Below, find an expanded version of the review out this Friday in EW’s print edition:
Recovery saw Eminem finding the more dynamic moments hidden between his blasts of bluster. Sure, there was still an awful lot of shouting, but even full-throated rage-athons like “Cold Wind Blows” allowed a lot more Marshall Mathers to show off his full skill set while Slim Shady was catching his breath. It was a revelation that lead to the best work of his career.
Hell: The Sequel, his release under the moniker Bad Meets Evil (a tag-team with friend-turned-foe-turned-friend-again Royce Da 5’9″), finds Em returning to mostly eye-popping intensity. That doesn’t necessarily make Hell: The Sequel a step backwards—Em remains the finest battle rapper on the planet and proves that he’s the Michael Jordan of MCs (in the sense that he turns Royce from a perfectly acceptable spitter into a lyrical beast, especially on the hard-hitting single “Fast Lane”).
The pair spew acid-tongued battle raps that shout down celebrities (Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber join the hit list) with obsessive conviction, and though they spend most of their time boasting about their greatness, they manage to do it with enough invention to keep it fresh; the brevity of the EP keeps it from overstaying its welcome.
They even leave room for two breaks in the action: The first comes in the form of the Bruno Mars-produced pop nugget “Lighters,” which makes the rest of the EP’s dark leanings all the more fulfilling, while the second drops in on the album-closing “Loud Noises,” allowing Shady Records signees Slaughterhouse do most of the driving and spins the bombast in a more sideways direction).
Unlike some previous Eminem releases, there are no greater statements embedded in Hell: The Sequel, but it does serve to remind the world that Eminem remains one of the best rappers alive. As Jay-Z once said, sometimes the world needs a reminder. B+