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FEATURE: Royce Da 5′ 9″, Rejuvenated

For Royce Da 5’9″, the adage “real recognizes real” couldn’t be truer. First linking up with a pre-stardom Eminem back in 1996 to form the lyrical tandem Bad Meets Evil, The Detroit MC has now aligned himself with another set of beat tape abusers—Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I—to create Slaughterhouse. And as the supergroup becomes the talk of every hip-hop fanatic on the Web, Royce has caught his second wind, rocking his digital EP, The Revival, for dolo. He’s continuing his copious output of lava-like one-liners with the third installment of his Bar Exam mixtape, next month’s Slaughterhouse group LP and his fifth album Street Hop tailing in September. Here, Nickel Nine talks Relapse, killing Auto-Tune twice, and traumatizing PETA. Your EP The Revival dropped last week. What were you aiming to bring back?

Royce Da 5’9″: I’m bringing hip-hop back—real hip-hop, real lyrics. Hip-hop is on the operating table taking its last couple breaths and me along with my Slaughterhouse crew is the CPR. We the defibrillators. Fuck all this other shit.

XXL: Who or what, in your opinion, is the murder suspect?

Royce Da 5’9″: Come on, man, you see it. Everybody sees it. I don’t want to start no waves or point fingers, but shit is garbage.

XXL: Jay-Z blames Auto-Tune, which you should know—you rapped over his “D.O.A.” beat twice. Did you expect the Internet heads to call you out for recycling an old verse the first time?

Royce Da 5’9″: I knew what the comments was going to be. [Laughs] I told Joey I wasn’t prepared for Green Lantern. My brain is on overload—we did that [Slaughterhouse] album so fast, I was still finishing up my album [Street Hop], and trying to do Bar Exam 3. I’m a verse manufacturer, all day, every day. I just didn’t have verses fresh in my memory yet. I told Joey, “I’m going to have to spit some shit that niggas already heard.” [He said] “So what, nigga, come on!” So I told myself, I’m just going to body the “D.O.A.” beat again tomorrow.

XXL: Do you think fans should hold rappers to those standards of newness?

Royce Da 5’9″: I don’t think people take into consideration what’s going on. Back in the day when I was doing radio with [Eminem], we’d go through the same three or four verses all over the country. Now, the second you say it, it’s video and audio documented on the ’Net, and you can never say it again. Then they bashed Drake for rhyming off his Blackberry at the station. This is a human brain we’re talking about. How do you expect niggas to memorize all this shit so fast? Niggas be drinking and shit. I don’t think it’s fair, but it is what it is.

XXL: Speaking of Eminem, what’d you think of Relapse?

Royce Da 5’9″: It’s not my favorite, but I think people were just criticizing his album because he set the bar so high. He’s desensitized the human ear. Now you’re listening to him with so much bias. But if you take yo’ head out your ass and really listen to it, that’s a great album. Jay-Z is about to have the same problem. It’s nothing that those two men can ever say again that’s going to make people go crazy.

XXL: For a lot of people, it wasn’t what Em was saying, but how he was saying it. Namely, with that accent.

Royce Da 5’9″: I can see what they’re saying about the accent flow. I love when he do that shit. I would’ve liked him to switch it up more. I got my way that I want to hear Marshall rap just like everybody else, because I’m a fan. The fan is automatically stingy. He wants you to be exactly what he wants you to be. Just like people say, “I like the battle-rapping Royce,” or “I like the commercial Royce.” I like to hear Em bite niggas’ heads off. So the accent thing is cool, I just don’t want to hear it as much as the battle Em.

XXL: You completed the Slaughterhouse LP in only a week. How do you think the recording pace affected the quality?

Royce Da 5’9″: Maybe it could be better if we spent a whole lot of time on it, but then again, any longer than a few weeks to a month, we’re over-thinking it. That shit is not rocket science when you get those four individuals in that booth. I do every Bar Exam in two weeks, and that’s just my own shit. I think it’s good that we did it fast. It’s definitely a classic album—that took no thought.

XXL: We interviewed Crooked I recently, and he suggests that we give the group a XXL cover. What would be your ideal concept for the shoot?

Royce Da 5’9″: Yeah, we need to be on that cover, man. What else in hip-hop are people excited about? This is what I wanted to do for the album cover—some fucking bloody shit, where we’re standing in a slaughterhouse with pig heads all over the place and chainsaws. Some racy, edgy, crazy-looking shit, where we don’t care about the animal-rights activists.

XXL: Graphic. We also got Joell Ortiz to relay a question to you. He asks, if there were another four MCs that could compete with Slaughterhouse, who would they be?

Royce Da 5’9″: Only the greats, you can’t compare nobody else to us. We’ll chop their fucking heads off. I say Jay-Z, Eminem, Nas and Jesus Christ. That’s my four. I’m dead fuckin’ serious. I think they’ll take us—because Jesus is in there. [Laughs]

XXL: Will Slaughterhouse be only for the purists—an album worth of punchline-packed 16s?

Royce Da 5’9″: We stayed true to what we’re known for, but ended up with records that I think radio will fuck with. All four of us can make records, so when we get together, what do you think we gon’ do? It’s definitely not going to just be us kicking verses back to back to back for a whole album… it’s going to be bigger than people see.—John Kennedy

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