I’m writing this pretty soon after having a black gentleman angry-react to me making a Facebook comment about Bronny James’ collegiate appearance being poised to be a “cameo” one. Now, as most people would know, the reason why the son of Lebron James would exit college early would be to play professional ball in the NBA. This did not, however, apparently, relieve my comment from being offensive to the black community.
I state this in order to illustrate the point that, I think, criticism of black people on the part of white men is pretty much seen as a mortal sin by our society. And, theoretically, I’m primed to meet with some cries of “racism” for this rhetoric I’m about to spew here in this post. But hopefully we now see the double standard and take it for what it is, maybe even developing the ability to think logically.
I’m writing this, that is, for the greater good of hip-hop. Now, it’s true — Eminem is pretty much taken as a crowned genius, the wide world over. “Lose Yourself” only seems to get more popular every year and his guest appearances on “Forgot about Dre” and “What’s the Difference” always feel like pivotal moments in the history of the art form. Liking Eminem isn’t taboo, in other words. Actually, it’s possible that white people like hip-hop better than black people, today, to certainly not assert that we’re better than them at DOING it. Anyway, I’m confident that, by fueling the fire of Eminem idolatry here, or at least attempting to, I’m not supplanting anyone’s sense of what great music is. Everyone’s pretty set in their ways and, on the whole, race relations in urban music are pretty decent, relatively speaking.
A few words on “Bad Meets Evil” will be necessary, now, toward grounding the significance of what I’m trying to do here. “Bad Meets Evil” is the second-to-last track on ’Nem’s mainstream debut The Slim Shady LP, which I consider to be the best album he ever did. It’s pretty much a straight-up battle rap, filled with a lot of B.S. (Slim claims to be a heroin addict, for which there’s basically no evidence, and Royce’s verses are pretty much exclusively false, but entertaining, and what’s more, uncharacteristically lively, imagistic and exciting, more to my point). You could make a claim for it being the best song on the album and even the best my Eminem at large, although I doubt these sensitive millennials will be able to part with their cinematic, gushing love affair with the mythological (and more importantly, earnest) “Lose Yourself.” Anyway, such a discussion is hardly necessary — either way, “Bad Meets Evil” stands as a singular bout in verbal acrobatics, the two emcees jawing away at high horsepower about their own invincibility, failing just as bad at giving a fu** about anything as they do at making sense.
So this is all fine and dandy. It plays as two great rappers getting on and crushing it, like Black Thought and Malik, or Ghost and Rae, or whoever — two like minds collaborating and coalescing to finalize one classic track in hip-hop.
The problem is, I’ve never heard another verse by Royce that I can even remember, let alone extol as one of the best within a classic rap album. Maybe there’s something lacking in me, in this regard. Maybe not.
Of course, it’s nice to be living in 2023 and have all one’s field research material right at their fingertips, in the way of Spotify. Before I go listening to one of Royce da 5’9’’’s albums, though, it will behoove me to point out a couple of a posteriori elements of information which would discourage thinking that “Bad Meets Evil” is Royce’s original work. The one, glaring pitfall in this thinking would be that, despite how bada** it is, Royce doesn’t appear anywhere on The Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show, ’Nem’s next two albums. Some word has been made, of course, of a feud and falling out between Royce and D12, but this wouldn’t hold sway as a reason for Royce’s subsequent exclusion when we see that Shady crashes Royce’s debut, Build & Destroy (on which da 5’9’’ proclaims “I’m the king” on a really crappy song that sits on an LP that features none other than Eminem, amusingly enough). The apparent lack of objective on Eminem’s part to bring Royce in for another collabo certainly bodes poorly for the latter’s original artistic synergy, in pertinence to my discussion of whether “Bad Meets Evil” is his own original work.
Another obvious point would be that this Royce guy is pretty much a nobody. Now, of course, I mean this in the sense of having no big hits, whereas we all clearly know that there’s a slew of great rappers out there who have never hit it big. But this, mind you, is a guy who’s had ample opportunity. He’s rubbed shoulders with both Dre and ’Nem in his career yet he still has failed to make a real, definitive statement in rap (unless of course you count “Bad Meets Evil,” which you certainly could). It’s not like he’s just gotten overlooked, which is the typical cliche. It’s just that his sh** doesn’t bang — plain and simple.
Well, listening to the first couple tracks on Build & Destroy, I do hear a couple of fairly clever raps. It’s more like they have the tendency to just be really irreverent and adversarial, and fairly intimidating, but also goofy in that they’re not really believable and none of the songs have good choruses. All the lyricism tends to be really vague, almost theoretical, lacking in real-life references and the sorts of gripping narratives shady laid down on “Guilty Conscience”; “Brain Damage”; et. al. My final conclusion is going to be that Royce wrote segments of his part in “Bad Meets Evil” but also got a considerable amount of help from ’Nem, who, then, in the scope of Royce’s neediness and lack of true identity as a versatile emcee, grew tired with his partner and decided to proceed without him, on future projects.
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