For all of the bad blood that has poured out of Detroit, the reunion of Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” is a welcoming sign. Royce’s squabbles with Shady’s group D-12 have been well documented, as the former Motor City comrades spent the better part of the last decade representing two distinct camps. Although it took the death of mutual friend Proof to mend the former friendship, the two MCs are again rattling off machine gun rounds of lyricism. Together they compose the appropriately titled Bad Meets Evil, whose debut EP, Hell: The Sequel, is full of devilish malcontent.
The double-time slashing of “Welcome 2 Hell” kicks off the project. The ominous, airy sampling is highlighted by Eminem and Royce’s hellacious flows, as the two play perfectly off one another. “Welcome 2 Hell” evidences the album-long fluidity with seamless transitions and overlapping bars. “Above the Law” continues the album’s dark sonic motif. Royce takes the malice to a verbal level, blurting, “you got a mouth like Kanye/I’m going to knock your whole bottom row of teeth out/This ain’t no disrespect to Mr. West, I’m just nice with mine and this rap I’m just like Ricky Hatten/I just like the line.” Although scrolls of battle-hardened verses aren’t the only salient qualities of the EP. The Mike Epps-assisted “I’m On Everything” provides a catchy-as-hell intermission, as Craig’s cousin underscores the track. And, of course, Mr. Shady provides the anarchic lyrical compliment: “Man, who’d think at three in the morning I’d still be up/I can barely see up over the steering wheel, crashed, tore a whole tree up.”
However, this is where the EP meets its limits. Hell: The Sequel has plenty of bars, but that’s as deep as the record’s iceberg reaches. The first four songs all meld together like an expertly done “Freestyle Friday.” It works and leaves the listener breathless occasionally, but it lacks any sort of definitive track that calls for repeated listens.
Yet, all of the aforementioned slights are minor compared to the overall lackluster effort Em clocks in. Slim Shady is thoroughly bodied on the Slaughterhouse anthem, “Loud Noises,” and his line, “I hope I don’t sound too heinous when I say this, Nicki Minaj, but I wanna stick my penis in your anus,” makes his shock rap look dated compared to Odd Future’s current masochistic ramblings. Sure, he provides Royce backing with the Eminem seal of approval, but all Shady really accomplishes is a nine-track compilation of tireless shouting and hackneyed bars. It’s stale stuff that’s long past its 2005 shelf life.
It wouldn’t be fair to label Hell: The Sequel a completely wasted effort. Royce holds up his end of the bargain. It’s unfortunate that his partner-in-rhyme couldn’t abide. But maybe that’s how Hip-Hop and Shady Stans should start viewing their aging 8-Mile representer: an antiquated rap relic who should leave the actual rhyming to the men he signs to his Shady imprint.