There’s maybe a handful of emcees, if even that. Who only seem to get better with age or each new album. Such is the case with Detroit emcee, Royce Da 5’9”, who has been on a very remarkable run since putting out his sixth solo album, Layers, in 2016. Considered a classic or near classic by most critics and fans, he followed it in 2018 with arguably his best album to date, the very personal, Book of Ryan. While also putting a very solid PRhyme 2 album with DJ Premier as their group, PRhyme, just months before that. Now here another couple of years after putting out his last solo album, Royce is back with his newest solo album, The Allegory, which he dropped just a couple of months ago.
Like his previous albums it is filled with plenty of bars, poignant storytelling and thought-provoking rhyme schemes. What makes this album standout from Royce’s previous efforts though is that he self-produced all 22 tracks and for someone who just practically started producing, did a pretty solid job. At its center, The Allegory, is also an album that’s very layered, vaste and intricate with all the social and systematic racism, as well as nasty history that the black and colored communities have been plagued with for centuries. Even still facing today and how it trickles down to some of Hip-Hop’s own shortcomings, as well as today’s often very frustrating social climate. That Royce reveals and drops knowledge about throughout the album, which will make you want to go and research from the very opening track, Mr. Grace (Intro). In which the Detroit emcee with the beautifully complex written reveals several of the albums main themes. With the very closing of the track in which he spits, “With actors standin’ behind me with puppets controlling nothing but shapes. But that shapes our fate. This is ‘The Allegory of the Cave,’ theory by Plato. And this is the first chapter. The first forty-eight, ‘Death Of the Dope Man.” That perfectly than seguing into, Dope Man. Where over the sampling of Kool & the Gang’s 1974 classic, Summer Madness and N.W.A.’s 1987 classic, Dope Man. Royce flips it to look at the matter from a different point of view that looks back at this time period as a turning point in American society. Frequent collaborator, singer and songwriter, Emmany providing the perfectly smooth hook that could’ve easily had you thinking it was either R. Kelly or BJ the Chicago Kid singing it.
One strong point of the album is how perfectly a lot of the tracks so seamlessly segue into one another that make it great and easy to play all or most of the album all the way through. Which you can see on how Mr. Grace (Intro) goes into Dope Man and then right into, I Don’t Age and right into, Pendulum. I Don’t Age really showing how lyrically sharp and even greater Royce has become as he has gotten older. Such standout bars as, “I was a writer way before fame. All y’all is cyber, I come from the bottom right by the soul where the rose came. I’m too private to expose lames. And I’m to private to be riding with those things. I’m too Shady to be neutral, these artists try to divide us. If I go Kendrick Lamar, the world gonna’ watch the Control change. I’m way too Mechelin for the dissing. Man, listen. Even minding my business, I deal with entire sets. Always on time to collect, like the IRS.” Further proving like a lot of lines throughout the album do, why you can put up a pretty good argument for him along with his former Slaughterhouse groupmate, KXNG CROOKED, being the dopest emcee and lyricists alive at the moment. While tracks like the Ashley Sorrell featured, Pendulum, is one of many in which he really lets his thoughts about many of the political and social shortcomings of his people draw a lot to his own personal experiences and those of his fellow emcees and/or rap peers. With lines like, “I was still a slave just four hundred years ago. Going massive for a cracker wearing a robe. And I just did a deal for my masters and my soul. For that whip, whole clan is in the Phantom. Damn, the roles have been switched.” Really hitting home for many of his peers fighting to own their masters. Which many don’t always own and their usually white executives of their labels own, just like slave masters.
What makes, The Allegory, such an intricate, very layered and eye-opening album too is how the handful of skits throughout the album that take aim at the oppressors of a lot of the black and colored or mostly minority communities. With each skit perfectly fitting into the overall theme of the album to setup each song it becomes before. To either show the power of knowledge or dangers of ignorance many have to the system. One of the most perfect examples of this being the Ice Cream (Interlude), in which a Mom and son are talking. Where the son asks, “Hey, mommy?, to which she responds, ‘Hm?’ and he asks, ‘What’s a allegory?” The Mom then responding, “An allegory is a story with a subliminal meaning that has a political message based off the writer’s mind.” To which the son then asks, “Can you get me something from the ice cream truck?” She says, “Of course, baby.” Then proceeding to go off to the Ice Cream Man about the racist history many don’t know about the song always played by the ice cream truck. Which perfectly sets up by far one of the best tracks on the whole album with the DJ Premier co-produced and Oswin Benjamin featured, On the Block. The hauntingly echo beat and scratches from frequent collaborator, Preemo, quite perfect for Royce and Benjamin to really lyrically go off. With such crazy dope bars as, “Look here, y’all should come procreate with a winner. If I should catch a fade with an earthquake I’ll make it a tremor. I’m cold enough to go on a date with the eighth of December. When I’m finished, make the rest of the Winter pay for the dinner, n*#*a.” Or these verses, “We relate to Jesus, most my people born in mangers, too. They ain’t know their fathers. They were born to strangers. We were raised by VR Troopers, Wishbone and Power Rangers.” From Benjamin on that last verse.
A lot of the guest features. Whether Westside Gunn on single, Overcomer, KXNG CROOKED on, Tricked. Royce’s actual brother, Kid Vishis, on Thou Shall, Griselda emcees Benny the Butcher on single, Upside Down, and Conway the Machine on, FUBU. To even Grafh on, I Play Forever or even, CyHi The Prynce, Sy Ari Da Kid, T.I. and White Gold on the very powerful, Black Savage. Really fit the whole context of the album quite perfectly. No matter how big or small they’re, they all surprisingly manage to avoid being in the great lyrically shadow of Royce too. His great chemistry with a lot of them really shining throughout as well. Most notably with his brother, Kid Vishis on, Thou Shall. In which the two brothers really lyrically go in and Vishis shows he’s just as deadly on the mic as his brother. With such standout bars as, “Long as the queen don’t need nothin’ for issa seven. While I’m still buildin’ credit outta debt. I know where I’m headed, I don’t need the Reverend. Royce gave me access to the lab, I got the key to Heaven.” Arguably the best track on the album, if not one of the top two though is the KXNG CROOKED featured, Tricked. In which both emcees bring lyrically informed lyrics about the troubled label deals and discriminations most Hip-Hop artists go through. And how it plays into several of the things the government and higher powers have tricked most people of color to throughout history. A lot of it so simple that a lot of us are too blind to see and pay attention to.
The Allegory, overall is an album that Royce gives his all. From the production down to the theme and lyrical context. With the last fourth quarter of the album from Black Savage to the very soulful beautiful Rhinestone Doo Rag, or even the very jazzy slithering bass and skittering production on, Young World. Finds Royce bringing some of his most brilliant bars, production, concepts and delivery of the album truly to life. Especially on the latter that sees G Perico and Vince Staples bring really stellar bars. That quite a few can relate to. Such as Perico’s verse about, “Student loans that you owe got you fvcked.” While the very heartfelt and soulfully honestly introspective, Hero. That perfectly samples Jay-Z’s very classic and timeless, Song Cry, is the perfect track to close such an amazing album. The beautifully perfect conclusion to Cocaine and Power from his last album, Book of Ryan. That shows while, The Allegory, is not a classic like the latter. It’s pretty dang close to it and a truly great piece of art in its own right, packed full of poetic intricacies and life lessons. That will not only be on most 2020 top Hip-Hop albums of the year lists by the end of the year, but likely a lot of top albums of the year lists across all of music as well.