CD Reviews

Hell: The Sequel, Armor of God and All 6s & 7s

Hip-Hop Tag Team Champion Music

Bad Meets Evil (Eminem & Royce Da 5’9”) Hell: The Sequel (Shady Records)

Before Eminem became a hip-hop icon, he was a hungry underground MC from Detroit looking to make a name for himself. Alongside fellow Detroiter Royce Da 5’9” the duo released songs as Bad Meets Evil, which resonated with the indie scene. Ten years later, the tandem reunites to finish what they started. The resulting Hell: The Sequel will stretch a grin across the face of even the most jaded hip-hop fan. Listeners may not dig the outright pop sensibilities of the Bruno Mars-assisted “Lighters,” but all is forgiven considering the sheer amount of pulse-pounding lyrical displays stuffed into the album. “Loud Noises” finds the Slaughterhouse collective joining the duo for a nasty tirade of punchlines. But it’s not all witty one-liners and menacing metaphors: “Take From Me” sees both MCs opening up emotionally on their respective careers. Whether you are a new to the Bad Meets Evil duo or an older fan, Hell: The Sequel will satisfy your appetite for fresh beats and dope rhymes.  ★★★★☆

Witty Battle Rap

Vakill Armor of God (Molemen Records)

If you enjoy incredible lyricism over head-snapping production, you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t heard of Vakill. The Chicago MC remained under the radar while fellow Chicagoans Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco rose to prominence in the mid-2000s. On his first album in five years, Vakill blesses Armor of God with stellar lyricism and solid production. It’s been so long since Vakill has recorded that it might be easy to forget his penchant for a wicked punchline. But songs such as the Jake One-produced “Armorgeddon” are exhibitions in lyrical dexterity chock-full of hip-hop quotables. Sinister keys back Vakill as his multi-syllabic flow captivates on “Sick Cinema,” and he’ll occasionally drift into a narrative of his Chicago upbringing, such as on “Wild Wild.” Five years has been far too long, so it’s good to see Vakill back in the mix.  ★★★☆☆

Disturbingly Dark Midwest Rap

Tech N9ne All 6s & 7s (Strange Music)

Kansas City MC Tech N9ne has been slaying the indie scene for two decades with his eccentric flow, unique subject matter and cult following. Despite the notion that Tech N9ne is a gimmicky rapper whose strange content supersedes his talent, All 6s & 7s proves that there is much more to Tech N9ne than face paint and rapid rhymes. Songs such as “Am I a Psycho?” and the Lil Wayne-assisted “Fuck Food” aim to please as Tech balances his demented persona without going too far over the top lyrically. The head-spinning “Worldwide Choppers” is an all-out Olympic tongue-twisting competition with Busta Rhymes and Yelawolf sharing top honors. The scatting production of “I Love Music” jerks along as Cali’s Kendrick Lamar lends his raspy contribution to the equation. But with 24 songs, the album tends to drown in its own pool of music. A significantly weaker second half of the album drags the overall value down, but it’s still worth a listen.  ★★☆☆☆

Suggested Next Read

No Harm, No Fowl

Movie Review

No Harm, No Fowl

The movie Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which opens Friday, is benign enough. It’s a vehicle for the rubber-faced, preternaturally young, often gleefully immature Jim Carrey, and it features a parcel of penguins (yes, I had to look that up) who do CGI tricks such as fart and slide down the length of the Guggenheim spiral. Judging from the reaction at the screening I attended, this will delight your children. But don’t expect a faithful adaptation of the classic 1938 storybook—Mr. Popper has come a long way from humble house-painting.