Death Is Certain

Artist: Royce Da 5'9Title: Death Is CertainRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Jigsaw

Royce Da 5'9" resonated across the internet and streets when he wrote one of hip-hop’s most vindictive dis tracks "Malcom X," an audio war cry against D-12 (and to a lesser degree Eminem). The rage-filled song provided the groundwork for his second album, Death Is Certain.

Prior to his proclamation of death’s certainty, an early millennium Royce seemed to be primed for a march to the top, escalator style, with a burgeoning buzz coupled by an affiliation with Eminem and ghostwriting for Dr. Dre. But his debut, Rock City was plagued with delays and rampant bootlegging both online and in the streets. During that rocky period his relationship with Dre and Eminem fizzled. When he dropped the final commercial product, Rock City 2.0, the effort failed to measure up to his aforementioned potential.

Royce’s Death Is Certain is like a vicious comeback to avenge his former promise’s death. “Something’s Wrong With Him,” the album’s last song is also arguably the most emotional. With rage, Royce raps, “This ain’t rap no more/ It’s not a flow/ This is beef/ there’s a couple of street niggaz that got to go/(in nasal voice) ‘My Name is Nickle, I’m from the suburbs’/ Its only a 10-minute drive to come and get you. I’m tired of you hoes, I will slap snot sideways out of you hoes, potna.” The song explores the darkness that envelopes Royce and the pleas from his homeboys and his own wife to make radio friendly music. It’s a dramatic song that’s capped off with a wailing guitar solo for added effect.

“Royce is going to f**kin’ kill you,” a woman’s voice proclaims at the onset of “I & Me,” which maintains Death Is Certain’s shadowy theme. Similar songs unify the album as well. For example, “Bomb First” might remind people of Tupac, but Royce puts a completely different spin on the song where he stalks his prey. Another notable track is a remake of Biggie’s “Beef,” both of which were produced by Mark Bassin & Carlos “6 July” Broady. “Beef is when the reaper patiently pacing outside of your pretty house,” which seems like a thinly veiled message to a former friend.

“Death Is Certain Part 2 (It Hurts)” deviates from the reckless abandon of the majority of the album. The song recalls a dear friend of Royce who has been shot in the streets and all of the misery attached to such a tragedy. The song is partially an open letter to his homey, a plea to the doctor and an introspective into the plight that Royce must bear. “Please treat this thug the way you would treat your baby, the way you would treat your blood – I’ll pay,” Royce lyrically pleads with the doctor.

With worthy sonic contributions from Ty Fife, Reef, Premier and others, the album is tied tightly together by Carlos “6 July” Broady, who produced eight of the thirteen tracks. To keep with the theme of Death Is Certain, Royce totally abandons any overt radio/pop efforts and creates an album so personal that the only other emcee featured is his boy Cutty Mack.

The drawbacks on the album are few. However, if one were nitpicking, it could be said that the album is too dark and that some of his core fans may be lost on this seemingly new individual that is possessed with death, regret, vengeance and anger. In addition, some may say that Royce tore a page or two out of the rhyme books of some of rap’s more tormented figures. After truly studying Death Is Certain, it is evident that the experiences and emotions he relays to listeners are refreshingly earnest and genuine.

The conclusion. Royce has crafted a work of art that is as close to classic as hip-hop gets, these days. Thematically, all the songs fit super-snugly like OJ’s hand in a glove. There is no need for the fast forward button with Death Is Certain, only the rewind and the track loop feature for repeated listening. Hip-hop disciples on the internet seem to leap from jock to jock like a gay rabbit, but in Royce’s case, the fanfare is warranted. Now, its high time the snooty industry turned its neck back to Royce as one of the newest lords running the underground.