Em and Royce: Bad Meets Evil Again
Hell: The Sequel
Itâs been more than a decade since the last official Eminem and Royce Da 5â9â collaboration, too long a wait for hardcore hip-hop enthusiasts. Iâve been a longtime fan of Royce and most of Eminemâs early Slim Shady stuff (but his material in the last decade has been hit-or-miss, even Recovery). So when I first got news that Slaughterhouse (Royceâs current project) had been signed to Shady Records in early January, I was geeked for another grimy, booze and violence-rich meeting of lyrical talents. After rumors spread that the duo were working on a new EP, and after checking out leaked tracks online, I knew that after all these years Bad Meets Evil had returned, and with a proper label-backed national release.
The duo first appeared together on The Slim Shady LP, the song âBad Meets Evilâ was the inspiration for an EP recorded a few months later.
In this musical climate where most genres suffer under the weight of âpopâ sensibilities, I was curious to see if this would stay true to the twosomeâs roots; foul-mouthed, malevolent and delightfully uncourteous.
But the results are mixed: Moments of raunchy brilliance are offset by lyrical and conceptual disappointments.
Though the first single, âFast Lane,â is a highlight. Royce drops in, hittinâ it on the first verse and staying true to style, aggressive, articulate and angry, setting up a mid-verse handoff to Em, who keeps the energy going nicely. In classic Slim Shady form, he calls out celebs such as Nicki Minaj. The conceptâs fine for a rap single â a kind of feel-good tune about the pleasures of life on top â and it also serves to warn potentially undermining rivals while celebrating Royceâs rise to prominence. The track features a cool Nate Dogg-esque hook sung by Sly âPyperâ Jordan.
The song âLightersâ falls short. Bruno Mars provides a sappy, forced chorus that sounds lifted from some other in-progress draft. Emâs flow flounders, and fails to follow the trackâs theme, which is also unclear. Royce and Eminem spit verses that donât hang together, hence thereâs little emotional response.
Cuts such as âLoud Noisesâ and âAbove The Lawâ are musically enjoyable and the beats canvas nicely but again, verses donât coalesce and youâre left wondering whereâs the necessary âepicâ sound?
âThe Reunionâ is solid despite the misleading title (not a reunion between Royce and Em, rather the two separately rapping about connecting with old girlfriends and the ensuing violence) and features production from Brooklynâs Sid Roams. Smart punchlines elevate this to head-nod status, such as âShe said âIâm feeling your big ego, wait âam I talking wrong?â/ I said âNaw, Iâm a walking Kayne Beyonce songâ.â
Hell: The Sequel feels more like a short mixtape than a finished studio album (only nine tracks) but that doesnât undermine the quality production from Mr. Porter, Bangladesh and Havoc from Mobb Deep. Definitely something to check out if you are a fan of either artist, just donât expect the same flawless lyrical piggy-backing that made their original work 12 years ago stuff of legend. I hope they continue to record and dust off some of the dust thatâd settled on their partnership. Perhaps Hell:The Prequel may materialize, or another kind of follow up, and this potential will be fully realized.