Lyrical warfare alone rarely captures the publics imagination. Its a cold fact that many talented albeit one-dimensional lyricists have had to learn over the course of their careers. But destiny may have a different fate for Royce da 59. Instead of regressing, the Detroit natives work has continuously improved since making his major label debut with 2002s Rock City. Now with the buzz-heavy Slaughterhouse project dropping next month, and long-anticipated DJ Premier executive-produced LP (Street Hop) coming in September, Royce da 59 is primed to make his most concerted effort towards mainstream acceptance.
AllHipHop.com: Congratulations on getting the Street Hop album ready, I know youve been working on it for the last few years. Its been about 4 years since your last full length LP, Independents Day. How has your mentality differed in approaching this album as opposed to the last 3?
Royce: I just stepped it up. Im proud to say Ive actually gotten better over the last 4 years. Its scary the sh*t Im coming up with, because I hope Im not peaking out at this age. But Im not that old, and Im looking at what Jay-Z is doing [and] Im thinking I have a lot of good years left. But Im definitely at the top of my game right now; I can compete with the best of them.
AllHipHop.com: Youre working with DJ Premier again, and you guys have been collaborating heavily over the last couple years. When you work with someone regularly you pick up a lot of their quirks and routines which enables you to work together better. Talk about the chemistry you have with Premier in relation to the other producers youve been working with.
Royce: You know what? I have the same chemistry with a lot of producers that I have with Premier. Its just something about when me and Preme finish something. Because of his legendary status, and what Im doing to his beats, fans just want to hear more. We got chemistry as friends, so when we get in the studio its really simple and nothing extra that we have to do. It happens to just work out every time. Its us being really comfortable around each other in the studio because were cool.
Sometimes youll meet a producer, yall are working that day, and you may not really like him. You might think hes the most talented mother**ker in the world, but also think hes a jackass. Its about vibing with the person for me. Unless its somebody just giving you some many ideas, but I dont think I really need that. The last person I got in the studio with producer-wise that was like yo, you should rhyme it like this, this is the hook, was Pharrell. And I liked him as a person as well. It was a good chemistry with us and I trusted his judgment and we came up with a lot of good records. But I was a kid back then. If I got in with him now, wed do some monumental sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: I remember you originally announcing Street Hop a little over 2 year ago, with the lead-off track of the same name with the Nas Made You Look sample. Is all the material for the album new or did you include some of the older tracks from previous years?
Royce: Thats another thing that prolonged it. The body of work that I had for those years was leaked out. So I was forced to go back in and start from scratch. I kept the same album title but did all new records. I dont have anything old.
AllHipHop.com: All the Slaughterhouse members are expected to drop EPs this month, with yours being the first. This is extensive promotion for just one album, so would you say this is the biggest media campaign youve personally ever been a part of?
Royce: Yes it is, and that because its the one Ive been most involved in. Normally in the past I would do a project and hand it over to the label and say ok, yall do your thing. Im very involved with the media campaign of it, and also getting together with the guys and trying to make this work for our solo careers as well as the group. The beauty of it is we all have our respective careers. We dont want to get in a group and just be looked at as group members. Were all sitting on monster sh*t as solo artists. We want to strategically put em up out to where were controlling a part of the music business for a certain amount of time Its very possible. Were all sitting on a lot of material, and have the outlets to put it out. Its a powerful movement.
AllHipHop.com: From the outside a lot of people would assume Joe Budden is the de-facto leader of the group. But in the studio Im sure its a lot different from the public perception. So when you guys are working and throwing ideas back and forth, is there anyone is particular that takes the lead as far as selecting rhyme order, or does everyone maintain equal input?
Royce: As far as the order, its never an issue. We never say yo, you should go first. Normally whoever finishes writing first goes in the booth. The guys trust my judgment creatively. Where we are in our careers, I probably have the most history in terms of experience in making albums. So I think they look to me since Im a big brother to Joell and Joey, and me and Crooked are so much alike it doesnt matter if its me or him that takes the lead. Rhyme for rhyme hes going to do him, and no one can f**k with that. I think one of my strengths is making albums and songs, and we were really focused on making songs. Verse for verse were always going to have that. But in terms of putting songs together I think they look to me for that. And Im never going to let them down. And two, with me taking the lead we just came up with a crazy album.
AllHipHop.com: People are assuming this will be a straight lyrical, battle record. But Im sure you guys are not going to do that. Take about the surprises you have in store for people who are expecting just a battle album.
Royce: Man we got real records. The album sounds like one of our solo albums with all of us on it. Just because were a group doesnt mean were going to go in and sway away from the regular formula any of us would use on our own albums. All of us came to the table with songs. Like Joell straight up donated a song from his album. With that said, we were more concerned about making records than doing 13 onslaught Slaughterhouse records, because people already know we can do that. Im telling you man, everyone is going to be surprised when they hear it. Its classic and all 4 of us think so. Its the best project that any of us have been a part of. Were real proud of what weve come with.
AllHipHop.com: Everyone knows Joey has always been real outspoken about everything. Hell speak his mind about any and everybody in Hip-Hop. Sometimes that will get him into issues with other artists. Did you guys have any reservations about this, or is everyone comfortable with whatever comes his way and will hold him down no matter what?
Royce: Well its both; Im going to hold him down even if Im uncomfortable. But if Im uncomfortable with something hes saying, Ill go to him and not disagree with Joe in the media. Im like his big brother so hes going to listen to me. He respects me like I respect him. Two, hes not an idiot. Joey just dont say sh*t and not realize its something he shouldnt have said. 10 times out of 10 if Joey says some sh*t, he may think about it later and say damn, I shouldnt have said that. We all as human beings do that. His personality is just a little stronger than the average persons. Thats what makes him special and that character in the group. For all of us, we let him be who he is. We just keep a close eye on him and let him know yo, you probably shouldnt have said that, but dont worry about were going to straighten it out, because hes never said nothing too crazy where someone would want to kill him or some sh*t like that. Its just minor and a lack of communication.
So he says something about Method Man, and I know Im going to bump into Raekwon, Im going to go to Raekwon with all the respect in the world and let him know that we feel they are legends. Im going to put Raekwon and Joey in front of each other, Joey is going to apologize but he honestly feels like it was a lack of class. Theyre going to shake hands, and Raekwon says Im going to put you on the phone with Meth. And once him and Meth talk, thats it! No more beef and nothing else to talk about.
Now as far as the Ransoms and n*ggas like that we dont care about them. Them n*ggas is lame. Theyre going to say what they say. But the real n*iggas? Were going to always squash it. And Im a real n*gga, and I have n*ggas in the streets everywhere. So it should never be a problem with nothing being squashed, because real n*ggas never look for beef. Real n*ggas never want beef. Real n*ggas always want to find the resolve.
AllHipHop.com: Bar Exam 2 was the top mixtape of 2008.On a few songs youve already talked about Bar Exam 3 coming. Will you keep the same format with that one?
Royce: Im looking to step it up lyrically, always. I want to put a classic mixtape together and go with a different DJ every time. The last 2 did really well, so Im looking for nothing but critical acclaim. If I can keep putting in peoples heads that I can rhyme on that level, that drives me. I do this with my own money. But right now sh*t is so hectic with the Slaughterhouse project its going to be harder to squeeze it in. Like the DOA Freestyle; Joey and everyone just happened to want to go to a strip club in New York, and I said nah Im going to sit back and chill. Thats how I got the time to do that freestyle. Its going to take for those types of moments for me to stockpile enough material for me to work Bar Exam 3.
AllHipHop.com: Is there a DJ you already have in mind for the project?
Royce: I got a few people in mind, but its a little too up in the air for me to start saying names. It will always be the people that I know can take it to the next level. Ill be ready to starting naming names in a couple weeks.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the DOA Freestyle, which stood out to me in terms of what happened with Charles Hamilton. Back in about mid-June, you excused his Dilla comments by saying he was a young kid who was running his mouth, and that you would take care of it so he wouldnt be in any danger in Detroit. But in the freestyle it sounds like you washed your hands of him. Did something happen in the last couple weeks to make you change your opinion of him?
Royce: Yes. When I spoke with Charles, I explained to him the dynamic of Detroit. I told him were all one team; we dont ride against each other or stay neutral. Its not what we do. We dont like the names of our legends just being thrown around in particular ways whether youre trying to show admiration or not. If someone takes offense to it, and its the wrong person, Im telling you that youre bickering back and forth with the wrong people. This is a battle you cant win. I told him to apologize for whatever he was saying on Twitter once we get off phone. And after that dont speak on it no more and Ill talk to those people and just end the sh*t. He said good looking and I appreciate it and Im going to do that.
I wasnt asking him to do that for me, but for him. Because I could have easily said lets just jump right on him, he disrespected the D! But I didnt because Ive been at an age where I didnt have any regards for what I said. I grew out of that sh*t and I think Charles will too. Hes a smart dude. So he typed some half-ass response that nobody took as an apology. I didnt trip but thought maybe he just don get it.
So the next day I go on Twitter and read this with my own eyes: Detroit is mad because they lost J Dilla, and Harlem is mad because we lost Max B. I guess were even. Now that made me mad. Number one, youre disrespecting me. We just had a conversation where I stepped out of my regular character and played the mature role for the simple fact that I like him. Second, I felt like I was going away from my city for a minute. So I had to throw him a couple lines to put everything back in perspective and let him know what it could be.
[Its] not that Im beefing with him or even that Ive washed my hands of him. It was just a warning shot. Im sure he didnt take it as nothing but that. But if you fire back Im going all the way at you. He hasnt said anything since then so its all good with me.
AllHipHop.com: Detroit right now is hurting more so than the rest of the country economically. Do you see things turning around soon or do you expect conditions to remain in dire straits over the next few years?
Royce: Man, in Detroit I cant really say. It doesnt feel like things will turn around no time soon. Its just a dark cloud over the city. With the plants closing I think well need a minute to rebuild. We need this economy stimulated in some type of way. I just hung out when Slaughterhouse was in town. I took them out and man, it looked like no one had any money. They got off the plane and there was a dude begging. It didnt use to look like this but were going through a lot. Its nothing thats going to be repaired in one year, but over time itll turn around, like Hip-Hop.
Hip-Hop went through a dark period where everybody sucked. Now its looking up again. We got Slaughterhouse; Drake can rhyme and is getting a lot of notoriety, Wayne, Fab coming back out, and Kiss doing numbers. And also with Jay-Z coming back out, so its looking ok for the coming year.
AllHipHop.com: Since youre good friends with Eminem, I know you were anticipating Relapse after such a long sabbatical. What did you think of his comeback effort?Royce: It was my first time hearing him rhyme in a long time. I thought the sh*t was good. I think he set the bar so high with things before, I dont think theres anything he can say anymore that can make me go crazy. He set the bar where no one else can go and I feel the same way about Jay-Z. Ill get the Blueprint 3 but I dont see myself flipping my wig over anything on it. I expect a great album but not for it to make me feel the way the original Blueprint or the Marshall Mathers LP made me feel. What Em is doing is still better than what everyone else has, but because the game is so f**ked up now it makes it hard for me to listen with my biased ears and call anything classic.
AllHipHop.com: To end on somewhat of a light note, with MJs passing, which album would you rank higher, Off the Wall or Thriller?
Royce: Id say Thriller, but its close, though. Thriller is my personal favorite. Thriller is the best album in any genre of music, ever. Thats my personal opinion but I love Off the Wall. I think its one of the best albums, too. But Thriller is still my favorite.
AllHipHop.com: Any other final thoughts?
Royce: Slaughterhouse self-titled LP August 11, my digital EP The Revival is in stores now, and September 22 my full length LP Street Hop, executive-produced by DJ Premier. Be on the lookout for all the Slaughterhouse projects that will be coming for the remainder of the year. For Street Hop I have Busta Rhymes, Slaughterhouse, my little brother Kid Vishis, and Phonte from Little Brother.