I recently got a chance to sit down and interview one quarter of Slaughterhouse, Shady Records rep and one of the most lyrically gifted emcees hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Royce Da 5’9”. He also happens to be one of Eminem’s closest friends and the other half of Bad Meets Evil with Em. I recently chopped it up with Royce before his show at Reggies, for the Chicago stop of his current U.S. Layers Tour. We talked about everything from his relationship with Em, to the many different groups he has been in, how it has helped now as a solo artist releasing his first solo album in six years, as well as an update that many have Slaughterhouse fans have been fiending for with their new album. Check out my interview with Royce below and get in tune with some of the many different facets of the emcee you may have not known.
Nello for TheHipHopDemocrat.com to Royce Da 5’9”: My name is Nello Rubio, I’m with TheHipHopDemocrat.com
Royce Da 5’9”: Nice to meet you.
Nello: Nice to meet you too Royce. I’ve been a fan of you for a little bit, but I didn’t really get into your music till a little bit later than a lot of other people. Probably around like Bar Exam or so. I have seen you live a couple of times and it actually wasn’t by yourself. It was with Slaughterhouse two times and then I saw you at Lollapalooza a couple years ago when you came out with Em. So I’m excited to see you perform solo for the first time later tonight. It seems like ever since you got back with Em and Shady that you have been putting out a lot more work. You have had the stuff with PRhyme with Premier, you had the stuff with Em obviously with Bad Meets Evil. How do you think that has helped you if at all, going back solo now with Layers?
Royce Da 5’9”: Well, I always planned to go back solo. I think working in the different groups over the years has helped me a lot. I think it’s just like collaborating with different people, you know collaborating with different people it brings different things out of you. They inspire you in different ways. You know in ways you can’t necessarily inspire yourself. So I think working with them and being inspired in all of those different ways, helped me when I finally did do this album, which is like my first solo album in six years. It helped me to just approach it in a way where I have all of these tools now, that I just gathered from working with all the different people. So it just helped to approach this solo album with just a lot more guns blazing than before. I basically approached it like I was a brand new artist cause as I started to get into those groups, I feel like that is when the generation started to change. So you know the people who I was rapping to before I got into Slaughterhouse, they were growing up and than when I got into Slaughterhouse I was talking to a whole new demographic of kids again. You know what I’m saying. So by the time I did get back to starting to do my own solo album again, it was like I was speaking to a whole new generation again. It was like a whole new artist again and I had to develop everything all over again. A whole new buzz again. You know the last time I came here I was here with PRhyme and we were doing this same venue. So I got to double back and do the same venue again because it’s my solo and it’s all starting from square one again. You know hopefully the next time I come here as a solo artist it will be the next bigger venue, whatever the bigger venue is and whatever one step up is. That’s what it will be hopefully and that is the plan. But I got to treat everything like I’m a brand new artist again because that’s basically what it is with starting from square one and I think working in all the different groups has helped me a lot to be able to navigate through my solo work like I’m.
Nello: That’s kind of a little bit of the back story on why you named the album Layers, right?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, I named it Layers because being in the different groups helped me to be able to use every layer that I feel that I have as an artist. Every single different thing that I can do, the different tricks that I know. All of my versatility is broken down into layers. I just look at as me peeling back different layers and being able to put on different hats in different groups, in different situations. And than coming back solo it enables me to be able to use each and every layer on one project in a way where it’s still cohesive and it makes sense and it doesn’t feel like it’s all over the place.
Nello: Yeah, I think Kendrick with m.A.A.d city is probably the first real project you seen like that in a while a few years ago. I think once he did that you seen a lot more artist getting back to that. You think that kind of inspired you in a way to do something more conceptual too?
Royce Da 5’9”: While everything Kendrick does, everything that he has put out since I have been following him, has inspired me in some kind of way. You know I’m not so sure if I heard him and said I need to do a concept album, but every time he comes out, I’m inspired by his moves, the way he carries himself, the kind of music he makes, everything about Kendrick inspires me. So along with the inspiration I get from watching him, I get inspiration from watching other artists as well and all of these things combined is what helps drive me to the studio. It is what gets me out of bed from a creative standpoint and what makes me still want to do it. You know cause I feel like I’m getting pushed by my peers in a positive way.
Nello: With this album you are probably lyrically at some of the best that you have been too. Do you think that other artists have kind of helped you in that way too and do you think it sort of helped bring back more lyrical stuff to the forefront of mainstream. Like even for instance say with Pusha T with his recent collaboration with Jay Z?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, I think so. I think whenever the lyricists come out people pay attention. You know well that is happening it’s in the forefront. So you like you just said, ‘Pusha T just released Drug Dealers Anonymous with Jay Z,’ That song itself is kind of in the forefront of the internet right now. I know Kanye just dropped a song today. Khaled just dropped the Drake song today. Like all of these guys are lyricists. You know so as long as they are stepping out there, it’s in the forefront at the moment. Now don’t get me wrong, you know when those songs die down and than other songs take precedent it might be a hot song, that’s a big pop record or it might be something like that and it will take precedent at that time. While those songs have their moment, it might be like ahh, nobody cares about lyrics. Until the lyricists come back blazing. You know that’s the beautiful thing about Hip-Hop, you know everything goes around in cycles and it’s a fun thing to follow. And it’s cool. I think right now with my album, Pusha’s album, the Pablo album, Drake’s album, you know all of these albums, I think a lot of them and even anything Kendrick does, it’s just bringing lyricists to the forefront at the time they are out. You know J. Cole, I mean I could name lyricists all day.
Nello: I know you are into Sports a lot. Especially with boxing and MMA. I’m actually a Sports and Hip-Hop guy myself. How has that marriage kind of been, like how do you feel it incorporates with each other, MMA and boxing?
Royce Da 5’9”: I think right now the fans are kind of divided. Like the MMA and the boxing fans are separate. I kind of usually equate it to like Pac and Biggie, right? Pac and Biggie the way that that was, the media made it to to were you had to pick a side. You either had to be on the Westcoast side or the Eastcoast side. It’s kind of like that with MMA versus boxing fans. I feel like if Floyd and McGregor talking about fighting each other, as corny as that sounds, I think it’s a step in a positive direction in terms of it bringing fans together. And I think that’s a very important move to be made. You know what I mean, if you talking about full contact sports just in general, I don’t think the MMA and boxing fans should be divided. I think the MMA fans are very educated in full contact mixed martial arts, why can’t they be just as educated in boxing? It’s a sweet science as well. So I don’t think that there shouldn’t be division there.
Nello: You like said already have a lot of influences. Who are some artists that you haven’t worked with here in Chicago or just in general that you haven’t worked with that you still want to work with?
Royce Da 5’9”: Here in Chicago, I mean Kanye. I haven’t worked with Kanye, I would love to work with Kanye. Jay Z is somebody who I always wanted to work with, Nas. Jay Z and Nas mainly. Mainly Jay Z and Nas I would love to work with. That’s like a bucket list thing. I think over the last year I have decided that I think I want to make that happen. So that is kind of like a thing I’m pushing toward to get Kanye, I mean I’m sorry to get Nas or Jay Z or both on a song. Either on the same song or just separately. Every now and than an emcee wants to see just how good he or she really is. You know and I want to rhyme next to the greatest that Hip-Hop will ever see. Jay Z and Nas aren’t just normal lyricists. They are lyricists, they are always going to be like an indicator in Hip-Hop for the duration of history. They will go down in history as like an indicator. Top 3, Top 5, Top 2, you know and I want to stand next to that. I want to test my skill next to that. So that is kind of what is on my agenda now.
Nello: The Slaughterhouse project, I know you guys have been working on it for a while and I know you guys are all kind of working on your own solo things right now. You, Crooked, Joe and Joell. Do you guys have like a set time that you are trying to put out the album or it’s just whenever you guys can get together?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, the conversations that we have been having as of late, we have been talking about scheduling. That’s really the only problem that we ever had with Slaughterhouse. We don’t really have a problem making music, we don’t really have a problem doing anything. It’s just four solo artists, getting us together at a time where we don’t have a bunch of other things going on. So right now we got a lot of music done, we definitely got enough for an album. So it’s looking like everybody is trying to clear the schedule for later this year. I think we are going together sometime in the Fall and just see if we can come up with some more records to kind of round things out. So be looking to hear something later this year. If not later this year, early next year.
Nello: Just Blaze is still involved with it executive producing?
Royce Da 5’9”: Yep, Just Blaze is executive producing. We got production from AraabMuzik, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Just Blaze, !llmind. Now, I’m having a brain fart, ‘Who else am I forgetting?’ A couple of other guys in there. But, we got some really good stuff.
Nello: Alright, thanks for taking the time for the interview and good luck on stage.
Royce Da 5’9″: Yep, no problem.