Artist: Royce Da 5-9
Album: Rock City V2.0
Label: Game Recordings
Rating: 6 / 10
Okay, I’ll make this quick and as painless as possible. First and foremost, don’t get it twisted, Royce Da 5’9″ is a dope emcee. Lyrically he’s more like 9’5″. Ever since I first heard him spit I was on that rewind-the-tape-to-hear-that-shit-again type tip. So you can imagine my eagerness to get my hands on a Royce album. When I first heard the bootleg “Detroit Rock City”, I was mad disappointed. Now there is the official “Rock City V2.0” and the disappointment hasn’t lifted. There are some hot joints on here but not enough to carry the album. Personally, I think Royce should have scrapped the Rock City concept and went on to something new instead of making a V2.0.
On 2.0 there are five new additions that replace some of the tracks that were on the first version. The Neptunes chime in with production on two of the additions – ‘Off Parole’ and ‘Mr. Baller’. The beats themselves are nice enough, basically Neptunes getting off doing their thing. ‘Off Parole’ is hurt terribly by a simplistic chorus of Royce repeating “we can do it now nigga – I’m off parole” that just doesn’t work. There’s somewhat of a second chorus that doesn’t help that much either. To me the beat doesn’t have hypeness or the emotion to match Royce’s spitting. ‘Mr. Baller’ is marked as the lead-single for the album and has the all-over-the-industry-like-a-rash cats Clipse featured. The chorus is a bit infectious but also mad simplistic “I’m just a baller nigga I’m just a baller”. I’m not sure if that’s Pharrel or not. The beat rides a lot better with the vibe of the emcees than the previous Neptunes laced joint.
The ‘tunes aren’t the only high profile producers that visit Rock City. DJ Premier teams with the host to treat us to two joints; ‘My Friend’and the already well known ‘Boom’. ‘My Friend’ is hot. You can’t knock a man giving props to his dick. Hell, I gave mine dap earlier today. This is a party joint, Premier does his thing on the production and scratches in a sound byte from Whodini’s cut ‘Friends’. ‘Boom’ is one of my favorite joints on here next to the intro and the title track. Who hasn’t heard ‘Boom’ by now? Royce gets nasty on the mic with the world play. This song is filled with a gang load of quotables like; “my flow is hotter than the flash from the click, when the hammer slaps the bullet on the ass from clip”, “so come come now get pissed on shitted on, tough talk turns to can’t we all just get along” and “or we can go toe to toe because they calling you hot, steppin’ around all your punches like ‘that’s all you got?'” This is the Royce that everyone I’ve talked to expected to hear on this album. This is the Royce that you don’t want coming after you on the mic. The beat, the lyrics, the vibe, this all works.
Filling out the rest of the short list of power tracks on Rock City is the intro ‘Tuesday’ and the title track ‘Rock City’ Both also appeared on the first version however. Although ‘Tuesday’ is the intro, it shouldn’t have been. This needs a few more verses and could have held it’s own as one of the Rock City’s vehicles. The title track features Eminem on the hook while Royce does his 5″9′ thang. Hold up, I gotta let Royce run these two joints through before continuing.
The Trackmasters produced ‘You Can’t Touch Me’ runs off of a bouncy beat with a chorus that makes this a selection for the clubs. This is where Gang Starr got the soundbite “’bout to slap rappers around and bruise the game”. Super-tongued emcee Twista features on ‘Let’s Go’. Anyone that doesn’t think Twista can spit his ass off can (borrowing a phrase from Royce’s homey) “suck my dick till you numb it”. Royce handles himself ok here. What holds this track back a bit is Royce constantly repeats “it’s my shit” like he was at a loss for words to finish off his lines. Cutie pie Amerie accompanies Royce on the heartfelt ‘Life’. Royce takes on the teacher mode here and speaks on various topics. You can feel emotion here as the battle hardened emcee takes off the gear and bares a different side that has yet to be shown and it’s a nice view.
There aren’t any skits on this one version but ‘D-Elite’ sort of plays that role as it only clocks in at one minute and forty-one seconds. ‘Take His Life’ is a poor substitute for a Royce/Em duet. Featured artist Tre’ doesn’t do bad, it’s just that when trading verses with Royce you gotta have a stronger presence. New addition ‘Nickel Nine Is’ runs over some horn and guitar riff samples for you to nod to. Another new addition to the lineup is ‘Soldier’s Story’. This joint suffers from a boring hook. Kind of a pretty track for the “I’m gonna fuck you up” ish that Royce is delivering. You get the same feeling from ‘Who Am I’. Royce is describing that he is ‘Pain’ coming at you. The beat is flowery but Royce is like “I’m pain! “,”I will hurt you”, “I’m coming for you”. Now the chorus, that is the real pain. Ouch. Bringing up the last stop as a bonus track on the Rock City tour is another new addition ‘King Of Kings’. This is the type of spittin’ you expect to hear from Royce. This is Bad or was it Evil : whichever he was or is : blah all you need to know is that this is hot.
This is a step up from version one and it’s hard to go through and critique this joint because I like Royce as an emcee. So, even though a lot of the make up of Rock City doesn’t work for some reason I can get through them because it’s Royce. Although now, after multiple listens, although I can ride to this album I’ll have to go with my initial first impression when I heard it. It’s disappointing. Royce is better than this in my opinion. I don’t think that holds him up to an image that he can’t live up to because Royce Da 5’9″ CAN deliver. Why else make a version 2.0 of an album if you believed it was the dope shit the first time around? Makes me wonder if Royce was experimenting or it was some label head in there forcing their vision as usual instead of letting the actual artist display theirs. Gee, novel concept huh?