Detroit native Royce Da 5’9 has had his fair share of ups and downs in business aspect of the music industry. After going through label problems like every seasoned Hip Hop artist has, Royce presents us with a revised version of his long-delayed opus Rock City; now appropriately titled Rock City V.2.0.
Though Rock City has been widely bootlegged (and even released officially in Europe). V 2.0 includes six new tracks (to coincide with Koch’s formal release) from the version which was originally recorded for Columbia. While these six new entries are not entirely “brand new” (“Nickel Nine Is” and “Soldiers Story” have made the rounds before) they do offer a grimier contrast to the flashier material he recorded for Columbia. Minus these notable exceptions, Rock City V. 2.0 still highlights the best and worst of Royce’s world. With a short linguistic gang bang on the intro, “Its Tuesday’ explains why Planet Rap needs to open its ears to his skills. He then follows up with the Eminem blessed “Rock City”, which continues to highlight the uncanny chemisty between the D’s finest emcees. While Royce spits the real about the ins and outs of Detroit over a dramatic orchestra themed back drop, Eminem gets busy on the hook, adding his patented vocal distortions throughout.
The trumpeting, commercially scented “Off Parole” is, well, stale. The repetitive opening bars are disappointing, and won’t give anyone a reason to sit through the whole song. There is light at the end of tunnel, as Royce’s spits with fervor over DJ Premier’s noticeable synth and scratch heavy production on the ode to his third leg, “My Friend”.
Though Royce is still searching for his breakout radio smash, the remnants of that earlier attempt is still visible on the corny “You Can’t Touch Me” (which has not aged any better with time). His latest attempt, “Mr. Baller” feat. Clipse fairs only slighty better as the Neptunes bland track fails to shimmy and shake as expected and sounds like it was a leftover from the late 90′s. On “Let’s Go” feat. Twista the bubbly beat is perfect marriage with Twista and Royce’s rapid fire delivery. Although the hook is weak, Twista absolutely destroys the cut with lines like, “Tell me who the fuck want what/Whatchu murderous niggaz is ready to make the deck go up?/I could cause a scene to make you throw up/Put a bullet in yo’ gut, bat em down and leave the sto’ cut/Cuz homie you ain’t got no choice ta/Dat why you runnin to a real rida like Twista, or Roysta/Let the thirty caliber annoint ya/Whodie won’t even know he hit till he feel his shirt suckin the moisture/Voice ya opinion if ya want to/Kick-ass winner, kick up dust in the middle of the arena….”
Meanwhile Royce blesses “Take His Life” nicely, lacing the grimy piano led track with dark street stories for the young fake up and coming baby thugs. The average horn heavy “Nickel Nine Is” screams filler, only because we know Royce Da 5’9″ is capable of much more.
The legendary DJ Premier saves the album with the now famous, “Boom”, which even after a few years still represents a near perfect marriage of beats and rhymes–”Me and Premier, we kind of the same in ways/We both speak with our hands in dangerous ways/Rap now is a circus of clowns/A whole lot of lip from cliques I’d probably rap circles around/I’m the next best to reach a peak formerly known as the best keep secret/I guess that I just leaked it.” Just as mesmerizing is “Life” featuring Amerie as the heartfelt dedication to his son sheds light on the real Royce—”Just know that God’s keeping you level/He’ll even speak through the ghetto to reach you/Just to teach you that the streets is the devil/Everybody’s dishonest, different/Which means that we’re dying by livin’
Oblivious to the time that we’re given/So you don’t prepare for the death, you live for the life/And live right like, do right by your kids and your wife…”
Though Rock City V.2.0 is littered with witty punchlines and the type of braggadocious topic matter that makes Jay-Z so appealing, the differance between Jigga and Royce’s old running mate Eminem is that they not only have a natural gift for generating commercially accesible material, but they also allow the listeners to get to know them with more personalized material. While “Life” and the amazing bonus track, “King Of Kings,” are a good start, If Royce can open up in the future and stop trying to make up for lost time (see “Mr. Baller” and “You Can’t Touch Me”) he may just realize his vast potential. Either way, the natives are getting restless and longing for Royce to take it back to the “Scary Movies” and “Lets Grow” days of past.
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