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.
Modern day Eminem will always have the unfortunate (and perhaps impossible) task of trying to live up to the Eminem of the late 1990s through the early 2000s. From The Slim Shady LP to The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, Em was untouchable. Not only did all three of those albums win the Grammy‘s ‘Rap Album of the Year’ award, but everyone at the time knew that this guy wasn’t going anywhere (and they were right). Although taking brief hiatuses throughout the years, Eminem has consistently dropped successful solo albums, four more since The Eminem Show in 2002. While the sales, and even some of the critical acclaim, has survived throughout the years, the issue of whether the quality of Eminem’s latter music is highly polarizing. In his 2010 album Recovery, Eminem even admitted his previous album was “ehhh…”. However many argued that Recovery and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 were not any better. Pitchfork gave Recovery a 2.8 out of 10, stating that “the more (Eminem) motors on about having reclaimed his passion for hip-hop and finally figured out who he is, the more draining the album becomes.” Entertainment Weekly gave Em’s previous album a C+ score, noting the obvious content changes in his music. “At this point, though, his ultimate obsessions are with his disappointing mother and absent father — and those, he uses to abuse himself.” Lately Eminem seems to be having an eternal battle, deciding the best route for his music. At times it seems like he is trying to go back to the ‘old Eminem’, through making a sequel to MMLP and forcing homophobic language and shock value insults towards women and celebrities, something Eminem made a career off of. However it also appears that he is trying to shed the coat of his controversial ‘Slim Shady’ persona, making mends with his mother and cleaning up his content at times, rapping “I’d rather make ‘Not Afraid 2’ than make another motherf*cking ‘We Made You”, which showed his preference over more emotionally mature tracks over the tracks with shock value and shots at pop culture. While ShadyXV is not a solo Eminem LP, it is certainly his project, of which he will be judged on. Producing many of the tracks, appearing on all but two of the album’s exclusive songs and being the head of Shady Records, ShadyXV is an Eminem album in many ways, we just didn’t know what kind of Eminem we would get.
Well Eminem is certainly dominating music news today, with the good and the bad. This time, it’s the good, as Eminem has released one of the tracks off Shady Record‘s upcoming double album. This one features almost every rapper in Detroit (including Big Sean and Danny Brown) and is titled ‘Detroit Vs. Everybody”