REVIEW: Royce Da 5-9 – Detroit Rock City

Detroit Rock City

Artist: Royce Da 5-9

Album: Detroit Rock City

Label: Columbia

Rating: 6 / 10

Reviewer: DJ MF

The curse of high expectations. In all forms of music, the curse has brought tons of otherwise incredible talents to their knees. Hip hop however, has perfected the art. Littering the landscape of hip hop are the carcasses of talents that have been hyped up only to fall flat on their faces. Prime example? Remember Canibus? Burst onto the scene, get on a huge posse cut featuring LL, Method, Redman… and then obscurity once his beef with LL subsided.

So how does this mean anything to Royce? Well, first and foremost, he’s one of those “can’t miss” MCs, much like Canibus before he dropped his debut LP. The reason? Well, let me count the ways he’s blown minds since he started.

First, he’s in “Bad Meets Evil” with Eminem, which produced the killer tracks ‘Nuttin To Lose’ and ‘Scary Movies’. Second, he’s been blessed with production from the cream of the crop in terms of production, ranging from Alchemist to DJ Premier. Third, he’s shown to actually have the skills to back up the hype, with nice wordplay, a good voice, and the ability to write battle lyrics, and story telling stuff.

Well, judgement day finally arrives for Royce in the form of “Detroit Rock City”, his debut major label release on Columbia Records.

Things start off incredibly with the first two tracks, ‘It’s Tuesday’ and ‘Rock City’. The former acts as a combo intro/track, and features a gorgeous violin loop that descends in melody in a jutting fashion, with Royce explaining his M.O. in the rap game today in a laid back flow, including some references to Em. The latter track though, is just a straight banger. Featuring Em on the chorus, and in assorted scratched additions during the lyrics, this beat will have you nodding your skull, and sounds like it would have been at home on Eminem’s second LP. Just awesome, as Royce breaks down his hometown, Detroit.

Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse with the Neptunes sounding ‘Getcha Paper’, which as the name would suggest, is all about the cash… Bleh. Been done before, millions of times actually, and not just that, but Royce DOESN’T work as a jiggy rapper.

One of the first singles from the album shows up next with ‘We Live’, albeit in a bit of a reworked fashion. The track is seriously laidback, and Royce rides it perfectly spitting some nice battle lyrics, although I can’t get over how smooth and club ready this is.

That feeling is magnified about 100 times with the next track, ‘You Can’t Touch Me’, and suprise surprise, it’s Trackmasters on the track that are pimping out Royce. Actually, it’s Royce pimping out Royce since it was his call to do this track now that I think about it. In all seriousness, the beat is pretty hot, albeit generic Trackmasters… the problem is that Royce AIN’T a jiggy rapper. Not only that, but in this type of track, he dumbs down his lines so much that you’d think a kindergarten student could have written them.

Luckily, after the insipid wannabe southern bounce of ‘Let’s Go’, the strong part of the album appears. with the ‘D-Elite Tracks’, ‘Boom’, ‘She’s The One’ and ‘What Would You Do’ all showing Royce in his natural environment – the grimy beat (with the exception of ‘She’s The One’). Oddly enough, ‘She’s The One’ in particular is one of my fave tracks on the LP, mostly because of the humour in the lyrics as Royce describes women from his viewpoint. The underground classic ‘Boom’ also represents nicely here in a remixed form of sorts, which only makes me appreciate the original more.

The album ends off with a couple of nice tracks, ‘Life’ and ‘My Friend’. The former is a great track where Royce gives advice on living life… all of it true, and all of it put forth very eloquently. I can even put up with the sappy chorus too. Wow, I must be getting old.

While ‘My Friend’ is an awesome track, one questions the track position immediately after the uplifting preceder. Basically, ‘My Friend’ is about Royce and his penis. It’s true. The beat is awesome to a high degree – classic Primo. Not to mention the lyrics are put in such a way that Royce never mentions the d word… a fun track.

I have major issues giving this album a final grade. On one hand, there are more than a handful of tracks that qualify as hot. On the other hand, there are more than a handful of tracks that qualify as booty.

The dilemma of being a reviewer…

With this album, it’s like Royce wanted to leave behind what made him popular in the first place, in order to try and become a version of Eminem. The difference being that Eminem used his strengths (and a huge amount of media exposure because of “shocking lyrics”) to get big, while Royce is trying to be something different- be a jiggy rapper. It’s unfortunate, because he is so much better than that, and a lot of tracks on the album show that.

With that being said, I can’t give this higher than a 6 out of 10.

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