What exactly does "Hell: The Sequel," the debut EP from the Eminem-Royce da 5'9" collaboration Bad Meets Evil, represent for Eminem? A victory lap following the amazing success of last year's "Recovery"? A return to the gonzo wordplay of "The Slim Shady LP"? A listenable platform for the long-underrated Royce (and by extension, the newly revived Shady Records)? Or simply a collection of hot, murky beats that Em felt like spitting over?
All of the above, it seems. After Eminem offered a more introspective version of himself on 2010's biggest-selling album, "Hell: The Sequel" gives the rapper an ideal outlet for his more dangerous lyrical tendencies without worrying about radio play. Meanwhile, Royce da 5'9" -- who joined Eminem onstage during his headlining set at Bonnaroo to perform "Hell: The Sequel" highlights "Fast Lane" and "Lighters" -- holds his own next to the superstar MC, his deeper voice nicely contrasting with Em's helium flow as the two trade bars in double-time.
In the end, "Hell: The Sequel" functions as lengthy, consistently repayable sequel to the "Slim Shady LP" track "Bad Meets Evil," where the two rappers first linked up 12 years ago. "It's been a long time/But I bet neither one of us have felt sicker than we do right now," Eminem raps on opener "Welcome 2 Hell," a sentiment that speaks to the bright future in front of both MCs.
Which songs on "Hell: The Sequel" stand up next to Eminem's best solo work? Here's our Twitter-length track-by-track review of each song.
1. Welcome 2 Hell - "Told you we'd be back," Royce sneers over ominous choral chant. When beat kicks in & Em starts spitting, hold on.
2. Fast Lane - Lead single is G-funk on steroids, with sing-song refrain breaking up crushing mic-trading bout between Royce & Em. Blast this!
3. Above the Law - Royce kills his verse over synth stabs: "You got a mouth like Kanye, I'll knock your whole bottom row of teeth out."
4. The Reunion - BME slow down the pace for "true story" of dysfunctional relationships. Lots of C-words, not a lot of replayability.
5. I'm on Everything - This toast to drugged-up lifestyle tries a bit too hard but scores with the fuzzed-out, sample-based beat.
6. A Kiss - The "Lady Gaga diss" song teams classic Bangladesh percussion with vintage Eminem one-liners, creating an explosive highlight.
7. Lighters - How did Bruno Mars pop up on this? Track doesn't fit with EP, but Em's effortless confidence carries the celebratory anthem.
8. Take From Me - Royce laments the "vultures" before Em admits, "I live in the bubble, I struggle with the fame." Refreshing honesty.
9. Loud Noises - Shady Records supergroup Slaughterhouse sends out "Hell" with stylish posse cut, although Em still takes Best Verse trophy.