Royce Da 5’9” And DJ Premier Feel Rejuvenated On ‘PRhyme’
With a collective fifty years of experience in the game, millions of albums sold and countless projects under their belts, 37-year-old Royce Da 5’9” and 48-year-old DJ Premier have seen it all. Their respective careers have seen such massive success that declaring they have hit their prime this late seems a bit far-fetched. But, with honest lyricism from Royce and some of Preemo's best production in years, the MC-producer duo back the statement with a re-energized and reborn sound on their collab nine-track effort, PRhyme.
PRhyme opens with a bang as Royce and Premier set the tone for what’s to come on the title track. Royce, who has been bodying verses as part of the Shady Records collective, Slaughterhouse, proves early that he still has the lyrical chops to shine on his own records. The rapper, who is a recovering alcoholic, is introspective and open about struggling with booze and getting help from Eminem (“Marshall said that I’d be a problem if I get my shit right / That ‘if’ is probably the biggest ‘if’ I ever live by").
After the hard opening track, the project flows beautifully into “Dat Sound Good,” which is a ceremonial passing of the torch of sorts as young MCs Ab-Soul and Mac Miller each get a guest sixteen. While Royce is his usual lyrical beast on the opening verse, Ab and Mac steal the show. Soulo sounds right at home over Premier’s drum loops and scratching while Mac spits venom with lines like “Bought a Mercedes with money I raised for Haiti,” and “Abducted Brenda’s Baby and sold it to a gay couple.”
“U Looz” encompasses everything PRhyme stands for: bone-shattering rhymes over heart-stopping beats. The chemistry Royce and Preem display is impressive, but 5’9” quickly puts an end to any thoughts that PRhyme could be the next Gang Starr—the legendary group consisting of Premo and the late-great Guru (“And this is for the real hip-hop ni**as / Who will never ever ever ask me am I here to replace Guru”). The project rolls on with the Dwele-aided “You Should Know” and “Courtesy” before Common joins the fold for “Wishin’.” After going in with bars like “I bought my bitch an ass then wrote it off on my taxes / Listed it as an independent backing like Macklemore,” Royce channels Jay Z’s “A Million And One Questions / Rhyme No More” by spitting “Muthafuckas can’t rhyme no more about rhyme no more” as Premier flips the beat. The instrumental changes again as Common hops on for a standout verse. Throughout the track and project, Royce sprinkles in bars from some of Premier’s most-famous produced tracks including The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick In The Door,” the aforementioned “A Million and One Questions,” and Nas’ “Nas Is Like.”
On “To Me, To U” Jay Electronica teases fans waiting for his long anticipated solo venture with another verse. Killer Mike and ScHoolboy Q pop up on “Underground Kings” and the project closes with Rocye’s Slaughterhouse brethren joining the party for four minutes of straight bars on “Microphone Preem.”
While Premier comes correct with the beats and Royce should be applauded for some of his most personal verses, the unsung hero of PRhyme is Adrian Younge. For those who are unfamiliar, Younge is a multi-talented composer, producer and arranger out of LA. The musician was responsible for Ghostface Killah’s outstanding 12 Reasons To Die album and has worked with everyone from The Delfonics to Jay Z and Souls Of Mischief. On PRhyme, Premier was put to the task of only using samples from Younge’s catalog. The result is some of Preem's most notable work in years and a boom-bap sound that strays from today’s popular bass-heavy, electronic beats.
As impressive as PRhyme is, the project does have its flaws. While it was nice to throw Royce's fellow Detroit native Dwele on a track, the fit seems out of place considering the rest of the album is full of songs for more hardcore hip-hop fans. Premier comes through with great production but some of the loops can get tiring. And with lyrics like “I’ll rock one of them baggy ass Tracy McGrady suits” on “To Me, To You” and “Somebody nudge the reverend / Tell him I’m selling a white girl like I’m Starbucks, Uggs and leggings” on "Dat Sound Good," some of the content on PRhyme feels dated.
These are minor complaints, though, and PRhyme is the perfect alternative for listeners who are tired of juvenile lyriscim, mud sippers and unintelligible hooks.—Peter Walsh