Slim Shady’s inspiration remains murky, and could be J-pop megastar Utada Hikaru or someone else entirely.

On August 31, Eminem released his new album Kamikaze. It turns out, though, that the American rapper’s latest musical endeavor has a connection to Japan that goes beyond its title.

In speaking to Rolling Stone’s Elias Light, the musician says that one of the album’s tracks, “Good Guy,” didn’t come purely from the mind of Marshall Mathers or Slim Shady, and that it owes part of its existence to video game franchise Kingdom Hearts.

When asked about a sample heard in “Good Guy”, Eminem responds:

“That’s me doing my video game thing. Kingdom Hearts. It’s a Japanese videogame, and that’s the theme song from it. It’s one of the dopest melodies I’ve ever heard. Shout out Japanese videogames and Japanimation for inspiration. Filtered it, did some chops, did some processing to it. I basically made it unrecognizable, but I know they would have still found it. That’s why we had to deal with the clearance. But when I do anything I try to make it to where it’s not fully recognizable.”

▼ “Good Guy”

Listening to the preview of “Good Guy”, there’s definitely something in the background that sounds like J-pop megastar Utada Hikaru’s characteristic warble. Though Eminmen doesn’t specify the exact song the sample was taken from, the bilingual Utada sang the themes, in both English and Japanese, for both the original Kingdom Hearts and its full-fledged sequel, Kingdom Hearts II.

“Hikari,” the Japanese theme for Kingdom Hearts, which shares its arrangement with its English version “Simple and Clean”

“Passion,” Japanese theme for Kingdom Hearts II, the English version of which was retitled “Sanctuary”

But there’s something about Eminem’s story that doesn’t quite add up. Regarding the sample, Eminem says that he “had to deal with…clearance,” and sure enough, three of the six creators credited for “Good Guy,” Norio Aono Yutaka Yamada, and Lisa Gomamoto, are Japanese (the remaining four being Mathers himself, Jessica Reyez, and Ray Fraser). None of the three Japanese musicians, though, are contributors to the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, nor were they involved with “Hikari”/”Simple and Clean” or “Passion”/”Sanctuary.”

Making things weirder is that Yamada, a composer, was born in 1989, which would make him far too young to have been working on high-profile Square Enix titles like Kingdom Hearts (released in 2002) or Kingdom Hearts II (released in 2005). However, there is a convergence point for the careers of Yamada and lyricists Aono and Gomamoto, which is anime series Tokyo Ghoul, specifically the songs “Wanderers” and “Glassy Sky.”

Is the sample actually from Tokyo Ghoul? That’s hard to say, since, emotionally moving as “Wanderers” and “Glassy Sky” may be, neither one has what most people would classify as a “dope melody,” which Eminem cites as his reason for incorporating the sample into “Good Guy.” But on the other hand, Utada famously writes her own lyrics, so if the sample actually is from one of the Kingdom Hearts themes, it should be her, not two other lyricists, getting credited.

▼ And even if the sample is from the yet-to-be-released theme for the yet-to-be-released Kingdom Hearts III, even that’s being written/sung by Utada.

So in the end, what’s going on? There seem to be only two possibilities:
1. Eminem is confused about his own song, and the sample isn’t from Kingdom Hearts at all. Lending some plausibility to this theory is that the rapper says “shout out [to] Japanimation for inspiration,” despite the term falling out of widespread use among Japanese pop-culture fans more than a decade ago, suggesting that maybe he’s not knowledgeable or interested in it enough to keep Kingdom Hearts and Tokyo Ghoul from getting mixed up in his head.

2. Someone else on Kamikaze’s production team screwed up and credited the wrong Japanese musicians for the sample, perhaps after initially considering, but later deciding against, sampling “Wanderers” or “Glassy Sky.”

Maybe we’ll get a definitive answer as part of a hidden ending for Kingdom Hearts III.

Sources: Rolling Stone/Elias Leight via Automaton via Jin, Anime News Network/Jennifer Sherman
Top image: YouTube/Kingdom Hearts

Follow Casey on Twitter, where translating the lyrics to Hikari was one of the tougher self-study projects he did in college.