Hell: The Sequel
It’s been more than a decade since the last official Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” collaboration, too long a wait for hardcore hip-hop enthusiasts. I’ve been a longtime fan of Royce and most of Eminem’s early Slim Shady stuff (but his material in the last decade has been hit-or-miss, even Recovery). So when I first got news that Slaughterhouse (Royce’s current project) had been signed to Shady Records in early January, I was geeked for another grimy, booze and violence-rich meeting of lyrical talents. After rumors spread that the duo were working on a new EP, and after checking out leaked tracks online, I knew that after all these years Bad Meets Evil had returned, and with a proper label-backed national release.
The duo first appeared together on The Slim Shady LP, the song “Bad Meets Evil” was the inspiration for an EP recorded a few months later.
In this musical climate where most genres suffer under the weight of “pop” sensibilities, I was curious to see if this would stay true to the twosome’s roots; foul-mouthed, malevolent and delightfully uncourteous.
But the results are mixed: Moments of raunchy brilliance are offset by lyrical and conceptual disappointments.
Though the first single, “Fast Lane,” is a highlight. Royce drops in, hittin’ it on the first verse and staying true to style, aggressive, articulate and angry, setting up a mid-verse handoff to Em, who keeps the energy going nicely. In classic Slim Shady form, he calls out celebs such as Nicki Minaj. The concept’s fine for a rap single — a kind of feel-good tune about the pleasures of life on top — and it also serves to warn potentially undermining rivals while celebrating Royce’s rise to prominence. The track features a cool Nate Dogg-esque hook sung by Sly “Pyper” Jordan.
The song “Lighters” falls short. Bruno Mars provides a sappy, forced chorus that sounds lifted from some other in-progress draft. Em’s flow flounders, and fails to follow the track’s theme, which is also unclear. Royce and Eminem spit verses that don’t hang together, hence there’s little emotional response.
Cuts such as “Loud Noises” and “Above The Law” are musically enjoyable and the beats canvas nicely but again, verses don’t coalesce and you’re left wondering where’s the necessary “epic” sound?
“The Reunion” is solid despite the misleading title (not a reunion between Royce and Em, rather the two separately rapping about connecting with old girlfriends and the ensuing violence) and features production from Brooklyn’s Sid Roams. Smart punchlines elevate this to head-nod status, such as “She said ‘I’m feeling your big ego, wait —am I talking wrong?’/ I said ‘Naw, I’m a walking Kayne Beyonce song’.”
Hell: The Sequel feels more like a short mixtape than a finished studio album (only nine tracks) but that doesn’t undermine the quality production from Mr. Porter, Bangladesh and Havoc from Mobb Deep. Definitely something to check out if you are a fan of either artist, just don’t expect the same flawless lyrical piggy-backing that made their original work 12 years ago stuff of legend. I hope they continue to record and dust off some of the dust that’d settled on their partnership. Perhaps Hell:The Prequel may materialize, or another kind of follow up, and this potential will be fully realized.