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by Craig Smith
22 April, 2003@12:00 am
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Royce Da 5’9 isn’t a megastar, at least not yet. Despite a notable, but eroded partnership with Eminem, penning memorable tunes for Dr. Dre and label deals with Tommy Boy, Game, and Columbia, a substantial level of commercial appeal has eluded him. After checking his exhaustive, but incredibly fresh double disc, Build and Destroy, it’s obvious that Royce’s potential to break into the Billboard charts matches his uncanny ability to simultaneously bond with backpackers and thugs alike.

The first disc, Build, gives a broad overview of Royce’s career on wax. Many of these tracks are recycled from multiple sources, but it’s dope to find the regulars and rarities so conveniently packaged. Among the 21 cuts, are two selections from Game’s 1998 12-inch with Eminem for the duo Bad Meets Evil (“Scary Movies”) and the scarcely played b-side tale of dastardly deeds done by folks with too much time on their hands (“Nuttin’ To Do”). “Scary Movies (The Sequel)” is included as well–essentially a less engaging extension of the first version, minus Eminem. The piano stab filled DJ Clue concoction “What The Beat” with Eminem and Method Man pops up and illustrates Royce’s knack for rolling with top venom spitters, even landing him the track’s final verse after a pair of heavy hitters.

DJ The D must have cojones of steel, because he takes a stab at remixing Royce’s signature DJ Premier produced tune, with ”Boom (RJD2 Beat Mix)”, using breaks from RJD2′s “Ghost Writer”. Though it’s an unpolished recording, Rjd2′s crashing cymbals and rumbling drum kicks add a new spin to the track that landed Royce his biggest buzz to date. Well, actually, the biggest aside from his work with fluffy pop songstress Willa Ford on “I Wanna Be Bad,” where Royce dropped a verse and disgruntled a majority of his fan base. (That tune is wisely excluded here.)

Build also boasts freestyles flipped for Stretch Armstrong and Tony Touch and a pair of sub par Neptunes produced songs, one (“She’s The One”) featuring former pal Eminem. Head to the disc’s secret bonus cut at the conclusion  of side one for “The Way I Be Pimpin’,” a rarely heard tune Royce penned for Dr. Dre that eventually turned into Dre’s “Xxplosive” off his 2001 LP.

For a seemingly likeable guy, it’s somewhat surprising to see how many enemies Royce has amassed over the past few years. Most of these detractors are ruffled by Royce’s mic arrogance and some take issue with his early association and subsequent falling out with Eminem. With Destroy, the set’s second disc, Eminem, Proof, Bizarre, and the D12 clan are all given verbal pummelings within several insult-laden tracks. Royce rails against D-12 over Capone-N-Noreaga & Alchemist’s “Malcolm X (D12 Diss)”. “We gonna beat yo’ ass down,” Royce repeats in the cut where he unapologetically calls Bizarre a “fat, stuttering fuck”, and further laments “Bizarre, say G-G-G-Unit / why don’t you put some extra G’s in it? / I’ve been rolling by your house while you trying to hide / I’ll be on your porch with a cheeseburger trying to lure you outside!” Ouch. Among other solid selections is the neck vibrating, Kanye West produced “Heartbeat” another secret bonus cut that was recorded for Dr. Dre (“The Throne Is Mine’) and Jay Dee’s synthed out “Life Goes On”.

“Renegades” is tossed in for an unexpected treat that Jay-Z supporters will recognize. The Eminem produced song was slated for Royce’s debut LP but never made the cut, allegedly due to pressure from Interscope’s head-honcho Jimmy Iovine. Instead, it was redone for Jay-Z’s Blueprint LP, sans Royce. The original tune is exceptionally similar to the Jigga output and Royce rolls just as smoothly over Em’s aggro synth stabs as Jigga did on his version. Keeping in the theme of reworking cuts, Royce takes 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” beat and jabs his foes with revealing comparisons like, “Me and Eminem like Diddy and Shyne.” After years of bristling talk and innuendo, Royce formally calls out Eminem on “We Riding (Eminem Diss)”, the double disc’s most personal and Royce’s most therapeutic record yet. “It’s like you got a sign on your door that says ‘Keep Out,’” Royce shouts on the tune. “I cant find you no more, I can’t reach out.”  He goes on to matter-of-factly ask, “How the fuck you gonna forget about me nigga?” and
quips this on Em, “Now he famous/’Bout as down to Earth as Uranus.”

With a strong retrospective of aged tracks and loads of unheard compositions, Build and Destroy primes the streets for another Royce full length and brings the stardom he seeks another step closer.

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