Review Summary: If this is what happens when Bad Meets Evil, then it could be the cure for the post-2002 Eminem cancer.
When an artist/band has their highs it's great. The Slim Shady LP? It was good ol' immature fun. Marshall Mathers LP? It was flat-out monumental. The Eminem Show? A step down, but an astounding feat commercially and somewhat critically. Then the artist/band hits that point. You know, shi
t. Nas hit it when he produced 'I Am... The Autobiography' and 'Nastradamus' but managed to regain form with STILLmatic. Then there is the sad write-offs like Lil' Wayne. Weezy wasn't always bad actually. In fact, in 2006 and 2007 when he would proclaim, "I am the best rapper alive..." an argument could actually be made. Now it's just laughed at, and with good reason. Eminem's decline is hinging between these two, and had 'Hell: The Sequel' not have been made, I would have classified him with Wayne.
Luckily for Mr. Mathers, it was produced. Pitting a recently bad Marshall Mathers with relatively unknown rapper Royce da 5'9 isn't exactly the blueprints for creating a great album. It should actually be an 'all signs point to more failure,' but it's not. What it is, is a well-produced, well written and technically great album. The album see's Eminem returning to storytelling (The Reunion), rapping in double/triple time and actually coming up with metaphors and puns that are good again. Royce, while not to be out done, holds himself well, and in fact there is never any slowing down between the two. Believe it or not, the album feels like the two emcees are at the top of their game, and you are the lucky fan able to see it happen.
Most every song on this record is good, and some great. "Welcome To Hell" showcases exactly what you should expect for the whole album. The production that fits both emcees styles to a tee, and it shows how well they play off each other. "Above The Law" is a standout, from the hook to the fact that Royce and Eminem absolutely destroy every single line. It's that high standard that Eminem is known for when he kills a mic, and surprisingly, Royce performs just the same. That point in a bands career where the musicianship between group members are as acute as possible is great representative for how Eminem and Royce rap together. "Take From Me" is another spectacle to listen to. The emotion felt, especially from Royce is awe-worthy. It is that acoustic guitar mixed with simple bass that Eminem is known for; and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
Much like a mix tape, this album goes for the whole 'group of songs' feel. There is the emotional songs(Above The Law, Take From Me, Echo), the lighter songs(The Reunion, I'm On Everything, A Kiss) and the ''hard'' songs(Welcome To Hell, Fastlane). There is nothing particularly wrong with this when dealing with the songs by themselves, but it does create a disconnect feel with the album as a whole. There is also the curious case of "Lighters" which is the definition of radio song. Both emcees feel boring for the first time on the record, and the hook just feels stale just bad. I can understand the market reasoning behind having it because it will hit the airwaves and get the album to the masses, but I just assumed having household name Eminem on the front cover would be enough of a sales pitch to gain revenue. Elsewhere Living Proof, a Slaughterhouse collective song, feels out of place and was more than likely put on the record simply to gain recognition for their upcoming release.
Aside from the minor setbacks, Hell: The Sequel is a great addition to the Eminem collection and might be looked at as a savior record. For Royce da 5'9 it puts his name out there to the Hip-Hop masses and proves that he is an entirely capable emcee. Recovery was the first step for Eminem, and this release see's him grab footing. Is it possible for a reemergence from what was one of hip-hops most revered names? The least the album does is give hope to that question.