Royce Da 5'9": Man On Fire

posted September 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 42 comments

Royce Da 5’9” is officially on fiya! A decade after making his debut to the world via 313 comrade Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP, Detroit’s second best emcee (or does he now occupy the top slot in Motown?) is on a career win streak no one could have foreseen five years ago, when the seemingly down-and-out lyricist was lamenting personal and professional woes (amidst beef between “Malcolm X” and Em’s crew D-12) and declaring that Death Is Certain. But in the two plus years since Ryan Montgomery returned home after serving some time in the Oakland County Jail (a saga documented recently by Royce on his DJ Premier-produced masterpiece “Shake This”), the rejuvenated rhymer has not only put his music career back on track (thanks in part to his critically acclaimed Bar Exam mixtapes) but has put the name Royce Da 5’9” amongst the most revered emcees of this era, if not the entire history of Hip Hop. 

His standing as one of the culture’s elite spitters became undeniable to all not-surprisingly after the pistol-brandishing star of Beef II stopped squabbling with his industry adversaries and made peace with D-12 (thanks to a jailhouse heart-to-heart between Royce and the late Proof), and eventually resolved any friction that existed between he and Eminem because of that beef. Renewed relationships with his hometown peers have proven to be nothing though compared to the career bounty that has befallen Royce since mending fences with Joe Budden following the two wordsmith’s “Thou Shall Not Fall”/“I’m Nice” exchange in ‘07/’08. Their newfound alliance made its debut last October on the posse track “Slaughterhouse” from Budden’s Halfway House, which subsequently gave birth to what has become one of the most exciting unions of emcees possibly ever.

The recent critical and commercial success of Slaughterhouse’s self-titled debut LP has proven to be the perfect set-up for Royce’s long-delayed fourth full-length, Street Hop. In anticipation of the album’s October 20th release, Nickel Nine spoke with HipHopDX late Tuesday (September 29th) about his DJ Premier executive-produced platter. The lyrical murderer also cleared up some miscommunication he’s had recently with other outlets over “Evil” reportedly signing with “Bad” (and possibly tag teaming over a Premo track). One of Hip Hop’s hottest commodities also revealed where he stands today regarding Raekwon following The Chef’s recent rumble with Royce’s new Slaughterhouse brethren Budden.

HipHopDX: I just wanna start off by personally apologizing for the eight million Eminem-related questions you’ve had to answer since I blindsided you early last year after being tipped off by a colleague that you and Em had started chopping it up again and reached out to you to confirm that [click to read].  
Royce Da 5’9”: [Laughs] Oh nah, it’s all good, man.

DX: I remember you really didn’t wanna reveal yet that you guys were back on speaking terms, and now I see why, as soon as you and Em are even seen in the same vicinity as each other, like in the “Forever” video, it becomes a media circus.
Royce Da 5’9”:
Yeah. You know how it goes. It really wasn’t even what was said with our interview, it was Preme. It was what [DJ Premier] said [to media about the reunion]. He went crazy with it. Ours was real general and vague, so it wasn’t really nothing. That conversation that me and Em had back then [in early ‘08] had nothing to do with music…it wasn’t really a big deal.

DX: I had it written down here to point out to you that you know that was all Premo’s fault that my colleague found out about the reunion and tipped me off. [Laughs] 
Royce Da 5’9”:
Oh yeah, you already know that, man. Preme, he’s a gun jumper. He jumps the gun. 

DX: [Laughs] And now he’s talking again! He recently told John Public that him and Em recently spoke and that a collab between the three of y’all is “definitely possible.” You know you’re gonna have to duct tape his mouth closed, right? [Laughs]
Royce Da 5’9”:
Aww man, I haven’t even spoke to Preme about Em though [Laughs], that’s the funny part. I talk to Preme all the time [and] he never asked me about it. 

DX: Well blame Premier for the mandatory follow-up, when are we getting that Royce and Em joint produced by Premo?
Royce Da 5’9”:
I don’t know. I don’t even like um…I don’t know, man. It’s so much going on. Like that’s not even…I’m not even really thinking about that. I see it on the comments, where people are asking for that. I just really wanna do music on any level with [Eminem]. Like it don’t even really matter who – I’m not even thinking about like certain producers [music] that me and him just collaborate on and nothing like that, I’m just really like I said before, nurturing the relationship like I told you way back then, which is what we been doing since then. It’s just changing in terms of [inaudible] and status, and wants and needs.  

DX: Not to make Em sound like some sort of control freak, but do you have to be in-house at Shady [Records] before he’ll hit the lab? Is that why you weren’t on Relapse and he wasn’t on the Slaughterhouse album?
Royce Da 5’9”:
I mean, nah – You know what, I’m not even equipped to answer that question. Like I don’t know how they do their creative shit over there. I really honestly have no idea. We don’t talk about that type of stuff. And then like I coulda [previously assumed and] told you that he never woulda been on a song with people of this era, and then he got on the Drake record. So, it’s just like, nobody knows what Em’s thinking [inaudible] or who he’s bound to get on a song with. Like nobody knows that but him.     

DX: The speculation that’s out there now about Slaughterhouse – Wouldn’t Slaughterhouse actually be stifled if y’all signed with Interscope? They have a pretty poor track record with getting releases out in a timely fashion. So isn’t the crew honestly better off if y’all just stay independent?
Royce Da 5’9”:
It’s like, everything is so hypothetical right now. See like right now we’re talking as if things are a definite. Like nothing is a definite, man. Nothing is guaranteed to any of us. I’m not even guaranteed to wake up tomorrow, God forbid. So it’s just like…I try not to think [like], “Aww man if we go to Shady, man, Interscope” It’s about we been getting blessed [with] the buzz that we got, [and] what we been able to accumulate and accomplish in a short amount of time. That’s all we really thinking about. The main thing that’s on our priority list right now is this tour. And that’s only because it’s two days away. What is it, forty six tour dates, actual shows within like fifty days.

DX: You’re literally gone ‘til November, right?
Royce Da 5’9”:
I’m literally going to the end of November. I’m hitting every market. And it’s gon’ be literally the most grueling tour that I’ve ever been on. A lot of the cities we supposed to not even have hotels, we supposed to be getting right back on the bus and just keeping it pushing. We might have to shower at some of the venues. It’s some Five Heartbeats shit for real. [Laughs] We grinding man. We paying our dues. We don’t feel like we bigger than nobody, or we deserve to be on Shady, or if we get on Interscope will they do right, it’s like man nah, we just really – We trying to take this shit a step at a time, and just really grind and get to whatever position that God meant for us to be in.        

DX: Is it too early to predict the future of Slaughterhouse – a next album, anything beyond where you’re at right now?
Royce Da 5’9”:
We already agreed that we’re gonna do another album. That’s our decision. It’s our decision on how much music we wanna do. Now, in terms of where it’s gon’ be at, we can’t make that decision ‘cause we can’t sign ourselves. The only thing we can do is put ourselves in the position to build up some type of interest. And then from there, it’s taking advantage of who is interested. We’re gonna record as much as we can, it’s just how much time will we have to record on the road. That’s why we been stockpiling music with the little bit of time that we had not running around on the road. ‘Cause Joey [click to read] is working diligently to finish his album, because he’s taking into consideration how much time he’s gonna have to work on his solo shit. And he wants to get his out in the fourth quarter too. So, it’s like we all just doing what we can. And the interest in Shady, and any other label, is great for us. It’s great. We appreciate it, and we just – Everything is hypothetical, man. But I would love to see that happen, not even Shady [necessarily] but a major label situation for Slaughterhouse. I would just love to see that happen.  

DX: This Slaughterhouse shit turned out to be the lick, huh? Who knew making nice with Joe Budden would lead to such great things? [Laughs]
Royce Da 5’9”:
I surely didn’t. It made me wanna make nice with more people. [Laughs] Shit, I might come out better just making nice with people – all the people who I wanna slap. I might just go across the board making up with people.  

DX: Speaking of [Laughs], you know…it’s mandatory, I gotta ask about the Raekwon shit after being caught on tape putting yourself in the center of that when you confronted one of Rae’s crew backstage at Rock The Bells after that happened. So where do you stand as of September 29, 2009 in regards to Rae?
Royce Da 5’9”:
It’s all love. And I’d like to say that…where it stands right now, it’s all based on perception. I could see why people would perceive that clip as that because number one they labeled it “Royce Confronts Raekwon [click to read] And His People.” They labeled it that, but that’s not what I was doing. I wasn’t confronting nobody. I was answering a question. Rae asked me a question and I answered it. But if I had a known some cameras was around, I would not have gave him no honest answer like that for the public to see. I felt like that’s nobody else’s business. I had my feelings about it, but it’s not my place to air it out in [the] media, ‘cause that just make matters worse. But what I said was my honest feelings from a artist to a O.G. He asked me a question and I had to give him an honest answer. But in terms of anything else, it got handled how it was meant to get handled. Thank God that it was in California. And Crooked [I] is one of the smartest niggas that I know. I look up to him based off of the way that he handled that situation. He saved us from Live Nation banning us. He saved us from getting arrested. He saved people from getting hurt, because cooler heads prevailed. And he had the cooler head. So, of course it’s all love, man. Everything that we went through…You know the most that happened was a punch in the face. Nobody cares. Everybody [has] been punched in the face – I have, you have, everybody has. So that shit, that does nothing to us. The thing that we dealing with is, it was a comment that shouldn’t have been said, them niggas is legends, everybody handled it based off of how they carry themselves and that’s it, move on from here.    

DX: Let’s move on to the album. First off, is it true that Crooked I will also be making semi-automatic sounds on one of the best Hip Hop tracks of 2009, “Gun Harmonizing”?
Royce Da 5’9”:
Yeah, he’s definitely on the album version. He came through and cleaned it up, in regular Crooked fashion. He came through and torched the song, so I gotta shout him out for that. He definitely came and breathed a whole new life and energy into it. Because you know it was kinda worn out, because I didn’t know when I put it out it was gon’ get received like that. The listening public kinda burnt it out. So now it’s a fresh new feel for it for the album version. ‘Cause every song that’s on my [The Revival] EP [click to read] is also on the album. I didn’t want people – ‘Cause I got a few people on Twitter like, “Yo! He making me buy songs twice!” But it’s like homie, it’s so many other songs [on the album] other than them little four songs. I got like 18 songs on my album so…it’s all good.     

DX: You mentioned that The Revival EP is included on the LP, but I remember you told me last year that The Revival was gonna be a full-length album on a major label. Have you changed your plans to seek out a major label deal for a new solo album?
Royce Da 5’9”:
But Street Hop is The Revival. It just was another title that I had and I ended up – [My manager] Kino actually talked me into using the title Street Hop. ‘Cause I was torn between the two titles, so whenever I did the interview with you, I probably at that moment was stuck on The Revival as the title. When they came with the suggestion to do the EP, it all worked itself out. I was like, “Okay, so I can just call that The Revival, and then keep the Street Hop [title for the LP].” But that’s all The Revival and Street Hop is, it’s just two separate titles, but it’s all the same body of work.  

DX: Don’t wanna get too ahead of ourselves, but are you flirting with any tentative titles and/or ideas for the next Royce solo after Street Hop?
Royce Da 5’9”:
I haven’t really thought about it, only because I know that the next thing I wanna do after this album is do another Slaughterhouse album first. And I don’t wanna have to be working on both of ‘em [at around the same time] this time around. I wanna be able to take my time on each project and only focus on [one] project at a time. At some point while we doing that Slaughterhouse album, [a] title for my album will hit me. But it ain’t even no need for me to say [what my ideas are for my next album] so far, ‘cause I know the Slaughterhouse album is gon’ eat up a lot of my time, with promoting it and everything like that.   

DX: So back to Street Hop… We been hearing Premo, Premo, Premo, and he [only] did like two tracks, right?
Royce Da 5’9”:
He did three. He did “Shake This" [click to view]. He did “Something 2 Ride 2” with Phonte [click to read]. And then he did a joint called “Hood Love” [click to listen] with Bun B [click to read] and Joell Ortiz

DX: I can’t tell you how many times I listened to “Shake This” over and over again when it first hit the ‘Net last December. So why did such an amazing song and video end up basically lost to the Internet? Why didn’t that set up the album release eight or nine months ago?
Royce Da 5’9”:
The Slaughterhouse album had a lot to do with my release. I had to totally push everything back in order to commit to do that project. And I just - We all as a unit felt like it was the best decision to make. I know I had been pushing [my album] back a lot, but I was looking at it like, “Yo, it’s already been over a year in the making. I’m pretty much done with the album, but if I jump into...” When we jumped into the Slaughterhouse project, Koch wanted us to hurry up and do it and get it out in enough time for Rock The Bells. So we was automatically behind the eight ball, which is the reason why the album only got done in six days. I totally put my shit on halt just to do it, just because I was [inaudible] about the possibility of doing this super-group thing and actually seeing it all the way through when you haven’t seen that done before. I knew I was going on the road with them anyway, so it was like, “You know what, we might as well have an album to promote out here instead of me saying, ‘Yo, me, me, me.’” So I just had to have a non-selfish moment, and just put it on the line and do the group thing for a minute.  

DX: Are you gonna be selfish for a moment and shoot a video for “New Money”? We gon’ see that on 106 & Park and MTV and all that soon?
Royce Da 5’9”:
Yeah. I shot it already. I just shot it. I’m looking to get a rough edit today [September 29th] actually, ‘cause we just shot it in Detroit. So hopefully we’ll have something to look at today and we can start approving edits and get it done in a timely fashion, maybe within another week or so. And hopefully MTV and them will jump on board like they did with the Slaughterhouse video [for “The One”]. [The video is] a very good look for Detroit. I don’t wanna give too much away, but when you see it you gon’ see what I’m talking about. Everybody came out. The only people that didn’t show up was the people that was way out of town. 



DX: What happened to the Denaun Porter track “Gimme Money” – not to be confused with “New Money” – that was cut from Street Hop?
Royce Da 5’9”:
It’s coming out. We actually gon’ use it as a leak. And, we probably gon’ sell it somehow digitally. But it was issues with the sample. And [the distributor of Street Hop] The Orchard didn’t wanna [clear it] – I guess they were listening to the sample, and it was supposed to be like some expensive [vocal] sample. So it was all just political shit, man. That kinda broke my heart, but that happens. That’s why we need to get with that machine! Where none of this matters… 

DX: You do any more joints with Mr. Porter?
Royce Da 5’9”:
I been working with Porter [click to read], shit for the whole September really. I already started my next album. He’s executive producing my next album. So I’m just trying to stay ahead of everything, and really just be prepared when the opportunity presents itself [to put my next solo album out]. ‘Cause I see the value in doing that [and getting a head start on the album], based off everything that’s happened to us over the last six or so months. Denaun, he’s gonna executive produce the album, [but] I don’t know if he’s gonna end up doing every track. ‘Cause he wants to work with [DJ] Khalil and Alchemist [click to read] and all the usual suspects [who contributed to the Slaughterhouse album]. “The Terror Squad” that we like to call ‘em.    

DX: So [Denaun], Preme, I know Emile did “Gun Harmonizing,” who else…Streetrunner…
Royce Da 5’9”: Streetrunner
, Nottz [click to read]… DJ Q-Tones [click to read] from overseas did the Busta joint [“Dinner Time”]. Frequency, the Slaughterhouse deejay, came and blessed me with a couple. Six July did “Part Of Me.” 

DX: So Busta Rhymes, Bun B, or Phonte, who ripped it the most on Street Hop?
Royce Da 5’9”:
They hard to compare. My little brother, Kid Vishis, not to show favoritism, but if you just wanna go line-for-line I think he mighta got them dudes. But you know he got them young legs. It’s a song called “Soldier.” When the album comes out, listen to that song “Soldier” – he went off. But you know what, Busta [click to read] and them, they laid they rhyme and they sent it to me. I made [Vishis] rewrite his shit [until] it was super crazy. So he put a lot of work into that verse.

DX: Did my ears deceive me or did I hear Auto-Tune on a Royce album, on “Far Away”?
Royce Da 5’9’:
Yeah I used it man. I’m not against Auto-Tune as long as it sounds good. I just don’t like it to be super overused. Most of the time when its used it’s corny. When I use it, it’s cool. [Laughs] And plus when I use it – I say it on the song, I’m using it just clowning. I went out my verse saying that. I was actually clowning, because if you heard about what I was signing about, when it started off when it was like [starts singing with mimicked Auto-Tune effect], “Maybe you should…Baby I wanna take you so far away.” So it start off sounding like it’s gonna be a chick song, and then I flip it into yet another song about shooting people. I just thought people will find that entertaining. It was more like a little poke at Auto-Tune than it was me feeling like, “Oooh let me put some Auto-Tune on here and get my voice sounding like this.”   

DX: Since I’ve only heard the snippets, I’m only getting a small sampling of “On The Run” and “Murder,” are those classic Hip Hop storytelling joints?
Royce Da 5’9”:
Oh you already know. It’s like Quentin Tarantino. It’s something that’s not really being done that much right now though. The only person I could see coming out and doing something like it is Nas. Because when I do my stories I’m influenced heavily by Nas and Biggie, Slick Rick, the best storytellers, the storytellers with the twist at the end of the story.

DX: Did you hear Royce just put his name in the company of Nas, Biggie and Slick Rick, and it don’t sound outrageous...
Royce Da 5’9”:
No, I didn’t put myself in the same company with Nas and Big. I said that I was influenced by Nas and Big, it’s a difference. [Laughs]

DX: It’s not outrageous, it’s not hyperbole to [compare yourself to them]. I think it’s fair.
Royce Da 5’9”:
Yeah, [but] you know you always wanna have – You don’t never want that to be self-proclaimed. That’s something that if somebody else says it then I’ll take it. 

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