Bad Meets Evil, the reunified collaborative effort between Eminem and Rocye Da 5’9″, has returned from a near-decade of alienation with one hell of a sophomore album, Hell: The Sequel. After a fruitful era in which the duo recorded numerous freestyles & celebrated tracks (including the single “Renegade,” which would later be used on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint album with Royce’s verses replaced by Jay), Royce fell out with Eminem’s group, D12, and the pairing went silent in the early turn of the century.
The world has shifted considerably in the short years between then and now, the politics of music included, and with Royce’s Slaughterhouse crew entering the Shady Records fold it was only a matter of time before the prophecy on 1999’s The Slim Shady LP came to light. On the breakthrough Eminem and Royce collaboration, their namesake track “Bad Meets Evil,” they end the song by saying “See you in Hell for the sequel, Bad meets evil.”
And here we are, with blazing results even the most devoted may have had trouble believing back in the Y2K era.
A fire crackling and ominous piano chords over a distant chorus of moaning souls (via Mobb Deep’s Havoc) introduces opener “Welcome 2 Hell,” one of the few moments on the album that aren’t packed to welcome suffocation with deadly fast rhymes. The flow is spitfire on fast forward from the moment a word is uttered, a downright freak level of confidence and capability between the rejoined MCs. The lyrical spiderwebs are razor-sharp as Em lays out the album’s first verse in his standard hilarious-imagery fashion, opening with “There’s a switch I flip – emotions cut off / So cold that I froze my butt off”.
Having planted his flags of rejuvenation on last year’s phenomenal Recovery, Mr. Mathers is back in full character, allowing him to turn the focus back outward, setting his immediate sights on – among (many, many) other things – David Carradine’s unglamorous asphyxiation death. “It’s better to kick ass than kiss it,” he spits over a double-burst beat, before passing the rhyme baton mid-flow to Royce, who keeps the speed with downright scary smooth delivery that carries the beat accentuation.
“Fast Lane” follows Mathers’ quick welcome (listen here), a single that narrates the duo’s reunion and encapsulates and integrates each rapper’s personas admirably while Sly “Pyper” Jordan sings a SoCal-soul hook that sounds like it was meant for the late Nate Dogg. The track builds with a double-up pace of flow, a two-way syllabic blizzard that wears down the rewind button of the lyrically curious (Nicki Minaj sodomy what?).
Sinister, sadistic and vicious, “The Reunion” is a slow-stagger horror show of misogyny breaking down the complications of that irresistible 100th problem. Royce namechecks Twitter and plays on Em’s “W.T.P.” before dropping a side-splitter: “She said I’m feeling your whole swagger and flow / Can we hook up? I said, mm… you just used the word swagger so NO.” Clever, slur-drunk and cinematic, the track would be far easier to endorse if it didn’t suffer from such proud aggression towards women. It’s a pus-rimmed gash blemish on an otherwise phenomenal record, an inexcusable alignment with the Chris Brown trademark.
Em-highlight “Above The Law” could be a bonus Recovery track, a fitting precursor to the Royce-centric jam “I’m On Everything”. D12’s Mr. Porter keeps the beat stripped through a bouncing narcotic tirade Hip-Hop equivalent of Queens of the Stone Age’s “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”.
Grammy-laden Bangladesh surprises on the knobs for “I’m On Everything” with a dark wind-up lullabye-chime backdrop, implying a deceptively delicate nature that’s anything but on the speed-freak flow. The transition to “Lighters” (listen here) is a clumsy one, and it’s not helped that the soaring-chorus track doesn’t fit at all on the album. Bruno Mars’ sentimental croonery doesn’t work nearly as well when sandwiched between ranting misogynistic bars on surrounding tracks, but it’s bound to anchor the less testicularly inclined in the crowd.
On the album’s final non-bonus track “Loud Noises,” jarring keys frame Marshall’s spitfire braggadocio before a video game-style roaring introduction to an airtight, obnoxious & ferocious spotlight on Slaughterhouse. Each member in the rap collective gets a verse under Porter’s stutter beat and horror house single-chord keys.
Another weapon has been added to the Shady Records artillery, and this one has exceptional firepower. The hype and flashing lights may shine far brighter on Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne collaboration, whenever it surfaces, but in beat-for-beat surgical strikes your money’s safe on Hell: The Sequel. That is, if you can get past the whole women-beating fantasies on the bad-apple track. Barring that damnable offense, Eminem and Rocye Da 5’9″ are in absolute peak form throughout the release, and the ante has been upped on superstar collaborations across the board.
CraveOnline’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10