Detroit emcee Royce Da 5’9” has always been known as a very ill lyricist and one of the best lyricists there is in Hip-Hop, not only now, but arguably of all-time. Though he is arguably at some of his lyrical best in his career on his latest solo album, Layers, Royce also shows the many different layers some of us may have not noticed from him besides lyrical prowess over his career.
Peeling back the artist most know as Royce Da 5’9”, the emcee, who was born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, even does something a lot more artists have started doing over the past few years, but Royce himself has never done till now. Which is letting us into more of his personal life and side through his music.
This starts with the very opening track, Tabernacle. A very autobiographical tale, in which Nickel tells his life story of falling in love with Hip-Hop, his brief stint as a college student and how the studio he went to being right next to the bus stop he got off at, led to him choosing to stick with music. While also telling how he knew God was real and pointing him towards a faith in music with his signs, which included losing his grandmother and his son being born on the same day. In the same hospital, no less. Not to mention Nickel forgetting he had a show he had to do too. Everything acccumulating to the final climatic verse in which he rhymes, “I hit the stage at 11:50, killed it. I got off about midnight with about six types of different emotions floating around in me, hopeless, trying to find hope in me God will guide me in the future. Just as I was about to leave out, I see Kino talking to Marshall and then he introduced us. We talked about collaborating and how chasing this rap thing is aggravating.” A few bars later his vivid storytelling, telling how this powerful day was the most significant day for him because of him meeting Eminem, his grandmother dying and his son being born.
With how powerful Tabernacle and the second track, Pray are, you know right away you are in store for one of the most personal, cohessive and best albums of Royce’s career. Touching on everything from issues of police brutality to fear, fulfulling his rap dreams and marriage among the many subjects, the 17-track effort really shows the many different layers of the emcee and why Layers is such an appropriate title for the album.
How hungry and energetic Royce sounds on such stand out tracks as the very triumphant Jake One-produced, Wait, shows the emcee is at some of the best he has ever been so far in his career. Convincingly rapping such standout rhymes as, “Being feared go farther than any part of me having respect does, So I play to tune of my own eardrum, while I’m modeled by Questlove, I don’t speak on my own behalf of myself, but my impeccable rep does,” to open the track shows the emcee is taking to his crowd like he’s a brand new artist again. who just came in to the game as hungry as ever.
While D-12 member and fellow Detroit native Mr. Porter handles a good chunk of the production on Layers and their chemistry is very undeniable on tracks such as Pray and the title track, some of Royce’s best work maybe with other producers. Like the aformentioned Jake One-prouduced Wait and also the Nottz-produced, Shine. The very soulful Shine really letting Nickel Nine, “shine his light” on having his passion and focus on fulfulling his rap dreams through his lyrical prowess, rather than chasing money, helped him get farther in the long run. Delivering such memorable lines as, “We move in silence, y’all ain’t hearing us coming. I was sent by God to provide that imperial sonnage. Ya’ll assembly line sign of rhymers really don’t want it. I eat you for breakfast. One for one, I got ya’ll serial numbers.”
On his sixth solo album, Royce’s introspective and personal side clearly shines through the most it ever has. A good thing for much of the album, as it really shows the versatility and layers of the emcee we have really never previous heard much of in his music until now. While the prostound lyrical ablility is also still there and proves Royce is still as sharp and poignent as ever. Delivering one of the best albums of 2016, about one of the only things that prevents the album from being a classic and makes it a very solid four out of five album is that it’s a little to long. With the very all over the place closing track, Off, being one of those tracks you know should’ve just been left on the cutting room floor. Dope! being anohter one of those tracks and where you can tell Royce himself was even kind of half-rhyming like he didn’t think it should be on the album. Otherwise as already mentioned it’s an overall great body of work that really shows. Royce’s multifacetedness as an aritst like never before and is easily his most cohesive solo album to date.