2008: the year in Royce Da 5’9″ tracks
Other celebrities who also hit the height chart at five foot nine inches include Never the Twain big don Windsor Davies, every indie girl who’s “curious about S&M”’s favourite actress Maggie Gyllenhall, and motherfucking Joe Pantoliano. Gillingham goalkeeper Simon Royce, pictured above, is 6’2”, removing the chance of an easy headline for hip-hop-inclined sub-editors on Essex sports newspapers. I don’t think I actively gave a shit about any musician as much as Royce Da 5’9” last year, and yet I never wrote a word over him. Here’s his ten best tracks from 2008.
Premo is never going to produce an amazing beat again, so enjoy the merely good one he cooks up here. “Shake This” is the lead single off Royce’s upcoming album “Street Hop”, which is scheduled for release in March and will accordingly come out around the time of the 2012 European Championships. Royce works a lot better when he’s going hard then when he’s scratching his chin, but you can allow him at least one “building my legacy” track to date, especially considering what else he’s dropped this year.
Included solely for the fact that it starts off with Royce boasting about how he visited Estonia before 50 Cent did, which reminds me of one of my favourite Lithuanian jokes of all time:
Q: Kas yra lėtas valsas? (What does “waltz” mean?)
A: – Tai estiškas repas! (It’s Estonian rap music!)
Any Estonians reading: please take this gag in the good humour it was intended, and not as a racial attack. A further selection of Lithuanian jokes about Estonians can be found here.
Fallen soldier Nigel Dempster would point out that it’s factually inaccurate, but “Nigga, you at war with sharks, the government team/Leave you airless like Jordin Sparks or a motherless queen”. Track also features Canibus keeping the spirit of late 90s undie rap alive: he promises a journey into the mind, engages in conversation with a younger version of himself, and then throws in a line that contains the term “manifest list”. Rawkus is back, y’all.
WHITEBOY RAPPER WITH A MOHAWK ALERT. Sadly not 100% Proof (who hasn’t updated his Myspace in nearly two years), but Kaboose, who, and I quote, “committed himself to Christ in 1996, and says ‘God changed my life drastically and gave me hope’”. I have no idea a) how he got in touch with Royce in the first place or b) why he’s recorded a video that tries to paint him as strongly resembling WWE superstar The Miz, when he in fact looks like WHITEBOY RAPPER WITH A MOHAWK.
In the “Royal Flush Freestyle” entry I was gonna make a quick gag about how circa the release of “No Air”, everyone was hyper over it, and then it promptly featured in no “Best of 2008” lists. This track, however, uses the beat from “My Life”, and I’d not only forgotten that people were talking about that as a single of the year contender when it came out, but that Game had actually released an album these past twelve months at all. Detroit flows work better with the occasionally autotone chorus, which at least means the inevitable T-Pain track will be one bearable think on the upcoming Eminem abortion of an LP.
It’s a song with a hook consisting of an Ad-Rock vocal sample bookended by Jay-Z shouting. Which when you think about it, sums up 80% of rap music these days.
Remember when Masta Ace had beef with The High and Mighty because they used the phrase “Jewish slaughterhouse” in a song? Late 90s indie rap was a fucking fun place to be, man… anyway, Royce spent half of “The Bar Exam 2” beefing with Joe Budden, and the other half of it claiming that there was no beef between them at all, “you gonna get a nigga killed tryna start something”. And then they record a track together, and make plans for a Budden/Royce/Crooked/Ortiz supergroup called Slaughterhouse. I have no idea what any of this means, I think it’s the n/h version of Charles Hamilton vs Soulja Boy?
Is there a mixtape out there that just consists of freestyles over “Tha Carter III” beats? If so, don’t point me in its direction. While the world was “enjoying” the 7,214 versions of “A Milli” that came out six months back, “Let The Beat Build” was ridden by, amongst others, Cam’ron, Freeway, Fabolous, Evidence, Stat Quo, and perhaps even some rappers who didn’t peak half a decade ago. No rapper sounds better with gunshots on the backing track than Royce.
I’ll tell you what I like about Royce. He can match flow to beat better than any other rapper out there now. He knows when to throw punchlines out, when to piss on the mic, and when to just go for twisty-wordplay. He doesn’t say anything at all here, and yet he still kills it. He may or may not be better than Hove, he’s stoned, he gets laid frequently, his career has had some setbacks. That’s it. And yet it’s still rap verse of the year. How does that happen?
Kanye samples Alan Parsons, and it proves that he’s lost it in a big way. Black Milk samples Alan Parsons, and it proves that he was the best producer in rap in 2008 by a long shot. Funny how that happens. A paean to Detroit’s future (it’s “like Berry Gordy came back”, apparently), rather than the usual “RIP Proof/Dilla” stuff that gets served up when the city’s discussed. Milk makes for the perfect Royce rhyme partner as well: the track almost resembles a UFC fight, with BM’s verses coming across as the opening feeling out period, the tentative grabs, the slow working over of body parts, before Royce comes out and builds on all that to throw you straight to the floor, rub his nuts on your chin and start wailing at you with swinging punch after swinging punch. You people need to start caring about this guy a lot more than you do already.