Eminem and Royce da 5’9” have been through quite a bit over the last few years, but here on the other side of the deaths, beefs and arrests, each man has recently come back into his own. With Royce having signed to Eminem’s Shady Records as part of Slaughterhouse, it’s only right that they celebrate with Hell: The Sequel, a new EP from their group, Bad Meets Evil. Luckily, the intervening years haven’t slowed either man down and the EP finds both emcees fully in touch with what first attracted us to them.
On Eminem’s side in particular, Hell: The Sequel is reminiscent of The Old Shady and his battle-rap origins. While as long as many albums, the “side-project” nature of the work allows Eminem to break away from exploring every corner of his psyche and just have a good time getting high (“I’m On Everything,” with Mike Epps) and teaching kids about violence (“A Kiss”). There aren’t many left who doubt Eminem’s skills in general, but those who might be concerned that an EP means “throwaway verses” can rest easy.
There shouldn’t be any doubt about Royce’s abilities either, but trust that he more than carries his own weight in the partnership. He has just as many standout verses as Eminem, even on “The Reunion,” which initially seems built specifically for classic Slim Shady antics with its sing-song-y hook and horrifying lyrics. Royce stays sharp throughout in the spirit of friendly competition, carrying over to the rest of Slaughterhouse on the frantic closer, “Loud Noises” and never feels like the afterthought that other emcees might.
There some selections that feel a little out of place, particularly “Lighters,” a pop offering that should be familiar to anyone who’s heard any other rap song with a Bruno Mars hook. This kind of thing has a place on an Eminem album, but it seems like an unnecessary tactic for an EP that’s more a gift for the hardcore fans than a direct attempt at a platinum plaque.
There’s no telling what the future holds for two men whose pasts have been so complex, but hopefully their plans will continue to involve occasional collaboration. Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” are perfectly capable of standing on their own, but it’s clear that even after all these years, they inspire something special in each other. They may have gone through Hell separately but it's Hip-Hop Heaven when they’re together.