Slight Work
New projects with Eminem, DJ Premier and Slaughterhouse are making Royce Da 5'9" a busy man.
Words Dan Rys

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

Some rappers are afraid to put their talents on the line on the highest level. For Royce Da 5'9", that’s another day at the office. Between working on a fresh Slaughterhouse album and appearing on Fuse's four-part weekly battle rap series, Road To Total Slaughter, the Detroit MC has also gotten back in the studio with Eminem and formed a new group, PRhyme, with DJ Premier, which will be dropping an LP this December. The hustle don’t stop.

XXL: How’s the Slaughterhouse album coming?
Royce Da 5'9": It’s coming along really good. We’re all being really nitpicky. We have an executive producer this time, Just Blaze, and we’ve got Marshall [Mathers a.k.a. Eminem] involved, of course, ’cause we signed to Shady Records. We gotta please everybody, and make sure that everybody feels that it’s up to par, ’cause we feel like our fans expect a lot out of us. The music is coming out a lot more personal and a lot more diverse. It feels different; better than it ever has.

What is it about battle rap that draws you in?
It’s a gladiator thing. It’s where I started. When I first put pen to pad, I did it competitively; I didn’t feel the need to express how I felt about women, or rapping about a whole bunch of shit that I had, ’cause I didn’t have anything. It was about the art form, I’m better than you. And that was pretty much my entry into music. That was how I fell in love with it. When I see these guys and the level they took it to, I’m drawn to it. It’s like watching boxing for me.

What has Shady Records meant to your career?
It means everything. I came into the game with Marshall; I came into the game basically on his back. He gave me my start by putting me on his first album. There always was a correlation between myself and Shady Records, whether I was speaking to Marshall or not. [Laughs] Symbolic Royce Da 5’9” in every way—negatively and positively.

How did the group with DJ Premier start?
We originally were supposed to do it with Slaughterhouse, and it didn’t pan out for a number of reasons. So I ended up getting on the phone with Preem and just asking him how he felt about just me and him doing it based off of our schedules.

Being sober, you have to find things that inspire you in order to truly do it. You lose interest in things, man. Like, you’ve been going to the studio for 20 years, rapping. [Laughs] Now it’s like, okay, you have to find something that drives you to the studio. So this was that thing. Any opportunity that I get to be able to work with Premo, I try to take it. I’ve been working with him on every single album, no matter what the situation is. So once we got three or four songs in, it was starting to feel like the stars were lining up. Everything started falling into place, and I’m into that. So I was like, alright, cool. And by the time we got to nine [songs], that was it. It was like, if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.

DJ Premier hasn’t been in a group since Gang Starr. Was that weird for you?
It still is a little bit. And it’s only when we go down that road with the comparisons. I try to avoid that at all costs, and I try to big up Guru—God rest his soul—as much as I can. We look at it like we’re kind of continuing the legacy. I don’t feel in my heart that I’m doing anything that he wouldn’t 100 percent approve of. So we just move like that.