March 4, 2004

Test Spin: Royce Da 5'9''

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After his feud with the Slim Shady camp, Royce Da 5’9″ is back for more on Death is Certain and isn’t taking any prisoners. Anyone who has heard the DJ Premier-produced “Hip Hop” avers that it’s the dopest song of the year thus far. Premier’s brilliance reaffirms that when he brings it, no one can even touch him, raising questions about what Premier was smoking when he described his beat as “kind of decent.” As in the past, this duo proves a lethal solution for real hip hop heads; with DJ Premier at the helm, Royce responds with a healthy dose of lyrical venom: “Yeah, yeah, we started from nothing a couple MCs / Beat-boxin’, the crowd in the lunch room (yeah)/ Me and Prem’, both names go together/ Like they ain’t supposed to be separate, like ‘D’ in D.” Unremarkably, this album has garnered major acclaim from even the most commercial of tastes. Like a downtrodden emcee before him, Royce attempts to reclaim his spot on Death is Certain, weaving self-conscious raps over eerie Carlos “6 July” Broady piano loops. His inspiration is clear. Especially when we consider that Death is Certain checks in at only fifty minutes like Nas’s own pithy forty-five minute opus, Illmatic. The only misstep on this guaranteed classic is the obsessive shots Royce feels inclined to level at Eminem and Dr. Dre. That doesn’t speak well of the emcee when his style and formula inescapably smacks of those father-figures, like it or not.

Archived article by Jason Rotstein

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