People with crystal balls, astrology degrees, and too much time on their hands might try to tell you that Royce Da 5’9” was destined to be where he is today. He’s a Cancer. No, not the kind that comes from smoking, radiation, or other causes and spreads like wildfire. The kind that’s born in July. And just check the crazy coincidences. Ryan “Royce” Montgomery was born on July 5, 1977 and worked exclusively with Carlos “6 July” Broady on his sophomore album, Death is Certain. A follow-up album with a tongue-in-cheek 4th of July pun written all over it called Independent’s Day seemed all too perfect to keep the stars lined up, right?
Hogwash. Anyone who’s checked the blueprint for Nickel-Nine’s career can see that Royce was one hit away from having 50’s career – or at least Obie Trice’s – and one wrong move away from having his career buried 5’9 ” under. From his time alongside Eminem to his public feud with Em comrades D-12, Royce has withstood tests that no rapper should endure. The stars may have eventually lined up for this July baby, but trust him, it wasn’t exactly on purpose. AllHipHop.com took some time to speak with the Detroit native about his declaration of independence, the drinking habits that almost steered him in the wrong direction, and why Royce may be on ESPN before you know it.
AllHipHop.com: Have you learned that yet? [laughs] Out of every artist still around right now, it seems like you are one of the few artists who will catch heat from fans no matter what you do. Sad to say, but does it feel like you can’t win?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, I feel that way, and in the same token, I still feel like there’s some validity to what people say. I still feel like there’s something that I’m not doing right, that I haven’t quite grasped yet. Like, this month in The Source, I got 3 1/2 mics. The Death is Certain got 4 mics. But, this album, I got 3 1/2 mics but got the “Hip-Hop Quotable.” When I put the Death is Certain album out, I got 4 mics and didn’t get a quote. So, basically, in the dude’s article, he basically was saying that everything is lyrical, I got the obvious commercial songs, and as soon as I figure out how to really bridge that gap between commercial and underground, I’m gonna be a problem. And I feel the same way about myself. I feel like…Jay-Z is the perfect example. He does it. He’s very commercial, but he’s very lyrical. So, the Hip-Hop lovers got to respect him and love him, and the very commercial viable people gotta love Jay-Z . He’s mastered the art of appealing to both sides. That’s what I’m trying to do, but I don’t feel like I’m to that level. That’s what I’m striving to get. I feel like this album could be there. This album that I got right now could be that album, but it’s gotta be more buzz around it for people to actually pay attention and listen to it like that. Like, right now, they listening to it like, “Oh, where’s Royce 5’9” from “Boom”?” they not giving me a chance. So it’s something. I just ain’t figured it out yet, but when I do, it’s on.
AllHipHop.com: You also mention that Indepedent’s Dayis sort of a bridge between Rock City and Death is Certain on one of the tracks. Why do you feel that is?
Royce Da 5’9”: It’s because it has elements of both. It has the diversity of a Rock City and then it’s, if not as lyrical, it’s more lyrical than Death is Certain. You know, ‘cause Death is Certain was all dark, so it’s a mixture of the two but it’s better because it’s more diverse. It’s more lyrical. It’s my first, the first album I did where I was completely sober from the first song to the last song. All recording and all writing. Everything is just a lot more clear and concise.
AllHipHop.com: Is that something that you did consciously – staying away from the alcohol?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, yeah, I consciously did it. I just felt like I was drinking too much. S**t was starting to fall apart around me, so I just had to kind of pull everything back together and just grab hold of the steering wheel before the car crashed.
AllHipHop.com: So, are you one of those people who feels like everything happens for a reason?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, I definitely think a lot of that stuff happened for a reason. If I ever actually reconciled with Em or got back to the point where we’re close again, I feel like the stuff we would do would be so much more complete because of how much I learned from now being around him.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, fill in the blanks on this one. “Royce Da 5’9” would not still be rapping today if not for…”
Royce Da 5’9”: If not for…the passion that he has for his music and how much of a warrior he is, because some of the things that I’ve been through, a lot of people would have quit. Definitely would have quit!
AllHipHop.com: Did those thoughts ever cross your mind?
Royce Da 5’9”: No! That’s the warrior in me. Quitting in me was never an option. This is what it has to be. I don’t have no other options. There’s nowhere else I can go. I’m strapped in this. I’m trapped in this, and there’s not been one day that I haven’t viewed this like I’m so blessed to be doing something that I love doing and getting paid for it…regardless of how much money it is! [laughs] Regardless of how much money it is, it’s some money! It’s enough to keep me money, keep my family happy. I’m not rich, but I got peace of mind and a family that loves me. S**t, that’s the real rich man right there.
AllHipHop.com: How much has the support of your family been to your success? They say behind every great man is a greater woman.
Royce Da 5’9”: It’s definitely helped me through and matured me. I went through a lot of different phases with my marriage. Like, around the drinking times, I was just crazy, man. What girl do you know that would stick around through all that s**t? It was like my wife was sitting around damn-near killing myself, and she’s still here. So, when you got somebody like that around, it can just mature you and grow you up a little bit quicker. You know women mature quicker than men, so she’s kind of sitting around like my mother just kind of watching me look stupid. That s**t is humbling and it matures you. I just factor that maturity into everything across the board, my career and everything. I’m not as quick to go upside somebody’s head. My temper is balanced. Everything is just more balanced.
AllHipHop.com: And you’ve got a son, too, right? “Life” with Amerie was actually dedicated to him. How old is he now?
Royce Da 5’9”: He’s seven. He’s getting to the age where he can scope out anything. So if I come in drunk, he will know it. If I did it, I think he would know it. So, it’s like a lot of that s**t won’t fly. I just can’t do it.
AllHipHop.com: Are you conscious of him when you make your music? Do you let him listen to it?
Royce Da 5’9”: Definitely. He listens to it. Did you hear “Blow Dat Whistle,” the Nottz-produced joint with the P.E. sample? That’s my son’s vocals on the hook! He went in and nailed that s**t in one take, and he doubled his vocals all in one pass. I was like, “Jesus Christ!” He did it on beat and everything.
AllHipHop.com: Any Lil’ Romeo aspirations for him? Or rather, would you even encourage him to follow in a similar path as you have taken?
Royce Da 5’9”: You know, I’m gonna encourage anything like that, because you never know what your child can do. My father swore I wasn’t a rapper. “You chasing a dream! You chasing a dream!” Nah. Now look at it. It wouldn’t have mattered if he supported me or he didn’t support me ‘cause I was gonna do what I wanted to do anyway. But, who’s to say Royce would be that rebellious. Anything that he feels he can do, I’m pretty much gonna support him. I’d like to see him box right now. He real good with his hands.
AllHipHop.com: Oh yeah? Are you heavy on boxing?
Royce Da 5’9”: Huge boxing fan! The only reason why you don’t see me at a lot of fights in those seats where you see the stars at is because I can’t afford them. When I’m able to, you’ll see me there! [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Alright, last thing, you just released this album. So, what makes you happy with your career at the end of the day? What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Royce Da 5’9”: Accomplishing things and just not doing a lot of sitting around. Like, coming from the studio, something’s complete, that’s what satisfies me. It’s just like day-to-day things because that’s the s**t that you got to do to get to the big goal. So, the little things day-to-day that add up, they add up to the big things, so I get satisfaction out of completing every little thing.