Royce da 5'9" says he and Eminem had "already ruled out the possibility of having time to do a project with each other a long time ago." So he considers "Hell: The Sequel," the new EP the two Detroit MCs are releasing June 14 under the moniker Bad Meets Evil, to be "definitely God's work."
"This just came really organically and smooth," Royce (real name: Ryan Montgomery) tells Billboard.com. The impetus was a song called "Living Proof" that Royce was working on for his own album; he asked Eminem to guest on the track, which set more collaborations in motion.
Video: Bad Meets Evil, "Fast Lane"
"We had so much dun doing it, that we decided any time we had a little bit of spare time we'd record something just to fuck around like we used to back in the day," Royce recalls. "The chemistry just clicked pretty easily. We just looked up after a certain amount of time and had the 11 records on the EP -- nine and the two bonus cuts ('Living Proof' and 'Echo'). So we decided to put 'em out."
"Hell: The Sequel" reunites the two running buddies who first became acquainted with each other and started working together during the late 90s -- including a collaboration on the track "Bad Meets Evil" from Eminem's "The Slim Shady LP." A subsequent falling out and feud lasted until the 2006 shooting death of mutual friend and fellow MC Proof led to a rapprochement that, among other things, led to Eminem signing Royce's group Slaughterhouse to his Shady Records label.
"You just look back in retrospect and say, 'You were young, in your 20s, you made mistakes,' " Royce explains. "We've all grown from it. I'm just glad to be back as tight as I am with Em, making music together, being a positive influence over the city, not a negative light or a dark cloud, showing a united front."
Royce says the two rappers found it "surprisingly easy" to get back into their late 90s roles of Bad (Royce) and Evil (Eminem). "A lot of people love the new, more mature, more sober, conquering- his-demons (Eminem)," Royce says. "But a lot of them want to hear the old, crazier Em from back in the day. So whenever we get together we try to make it as nostalgic as possible, just take it back to when it didn't matter and we just wanted to rhyme. We wanted to play those characters again. That's what feels normal to us when we get together."
The "Hell: The Sequel" track "A Kiss" is already getting attention for its references to Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, as well as a line saying Lady Gaga "can quit her job at the post office/she's a male lady." An assortment of other targets are tagged throughout the EP, but Royce -- who presciently offs Jack Kevorkian in the first single "Fast Lane," written and recorded well before his actual death -- says nobody should take great offense.
"(Eminem) has a great sense of humor. He's bee doing that type of thing his whole career. It's one of the things that makes him great. I laughed when I heard it and told him he was crazy. I definitely don't think anyone should take it as an insult."
Royce says the duo is not planning any formal Bad Meets Evil performances, although he plans to pop up at Eminem's shows. He's also looking towards the July 26 release of an independent solo album, "Success Is Certain," that features an Eminem guest appearance on the song "Writer's Block."
Meanwhile, Slaughterhouse -- which guests on the "Hell: The Sequel" track "Loud Noises" -- has "got a lot done" on its first Shady album, including work with producers such as Denaun Porter, Just Blaze, The Alchemist and others.
"We'll eventually get to the point over the next few weeks where we start running stuff by Em," Royce says. "Maybe he'll start mixing stuff, put a verse on something, put his input in. Right now he's letting us do what we do until we get material that we bring to him. Then he'll listen to it and make sure everything sounds like what it should sound like and make some suggestions. He's good at that, so it should be interesting."