Say what you will about Royce Da 5’9″, the proud Detroit rapper is easily one of the industry’s most confident MCs, even if his spotty discography says otherwise. As a member of Slaughterhouse, he’s one-fourth of a hardcore collective, injecting twisted humor and sadistic thoughts into a dense array of dark production. On his own, Royce is a little more relaxed, still peppering his verses with sophisticated metaphors and notable punchlines, although the message is slightly less abrasive.
He’s also very candid: “Roller coaster of a career/Hope it’s been real for you, cause it’s been weird for me,” Royce rhymes on the reflective “I’ve Been Up I’ve Been Down”, the concluding song to Success Is Certain. And Royce doesn’t shy away from the past, whether he’s addressing previous disagreements with Eminem and D12, or interacting with fans on his active Twitter feed. What you see is what you get, and you won’t always like the visual. Still, you can’t help but take a listen.
Such is the dilemma of Royce’s new album, an efficient, yet uneven one that showcases his undeniable flair for clever vernacular. Punch lines aside, some of these songs have interesting concepts, while others are questionable at best. “Security”, meant as a dedication to slain rapper Proof, is a clunky stab at reflective storytelling and totally misses the mark. “My Own Planet”, featuring Slaughterhouse member Joe Budden, has potential as a lyrically potent girl track, yet it struggles with a synth-heavy, Prince-influenced ’80s pop beat.
On “ER”, however, Royce and frequent collaborator Kid Vishis compare hip-hop to a patient in emergency surgery. Here, Vishis raps: “Miss me wit the skinny jeans and Uggs/Fuck outta here, I ain’t feelin’ you.” Meanwhile, “Writer’s Block”, featuring Eminem on the hook, is sarcastic and playful, exploring the concept of writer’s block over glitzy percussion. In the end though, the product feels like an unfocused collection of songs, hampered somewhat by shoddy production that fails to emphasize the MC’s shining moments, leaving one to question what could have been if Royce had a stronger soundtrack. There’s some resemblance of a decent album in there, buried underneath the flashy references and charming insults.