Detroit rappers Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ resurrected their Bad Meets Evil group this year, after a hiatus which lasted over ten years. The duo released their first EP in June, named Hell: The Sequel after a lyric in their self-titled song on Eminem’s début album The Slim Shady LP, released back in 1999. After several collaborations in the early stages of their careers, an altercation between Royce (Ryan Montgomery) and Eminem’s (Marshall Mathers’s) rap group D12 prompted the two hip hop stars to go their own respective ways. But now they’re back, and they’ve released the album they promised way back at the start.
Hell: The Sequel starts with the short introductory track ‘Welcome 2 Hell’, which sets the bar high in terms of pace and tone. Mathers and Montgomery exchange rhymes skilfully, with an exciting beat backing up the quick and aggressive raps of two very stylistically different artists. The song flows straight into the EP’s lead single ‘Fast Lane’, which is kicked off by Royce. While the rapping is solid and the music is effective, some of the lyrics are questionable (“And hang him by his balls from the horn of a unicorn” springs to mind), and the hook is maybe too long and lacks impact. Nonetheless, it is a great song and potentially one of the strongest numbers on the album. Another interesting song on the album is ‘Loud Noises’, which features Royce’s group Slaughterhouse who were recently signed to Shady Records; and the song ‘Lighters’ is bound to receive some attention due to its featured artist, superstar singer-songwriter Bruno Mars.
Bad Meets Evil’s debut record, though, is not without its flaws. Some of the songs seem rushed, which isn’t surprising considering Eminem’s huge career at the moment. In ‘I’m on Everything’, a drug ballad which sounds like it could’ve been written by a teenager trying to look cool in front of his friends, Royce spends an entire bar making indecipherable noises instead of actually rapping, and the main hook ends with similarly ridiculous noises. The beat in ‘A Kiss’ sounds like it was lifted from an early PlayStation game like Crash Bandicoot, and the hook is pathetically weak considering Eminem has worked with such female stars as Rihanna, Pink and Skylar Grey. For a collection of songs only nine strong, it is unacceptable that more than one song is forgettable, and in the case of Hell: The Sequel I find myself unable to recite anything from ‘Above the Law’ and ‘Take from Me’.
Overall the EP is a bit hit and miss. There are a few really good tracks on there, showcasing Eminem’s known talent and introducing a wide audience to a clearly skilled rapper in Royce da 5’9″, but really the EP falls flat a little bit. The duo’s energy and chemistry is undeniable, but that’s often not enough when the songs seem lazily written and readily accepted. This isn’t surprising when one remembers that Bad Meets Evil is, essentially, a side-project: Royce has his group Slaughterhouse, and Eminem has his huge solo career. Hell: The Sequel is a decent listen, though, and for fans of either of the stars it is a must-buy after the ten-year-plus wait for the record to surface. But for the casual listener, one would recommend listening to Eminem’s Recovery from last year instead.
Strengths: Some of the rapping is very fast, skilled and exciting, and the duo’s chemistry is very good
Weaknesses: Some of the songs seem hurriedly written, and sound like songs rejected from main Eminem albums