Proof that Eminem is trying to appeal to just about everyone on Recovery comes early, when on “The Reunion” he mentions bumping Relapse in his car. More tellingly, he purposely crashes his car and ejects his girl out the front window when she takes the CD and snaps it in half because it “sucks”. Would he do the same to the Eminem from Recovery?
Truth is, the response to Relapse was a strongly emotional one fueled by his strange accent and a desire to hear a record on par with Eminem Show, if not the classics that shall not be named. Then Recovery dropped. It’s an album that has set a personal record for going from a barely respectable to horridly putrid listening experience. It took like a week to realize how despicable that album was, from production to lyrical content. Its only saving grace was rhyme schemes, immaculate rhyme schemes concocted to spew some of the lamest punchlines this side of Pink Friday.
Hell: The Sequel in this context feels like an apology for way more than just Relapse and Recovery. It feels like an apology for pretty much everything Eminem’s done since he lost his mind in 2004, if not since he turned his back on Royce da 5’9” to work with Dr. Dre. True, “Fast Lane” has a knockoff Nate Dogg hook from Sly Jordan, Claret Jai is annoying by default and Liz Rodrigues continues her streak of frustration (on the Deluxe Edition track “Echo”). We won’t even get into the bizarre choice to feature Bruno Mars on such a dark release. The point here is just hearing Eminem and Royce rapping together again, and on that front Royce seems to have revived Eminem. For the most part, anyway.
There are a few missteps, as should be expected from a project thrown together as quickly as this. “I’m on Everything” is done in pretty dull fashion anyway, but in light of Eminem’s well-documented struggles with drugs on his own albums, it’s awkward to hear him rapping about being “on everything”. It’s hard to know what to think of that song, which would have felt more at home on Tech N9ne’s All 6’s and 7’s. For the most part Eminem is still double-tracking his yelling in a way that makes his raps somewhat cornier than they deserve to be. “A Kiss”, then, is incredibly refreshing, as Marshall sounds 10 years younger. Royce doesn’t really drop the ball anywhere on this disc. He has his weird moments where he reaches for a pun, but nothing that threatens the hot streak he’s been on since 2007’s Bar Exam 2.
It’s undeniable that Hell: The Sequel is 15 years too late. There’s still no telling what this duo could have put together had Em brought Royce along to Aftermath. But for the most part, Hell is also a satisfying resolution to the numerous bootlegs Bad Meets Evil fans have kept close to their hearts over the years. “Lighters” (the Bruno Mars song) is lame despite its heartfelt verses, but it’s one song out of 11, and it’s easy to press the skip button if you’d like to. Being that the duo considers Hell an EP, despite its album’s worth of material, one has to be excited for the prospects of what they’d come up with should they decide to cut an album. Their balance of humor and lyrical precision isn’t as persistently dope as it was originally, but with one release they’ve already solidified themselves as one of the better duos in hip-hop, as they should be. I’m really happy about this.
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// Notes from the Road
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