, though the fans certainly enjoyed it well it lasted. Of course, many will be quick to call "Killshot" exactly that, an exorcism potent enough to send the "Devil" scurrying into the darkness. But enough people, from Young Thug to Akadmiks, have publically declared the crown to Kelly, with the former naming him the only man to ever "murder" Eminem. The question is, is there any truth to the matter? Though Eminem's Stans may never admit it, "Rap Devil" deserves respect for what it accomplished. Which is to say, providing Eminem with some genuine competition and turning the Midwest into a battleground of holy proportions.