Bad Meets Evil - Hell: The Sequel 

The underworld was never so cool

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Bad Meets Evil - Hell: The Sequel
Shady/Interscope

Eminem and Royce Da 5'9" first appeared together on The Slim Shady LP, and it's been more than a decade since their last official collaboration. So it was hard to guess if Hell: The Sequel would be a sell-out or stay true to the twosome's roots — foul-mouthed, malevolent and delightfully discourteous.

But the results are mixed: moments of raunchy brilliance are offset by lyrical and conceptual disappointments.

The first single, "Fast Lane," is a highlight. Royce drops in, hittin' it on the first verse and staying true to style — aggressive, articulate and angry — setting up a mid-verse handoff to Em, who keeps the energy going and calls out celebs such as Nicki Minaj. It's a fine, time-honored concept for a rap single — you know, a feel-good tune about the pleasures of life on top — that warns potentially plotting rivals while celebrating Royce's rise to prominence. The track features a cool Nate Dogg-esque melody sung by Sly "Pyper" Jordan.

Elsewhere, "Lighters" falls short. Bruno Mars' sappy, forced chorus sounds lifted from some other in-progress draft, and Em's flow flounders; Royce and Em spit verses that don't hang together so there's little emotional response.

Cuts such as "Take From Me" and "Above the Law" are enjoyable (musically) and the beats canvas nicely, but the verses don't always coalesce and you're left wondering where's that epic sound? The hookless "Loud Noises" guest stars members of Royce's other project Slaughterhouse (signed to Shady Records in January) and provides mischievous fun, heavyweight Crooked I is especially impressive.

Brooklyn's Sid Roams produced "The Reunion," which tells of old girlfriends and violence. Smart punch lines elevate it: "She said, 'I'm feeling your big ego, wait — am I talking wrong?'/ I said, 'Naw, I'm a walking Kanye-Beyonce song'."

Hell: The Sequel feels like a short mixtape, not a finished studio album (only nine tracks) but that doesn't undermine the quality production from Mr. Porter, Bangladesh and Havoc from Mobb Deep.

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