UPDATE: THIS IS A REVIEW THAT PRIMARILY FOCUSES ON EMINEM'S OUTPUT ON THIS RECORD (THOUGH I DO ADDRESS THE BAD MEETS EVIL PARTNERSHIP AND ROYCE SEVERAL TIMES). DUE TO COMPLAINTS FROM TROLLS, I'D LIKE TO SAY THAT THIS REVIEW IS IN NO WAY INTENDED TO BE A SLIGHT TO ROYCE DA 5'9, A LYRICAL BEAST. WHEN I DO TALK ABOUT ROYCE IN THIS REVIEW I HAVE NOTHING BUT LAUDATORY THINGS TO SAY ABOUT HIM. THIS IS JUST A RIDICULOUSLY LONG REVIEW FROM A DEDICATED STAN'S POINT OF VIEW. MUCH RESPECT TO ROYCE DA 5'9 (ONE OF THE BEST MCs IN THE GAME TODAY), DESPITE THE FACT THAT THIS IS PRIMARILY AN EMINEM REVIEW.
Alright, let's just air out the facts here: "Recovery" was a great album because Eminem had "recovered" from his rap-slump and gained his old skills back and also developed new techniques such as brilliant double entendres, double-time rhyming over beats, and metaphors that were out of this world and even better than many metaphors we've heard from him in the past. After his rehab, Em said that he had to "learn how to rap again," and "Recovery" showed that he had in fact gained back the lyrical magic that laced the music on his early efforts, along with gaining some new impressive skills.
But, "Recovery" seemed to be targeting to a new audience with tracks like "Love the Way You Lie", "Space Bound", and "Not Afraid", which many old-school Shady fans resented, and I can see why. "Recovery" wasn't hardcore like most old-school Eminem fans are accustomed to, and the inevitable cries of "sell-out" or "soft" began to ring out from some hip-hop fans. I can't count how many times I've heard, "Recovery is great, but I miss the old Slim Shady." To tell the truth, I liked "Recovery" a lot, but basically just because Em had truly "recovered" his lyrical prowess that he's always been known for. The pop sound of the album was different from his past records. The reason that "Recovery" had ME excited was that I knew that Em's next album would showcase an even more improved lyrical flow.
That album has arrived, and this is NOT a "soft" album in any sense of the word. "Hell: The Sequel" is hard, misogynistic, raunchy, raw, very vulgar, funny (but not in a corny way) and controversial all the while (There's even a track about drugs, which I never expected to hear from Slim again.). Now THAT'S the Slim Shady I remember and love. With the exception of one track ("Lighters" featuring Bruno Mars, which sticks out like a sore thumb on this record), this album contains hard beats and hard rhymes from beginning to end. No bubble gum stuff here, so "Recovery" fans, brace yourself for a return to the glory days of Eminem.
Now, to address the partnership of Royce da 5'9 and Eminem. I've followed Eminem's career from "Slim Shady LP" till now, and I've never heard anyone trade verses with Em better than Royce. Royce is an absolute lyrical beast. I was upset when Royce and Em fell out several years ago, b/c they had been boys for a long time, and their chemistry as rappers was uncanny. Now they are reunited, and they haven't missed a beat and share love for each other throughout the record. These guys are rapping INCREDIBLY fast and going back and forth on verses similar to Method Man & Redman, or like Em and Dre on "Say What You Say" from "The Eminem Show". The rappers have stated that when they are in the studio together, they motivate each other to step up their game, and it shows on "Hell: The Sequel". When listening to this album, there is no need to try to figure out who spits better on each track, because they are rhyming almost as if they were born to rap with each other. This isn't a competition, it's a partnership, and both members of Bad Meets Evil are so on point it would make many of today's rappers' heads spin.
Before I talk about the specific tracks, there's a warning I feel I should let the ladies know about. When "Recovery" was so successful, I read a magazine article (I believe it was in Spin Magazine, but I can't be positive) where they attributed Em's newfound success to catering to women. Perhaps Em read the article and took it personally, considering he's very bitter towards women. I'm afraid this album is so misogynistic that the new younger female crowd is going to be quite offended. If you are a female who loves rap music though, this is nothing new, but brace yourself, because Em and Royce go hard on the ladies on almost every track. Just something for you ladies to keep in mind. If it doesn't bother you, then this album is a real treat.
Individual favorite tracks are hard to pick on this album. They are all fire. So, I'll address each track:
1.)"Welcome 2 Hell" - 9/10 - No time is wasted on this album. From the first beat to the last on this song, you immediately know what you're in for: an all-out assault of lyricism. If you ask me, Eminem has developed his lyrical techniques even better than the "Recovery" album. I'm going to include some lyrics, even though it's hard to do so here on Amazon b/c of the vulgarity of this album. I'll replace any dirty words with substitute clean words in parentheses. Em spits: "You has-beens are duller than / coloring books that ain't colored in / Second and third, fourth wind, got another win / Here they come again, none other than, / Bad and Evil, also known as Saddam and Osama Bin." Hard beat produced by Havoc (of Mobb Deep). Great album opener.
2.)"Fastlane" - 10/10 - The first single from the album is on fire. Produced with a bumpin' beat by Supadups and co-produced by Em himself, this song is off the hook. In case you haven't heard it, Shady talks about how he wants Nicki Minaj in a very dirty way that I can't print here. Here's my favorite lyric from this track: Em spits: "Maybe you should listen when I flip the linguistics / Cause when I rip this mystical slick (ish) / You don't wanna become another victim or statistic of this (ish) / Cause after I spit the bullets / I'mma treat these shell casings like a soccer ball / I'mma kick the ballistics..."
3.)"The Reunion" - 8/10 - The most hardcore misogynistic track on the album (perhaps). The theme of the song is that women fans say that Eminem's recent "anti-women" raps have been just for show, and on this track Em is saying that it's not a show at all, this is how he actually is. And he's very convincing, calling women every name in the book. Also, Eminem is ripping on "Relapse" again on this song, making fun of his accents in a hilarious way. Em: "In fact, get in the backseat, like the rest of my dates / No (chick) rides shotgun, what taxi? / Stop and pick you some Maxi Pads up? / Is that what you actually 'aksed' me?" Produced by Sid Roams.
4.)"Above the Law" - 8/10 - Produced by Mr. Porter. Good track. Not exactly my favorite on the album, but it's still got fire lyrics and a great hook and beat. This track is laden with explicit lyrics. Royce goes H.A.M. on this track: "I stay violent / ya'll go the peace route / You got a mouth like Kanye / I'll knock your whole bottom row of teeth out."
5.)"I'm On Everything (f/ Mike Epps)" - 10/10 - Perhaps my favorite track on the album. This is Mr. Porter's best beat ever, IMO. Hardcore and bumpin'. Eminem gives old school fans what they want, a track about drug use. He is just rapping, he's not actually back on drugs. He's just making a song to appeal to the crowd that "misses the old Shady". There's a sample from Mike Epps (comedian) that is off-putting at first, but grows on you quickly. Em spits: "Call me Brett Favre, spell it F-A-V-R-E, yep / It's wrong, other words I just (messed) my RV up." Classic track, IMO.
6.)"A Kiss" - 10/10 - Perhaps the hottest beat on the record, produced by Bangladesh (producer of Lil Wayne's "A Milli" and "6 Foot 7 Foot"). Loaded with bass and staccato drums, this is a track to blast the bass on your system. This is another misogynistic track, not for the ladies really, except die hard female fans. And of course, I can't write about this song with addressing the Lady Gaga "diss". Gaga fans, take it easy. All he says is one little punchline and the outrage that has ensued over the line by Gaga fans is just silly. Here's what Em says:
"Shady, he'll tell it like it is / So tell Katy Perry he's on the tail, he's tailgating / These bells are my mating call and I'm here, / Bells waiting and tell Lady / Gaga, she can quit her job at the post office / She's still a mail (male) lady." Advice to enraged Gaga fans: don't take it so seriously. In fact, from what I know about Gaga, she would probably think it's funny and definitely wouldn't encourage hate towards anyone. Besides, it's not like he's beefing with her. He's always been opinionated about certain artists, and in this instance, he's not making fun of her music like he has other pop stars in the past, so Gaga fans, just chill out. It's all in good fun, and this has been blown way out of proportion. A killer track.
7.)"Lighters (f/ Bruno Mars)" - 7/10 - Like I said earlier, this track sticks out on this album like a sore thumb. It just doesn't fit in AT ALL with the rest of the album. The whole album is hard and vicious with no bubble gum junk. There are touching verses from Eminem and especially Royce da 5'9 on this track, which is why I rated it higher than I should have. I know this is the second single from the album, and I think if you are reading reviews for "Hell: The Sequel" because you like this track, you should know that "Lighters" doesn't represent what the rest of this album sounds like. This track would have been much more welcome on "Recovery". I skip the Bruno Mars parts of the song and listen to the verses only. The most touching lyrics here come from Royce da 5'9: "I ain't gotta stop the beat a minute / to tell Shady I love him the same way that he did Dr. Dre on the Chronic / Tell him how real he is or how (messed up) I am / Or how I would kill for him, for him to know it." Produced by Eminem, The Smeezingtons, and Battle Roy.
8.)"Take From Me" - 9/10 - A bold and deep song about music piracy. I won't lie, I downloaded this album when it leaked, because I knew I was going to buy it no matter what, even if it sucked terribly (hey, I bought "Relapse" twice). I like Eminem's records that much. Unfortunately, that's not the case with illegal downloaders 9 times out of 10, and Em and Royce have had enough. They aren't as mad in the song as they are hurt. This track almost has a bubble gum hook, but not quite, in fact it's quite catchy. One of Em's most touching lyrics on the album: "When my music you take so subtle, just to give it away / To people who don't even appreciate flows / (man) I'm livid today / 'Cause I break my back to give you my art / You steal my thoughts / It's like driving a spike through my heart / You might not think it's a big deal to steal from me / but music is all I got / Aside from my daughters / not tryna sound like a martyr / But it's getting harder than I thought / to just not go crazy / trapped in this house, I'm about to snap / Am I not deserving of what I got? / Did I not work for it?" Even knowing that I was going to buy the Deluxe Edition, this song made me feel guilty for downloading it in the first place. So if you care about Eminem, please, BUY the album so Eminem doesn't quit the game, which he basically hints at in the song. Produced by Mr. Porter.
9.)"Loud Noises" (featuring Slaughterhouse) - 10/10. WOW. These dudes can spit FAST! This is the Slaughterhouse track that will grab the attention of all Shady records fans. All 5 rappers (Em included of course) TEAR THIS TRACK APART. Ortiz from Slaughterhouse absolutely KILLS this track. If I were to type lyrics from this song, it would take too long. Just listen to it and sit back in awe at the lyrical skills of the MCs and be blown away. Produced by Mr. Porter.
10.)"Living Proof" - 8 / 10 - A Bonus track on the deluxe edition. This track leaked a while back, and Royce said it was cut from the album due to the early leak. I'm so glad they included the track on the deluxe edition, because it turns the EP into an album and it's a hot track. Em cracks on himself for having bitter feelings towards women and spits: "... the day that I don't straight shoot / I'll drop outta my anti-women hate group / Say I'm a sissy (homosexual) / record it play it back and put it on a straight loop / you haters look like you ate a grapefruit!" Produced by Mr. Porter.
11.)"Echo (f/ Liz Rodrigues) - 8 / 10 - Another bonus track on the deluxe edition. The track was also cut from the standard version due the track leaking very early. On the early leaked version, Royce's verse is first and Em's verse is second. This version has Em on the first verse instead and Royce second. This track is produced by DJ Khalil, one of the hottest producers around right now. The production is good with a catchy and impressive hook and beat. Em spits: "Diabolical to my last molecule / down to my last hair follicle and cuticle / Rotten to the core / to the (bottom) all the way down to my soul / from my hair to my toe."
I highly encourage old-school fans of Eminem to buy this album. Shady is back and delivering what his original fan base has always loved about him: Hardcore controversial lyrics, hard beats, and unbelievable talent. I give lots of credit to Royce for motivating Em, and vice versa. Royce is an absolute beast on the mic and together with Em they have brought true lyricism back into the spotlight in hip-hop. Buy this CD and you will be pleased. Guaranteed, unless you are a female fan that is disappointed about Eminem going so hard on the ladies. For me, this album represents everything I've ever loved about Eminem. Personally, I like "Hell: The Sequel" better than "Recovery". I think "Recovery" was a necessary step for Eminem to regain his lyrical prowess and get back into the public spotlight. "Hell: The Sequel" should dispel any talk of Eminem becoming a "sell-out" or "soft". Even haters won't be able to deny, this album is fire. 5 out of 5, all day long. BUY it now!