I get to write about a lot of albums, some of them great, some of them worse than a night in a Tijuana jail, but I rarely get to truly write about hip-hop history.
Not tonight, for tonight I get to write about Bad Meets Evil’s new EP Hell: The Sequel, a project that has more backstory than any in recent hip-hop memory. He may be a sober and almost unstoppably successful rap machine now, but way back in ’99 Eminem was just a kid from Detroit rhyming on his first album, the Slim Shady LP, and so, of course, he brought his hometown friend Royce da 5’9” on board to record album standout "Bad Meets Evil" (the song). And then the money came, Royce began scrapping with Em’s D12 crew, Dr. Dre and Nickel Nine’s manager had some disagreements (to put it mildly) and before you knew it the two former compatriots were eating beef like they were seated at a Benihana.
Thankfully the passage of time and the death of their mutual friend Proof has healed all wounds. After signing Royce’s Second Chance All-Star crew Slaughterhouse to Shady Records, Em and Royce found themselves in the studio again, found themselves making new music for kicks, found themselves digging said new music, and then found themselves putting out a collaborative EP as Bad Meets Evil (the group), naming their project Hell: The Sequel, after the last line of "Bad Meets Evil" (the song): "See you in Hell for the sequel, bad meets evil."
Follow all that? No? Read it again, maybe draw a timeline for yourself. If you’re still lost don’t worry. All you really need to know is that it’s taken us more than a decade to get here, but hip-hop finally has one project with two of the most dangerous emcees alive. Fittingly, then, Hell is primarily nothing but wall to wall rewind-worthy lines, starting with lead single "Fast Lane." By the time the appropriately quick record is over Royce has threatened to decapitate a man with a unicorn horn and Shady has declared his intention to stick his **** in Nicki Minaj’s ***, and they’ve done it all in a flawless flow.
If true rap nerds, even the haters, are impressed, they’ll find themselves equally excited about the rest of Hell’s offerings. Of course, "Loud Noises," the lone posse cut with Slaughterhouse, provides the most fuel for debate—for my money Crooked I came out on top on "Noises"—but Welcome to Hell will also keep people talking. Havoc somehow manages to combine an uptempo horn beat with gothic vocal samples and Mr. Mathers and Mr. Montgomery use the opportunity to prove just how far ahead of the average rapper they are.
If Eminem’s learned anything since he was a bleached-blond shock rapper it’s how to transform his darkness into commercial success and so he ensures that Hell has at least one radio-ready offering in "Lighters." Sure, back in the good ol’ days Em and Royce would have devoted entire verses to destroying Bruno Mars, but they’re older, more mature and more than willing to let a proven hitmaker like Mars become the EP’s only non-Shady Records feature. What is there to say really? Musically it’s the project’s least interesting track, but they need something to close their concerts with, so… it is what it is.
For the record, while those simply looking at the tracklist might understandably be afraid that "A Kiss" is a similarly soft ladies jam. Don’t worry, it’s not. Unless by “ladies jam” you mean “a song about pushing groupies out of a moving car a la Gucci Mane.”
It’s really not complicated. If you’ve ever found yourself pouring over the lyrics to an Eminem or Royce song, trying to break down each metaphor and punchline, you’ll eat Hell up. In fact, I actually like Eminem here better than I did on Recovery, but that’s just because that, in all honesty, I prefer aggressive, don’t give a f**k Eminem over sober, inspiring Em. In other words, if keeping this EP on repeat means I’m headed to hell that’s just fine by me. Heaven won’t sound nearly as dope.