Royce Da 5'9": The Bar Exam

We’ve all heard about that one kid with talent. The one guy where the world is literally waiting to be his oyster. It’s the kid that’s about to get the full scholarship to Princeton. It’s Len Bias coming out of college. It’s Ryan “Royce Da 5’9”” Montgomery spitting rhyme for rhyme with Eminem circa ’98. The problem with life is that it has a funny way of not working out like it is supposed to. People get sidetracked and opportunity ends up wasted. Royce is not trying to be in the same category as Len Bias but it is hard to imagine someone in Hip-Hop who has been more touted with little success as Royce. After his recent incarceration on another DWI charge, Royce is more focused than ever and ready to hit the streets with (yet) another mixtape. This time with The Bar Exam he brought arguably one of rap’s best producers along for the ride. To be accurate, Royce rhymes over old Primo beats and the possibility of a collaborative album between the two is still up in the air. The beauty of this all is that these old beats sound better than anything he’s been rhyming to the last few years. On “Royce is Like,” Mr. 5’9” goes on for over 5 minutes over the “Nas is Like” instrumental then going into the “So Ghetto” instrumental. With lines like “I am Ryan the giant/The spittin inspirer/Kill the supplier/Then I’m peelin’ the hitman hirer,” Royce rhymes about 100 bars straight with no break. This is very reminiscent of another emcee that felt he had a point to prove three years ago and rapped until everyone listened: The Game. For those that don’t know, Royce is not a newcomer to the game. Having been a darling of the Detroit underground circuit, he came along for the ride once Eminem blew up and went to ghostwrite on The Chronic 2001 album and more recently for Diddy. In between all this impressive side work, he fell out with Em and D-12 and was actually replaced on the initial “Renegades” song with Jay-Z. As if he had a score to settle with Jigga, Royce uses his beats several times on the mixtape with tremendous results. “A Million More” and “Feelin’ It ‘07” are impressive displays of Royce’s verbal prowess. His use of metaphor and similes are like Floyd Mayweather combinations to the listener’s head. If there was one problem with this mixtape is the almost non-existent use of hooks. Royce has had a problem making actual songs for years and it is becoming his apparent Achilles’ heel.If Royce ever wants to truly be the King of Detroit, as he has been claiming for years, he needs to make songs that grab the consumer’s attention. That is the kind of formula that leads to album sales. Tracks like “Go Gettem!”, spit over the “Go Getta” beat are hot but are only verses with no glue (hook) to hold them together. The other downfall to this mixtape is the use of beats that are clearly not suited for Royce’s style. As catchy as the “This is Why I’m Hot” beat is; it is just not the type of track you want to hear him on. With all the rumors swirling about Nas signing him and Primo producing his whole next album, Royce is one step away from surpassing the “next big thing” tag and really become the King.