Eminem and Royce Da 5' 9" Return to "Hell"
Hell hath no fury like Eminem and Royce Da 5' 9" reunited.
A little after midnight on June 14, Eminem announced via his Twitter and Facebook fan pages that Hell: The Sequel, the new album he penned with rap sparring partner Royce Da 5’ 9” had been released.
The happy screams of his fans were heard soon after.
The album is a 12-year follow-up to Bad Meets Evil, a song the Detroit duo introduced to the hip-hop world on Eminem’s debut album, The Slim Shady LP.
Despite the media blitz surrounding it, Shady and Royce’s new album almost didn’t see the light of day. Shortly after releasing Bad Meets Evil in 2001, the two became embroiled in a rap battle that stalled their collective, creative efforts, and they went on to pursue other projects. However, while Eminem became a "supermegarapstar," Royce’s conflict with other Detroit artists, including Eminem brainchild D12, led him to be labeled an outcast in his hometown.
"There was a long period of time where it was kind of popular to hate me," said Royce to the Detroit News. "Like, it was totally appropriate to be in a barbershop and say, '(Forget) Royce!' That's a tough spot to be in when you're a young kid and you don't want to back down from nobody."
It took a year in prison and a rumor that he was to be killed before Royce would straighten up and fly right, forming underground rap group Slaughterhouse with fellow MC Joe Budden and others. Eventually, Eminem let him back into his circle, and the two began spitting tracks on wax for fun. It wasn’t long before the pair realized they had recorded something special, and, a decade later, the resulting product is now in stores.
So, was it worth the wait? Indeed, it was, as Royce and Em have produced a near perfect nine-track LP that entertains as much as it offends. To many knowledgeable rap fans and Detroit natives, the album is refreshingly reminiscent of Shady’s earlier, crazier works and is a nostalgic heaven send to ears, despite its hellish material. The album’s nine lives allow the rappers to show off their quick, catlike rhyming reflexes as they play lyrical tiddlywinks with each other, rapping faster and faster and wilder and wilder, forcing the listener to rewind multiple songs multiple times. Eminem, in particular, shifts rap voices, switching between the mass-approved Hi, My Name Is house style to his psychotic, post-apocalyptic Lose Yourself scream often, sometimes in the same song, while Nickel Nine sticks to the same persona throughout the album, coming out every now and again to growl over harder tracks, such as Above the Law and Welcome 2 Hell.
And though the album tends to lean toward unapologetically sexist and misogynistic fare, such as in A Kiss and Reunion, Marshall Mathers, yin to Slim Shady’s yang, arrives just in time with Lighters, a radio-approved song featuring Bruno Mars that reeks of Drake’s Successful, and even does a good job of cleaning up Eminem’s played-out ribbing of celebrities like Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Justin Beiber, a stunt the 38-year-old could’ve and should’ve avoided. Take From Me, a song that panders to the martyr in every person, can be placed into the same category with its hard verses and soft-sung chorus.
I’m on Everything, their surprising ode to drug usage (Eminem released the drug-free opus Recovery in 2010.), features a snippet from comedian Mike Epps’ standup routine and is the funniest song on the album, while Fastlane, a song about fast living that the pair made a colorful promo video to, is nearly a club banger, thanks to its snare drum introduction, seductive tuba bass lines and smooth chorus croons that mimic the late Nate Dogg’s voice.
Eminem and Royce Da 5’ 9” have come full circle with this album, and they are at their best, even after all these years. How to describe Hell: The Sequel as a whole? As Eminem and Royce sing of their partnership on Reunion, “Some things in this universe don’t make sense, but somehow always seem to…work.”
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