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Royce Da 5’9”, Success Is Certain

“Better later than never” has applied to few more aptly than Royce Da 5’9”. Public discord with co-conspirator Eminem, ghost writing controversies and jail time gave the Detroit MC’s career more false starts than a deaf track athlete. Unfazed, Royce joined forces with Crooked I, Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz—all lyrically outstanding outcasts in their own right—to form Slaughterhouse. The crew and its members eventually clawed their way back to the majors with to a heavily hyped deal with Shady Records, resuscitating Royce’s decades-long partnership with Marshall in the process. Now experiencing a career renaissance courtesy of his first chart-topping album, Hell: The Sequel, alongside Slim Shady, Nickel Nine drops his latest opus, Success Is Certain.

Far removed from the depressively dark overtones of its 2004 prequel Death Is Certain, Success finds a revitalized Royce more focused than ever before, and that vigor is evident from the album’s jumpoff, “Legendary.” Anchored by Travis Barker’s frenetic drums the rock-tinged track fuels Royce’s aggressively relaxed bars, as he spits, “You can find me under a black cloud, I’m a dark star/Only thing I hate worse than a mark is a marked car,” before trading ferocious bars with his Bad Meets Evil compatriot on the haunting “Writer’s Block.”

Maybe influenced by Marshall himself, Royce has learned to channel his loquacious voracity into a controlled rage, and the end result is perhaps his most complete body of work. From the autobiographical double-time spit of “Merry Go Round” to the social commentary of hip-hop’s state of affairs on “Where My Money,” there is rarely a dull moment on Success Is Certain. Equal parts introspection and braggadocio, this is Royce at his finest hour. He puts it best on the DJ Premier-produced “Second Place”: “Oh my god, I was just in jail/Then the devil caught pneumonia, and it made me sick as hell.” —Meka Udoh

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