Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel Review

It all started back in 1999 when two of Detroit’s most dangerous emcees Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ collaborated on a track from the Slim Shady LP called “Bad Meets Evil” and decided to form a group under the same name. After releasing a few songs, they had a very public falling out in 2002 and went their separate ways.

Fast forward to 2011 and the old friends have made amends, with Eminem going so far as signing Royce and his group Slaughterhouse to his Shady Records imprint and now the two are finally releasing their collaborative album they planned so long ago (it’s technically an EP but hey it’s new material and that’s all that matters). The title is an obvious reference to the closing lines on the song that started it all where Royce stated to the listeners they’ll “See you in hell for the sequel”. It took a lot longer than they planned but here we are just like they promised.

Despite eight years without contact, it doesn’t sound like the duo skipped a beat. The two rappers still have great chemistry together and they show it off on this EP as they trade bars with vicious rapid-fire rhymes and a hunger that I haven’t heard from either artist in a while. They both kill every verse and their intense delivery commands your attention at all times. But what really surprised me was how good Eminem was (Royce was equally as impressive but he’s been on fire the last couple of years so that wasn’t as surprising). I haven’t really enjoyed Em‘s work in the past few years but his verses on this project redeems him in my eyes. He really needed the combination of an equally talented lyricist in the studio with him as well as a smaller side project such as this EP to allow him the freedom to just go nuts on the songs without having to worry about making it radio friendly or following strict themes to make a cohesive album.

What this amounts to is a lot of songs about nothing but this freedom really lets the two flex their lyrical muscles and deliver some of the rawest rhymes with the most creative rhyme schemes I’ve heard in a major release in a long time. However, this album isn’t without its problems. While I’m really liking Em‘s verses and I’m glad that he dropped that annoying fake accent he did on Relapse, he’s still screaming his raps on most of the songs. One could argue that it makes his presence on the mic more commanding but I personally find it rather irritating. Luckily, this project is short enough that it never becomes a major issue unlike the unnecessarily long Recovery.

One other problem I had with this was the production on some of the songs. It was very hit or miss throughout the EP. You have some songs like “Welcome 2 Hell”, “Above the Law” and the lead single “Fast Lane” where the hard drums and strings perfectly match the dark and intense rhymes from the Detroit duo but then you also have songs like “The Reunion”, “I’m On Everything” and the Slaughterhouse assisted “Loud Noises” where the beats are very boring and bland. This is only accentuated by the fact that the rappers’ deliveries are very animated and so without music equally as engaging to back them, it’s very noticeable.

And don’t even get me started on “Lighters“, which features Bruno Mars and is the clear sore spot on the album. It’s the only song on the album that is clearly designed to be a radio hit with its fluffy beat and Bruno Mars featured hook. Sure it’s catchy but the lighthearted sound really doesn’t fit the darker tone of the rest of the EP. This one should have been left on the cutting room floor as it’s needlessly taking up valuable real estate.

While a few boring beats and one clear dud wouldn’t be that bad on an average album nowadays, it really hurts this release since it is only an EP and thus extremely short to begin with. When you don’t have a lot of time to win over the listener, it needs to be consistently great throughout the entire thing.

While those last few paragraphs were a little negative, I need to stress here that despite a few shortcomings, Eminem and Royce are on point throughout the entire project and their performances alone are more than enough to justify the price of admission. This is some of the finest rapping you’ll hear on a major label release in today’s dismal climate. Even better, the Deluxe Edition includes “Living Proof” and “Echo” as bonus tracks, which are actually two of the most entertaining songs on here even though they are technically not part of the EP.

It’s not the perfect album but they still came through with something really solid that any hip hop fan should be able to appreciate. It’s two rappers spitting vicious lyrics over (mostly) dope beats and a return of the hungry Slim Shady that I remember. How can you hate on that? Even better is that this project makes the future look very promising for not only Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ but also Slaughterhouse and Shady Records as a whole. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Bad Meets Evil in the future with maybe a more focused full-length LP.

Hell: The Sequel released on June 14th, 2011