Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel
Rating: 8 out of 10 Tracy Morgans
As a huge fan of both artists, this release is essentially a dream come true to see Bad Meets Evil finally happen. The Slim Shady LP burst Marshall into the pop stratosphere in the late 1990’s while Royce went from sought after ghostwriter to bouncing from label to label in search of similar success. Royce still put out quality material (Death is Certain remains one of my favorite hip-hop albums), but most of it was bootlegged or left for the underground fans. This year’s reconciliation was not only a boon for Shady Records, but a re-birth for Royce that started with the formation of supergroup Slaughterhouse.
The EP title takes from lyrics on the original “Bad Meets Evil” track off the Slim Shady LP, “see you in Hell for the sequel.” Aptly titled opener “Welcome to Hell” starts the EP with an eerie introduction filled with the crackle of fire and a haunting looped choir. The reunion gets right down to business as Eminem’s spit fire flow straight from Recovery gets quickly complimented as the two go in with no need for a hook. As always has been the case (see the original “Renegade” and “Scary Movies”), the real gems on the EP lie when Em and Royce verbally spar. “Take From Me” is the sole introspective song on the EP that addresses Royce’s music leaking history, sibling rivalry and Marshall’s general trouble with fame. The thumping drum and bass surprising blend well with Claret Jai’s high pitched hook. “The Reunion” though full of sadistic observations in the same vein as “Guilty Conscience” and the original “Bad Meets Evil”, these two talented emcees show off their narrative skills.
Speaking of hooks, this isn’t really a hook-friendly EP. Sure “Fast Lane” and “Lighters” have fully fleshed out chorus, but Hell: The Sequel is tailor made for hip-hop fans looking for witty bars, not radio play. One of the best hooks on the EP is reserved for first single “Fast Lane”, but I can’t help but think that hook was meant for the smooth rhymes of Nate Dogg. Bruno Mar’s crooning can be tiresome, but the see-saw beat does showcase Em’s lyrical dexterity and how Royce can rip pop tracks aside from Willa Ford tracks. Fans of Recovery will be glad to see Eminem continued the trend from his come-back album and let other producers handle board duties. Bangladesh-crafted “A Kiss” which boasts one of the most buoyant productions on the EP and probably the most Southern hip-hop flavored tracks we’ve ever heard either of these emcees spit bars on. D-12’s own Mr. Porter also shines with four much improved productions after the so-so cut from Recovery “On Fire”.
“I’m On Everything” and “Loud Noises” are the only real weak moments of one of the shining hip-hop releases of 2011. “I’m On Everything” probably should have been a playful bonus cut. The hook is hilarious, but the first two verses come off lazy. Fast forward to the last verse where Em and Royce do what they do best with give and go flows. The militant rap cypher on “Loud Noises” highlights the rest of Slaughterhouse, but aside from Marshall’s bars, its a typical Slaughterhouse song with mostly rap one-upping and no hook, just straight bars. When reviewing releases you can’t include bonus cuts in the equation, but why “Living Proof” and “Echo” aren’t on the actual EP is puzzling. Both tracks could easily be subbed in place of two of the weaker songs in this instance.
If nothing else, this reunion makes it apparent how similarly trained these two are in flow, cadence, and delivery. The moments when Marshall and Royce go back and forth at rapid-pace on “Fast Lane” and “Welcome to Hell” are especially impressive. Lyrically, much of the Hell: The Sequel is full of punchlines and sexual references, but often in clever wordplay fashion. Lets hope this reconciliation turns into more projects like this one.