From artists disagreeing with their managers to artists taking unnecessary shots at one another, there is surely no shortage of falling-out stories in hip-hop. With fallouts though, can sometimes come grand reunifications. Some so grand that your mind glosses over and you hear artists sounding completely reinvigorated and reliving their haydays. Such was the case for the 2011 lyrical stampede put on by Royce Da ‘5 ‘’9 and Eminem when they dropped Hell: The Sequel as hip-hop power group Bad Meets Evil.
Combining with the ease of hydrogen and oxygen, it was as if no chemistry between the two was lost in the more than 11 year annulment of Bad Meets Evil. With practically no regards given to chart-topping aims, the entire project sounds like they were only aiming to appease themselves and push one another to their limits. The result is a hip-hop head’s wet dream. Eminem is no longer concerned with spewing sentiment filled bars of soberness like on his previous outing Recovery. Rather, he is loading machine gun clips full of ammunition into the microphone, with the “screw it all” vibe that made his first two LPs so unique. Clearly taking notes, Royce is side-by-side with the Rap God, seamlessly trading verbal cyanide.
Speed and psychotic intellect combine giving each line the capacity to sting. It is a beautiful thing to see both rappers in top form here. Em’s verses are darkly zany and delivered through his sharply pitched yells which is complemented nicely by the opposing sound of Royce’s more controlled bravado. The biggest benefit of this EP is its energy. It becomes obvious two verses into the first track, ‘Welcome To Hell’, that both of these artists are on the same side of friendly competition. Punch-line after punch-line evoke a feeling of brotherhood and fun.
It is obvious these two had a blast in the studio bouncing ridiculous bars back and forth. Typically, no concept or story-driven arc pushes an album away from greatness, here though, the lack of structure leaves space for more bars that will inevitably leave our jaws inches from the floor. The beats are notably simple but do contain moments of intrigue. On “I’m On Everything”, Mike Epps opens with a piece of a stand-up bit and quickly becomes a sampled instrument. The awe inspiring lyrical content is what pulls the largely cliched beats up from the depths. Even the guest artists, all who happen to be from the Shady camp, hold their own and add just the right amount of variation from album’s main recipe.
It is all very formulaic. Luckily, like Newton’s first law, these two have found a formula that works and with little competition for their places in hip-hop, their forward motion is maintained. It is nearly impossible not to respect this project due to the sheer amount of respect that is commanded by each artist. Bolstered by their one-of-a-kind lyrical game, the duo is able to push past formulaic beats and mediocre choruses. For an EP that never had to happen, I am very glad that it did. It reminds us of what each emcee is capable of when they embrace a temporary psychosis and that they can potentially do it even better as a team. Undoubtedly, one of the best and hopefully only trips to Hell you will ever have.