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Hip-Hop: PRhyme Delivers Realness, But Falls Short

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The purpose of “PRhyme” was to combine two of hip hop’s most respected craftsmen on one project.  The legendary DJ Premier and Royce Da 5’9.

DJ Premier is without a doubt, one of the greatest producers in the history of hip hop.  Being one half of the DJ/MC group Gangstarr (with the late Guru), Premier set a standard for that “gritty” sound which many wanted as their own in the ’90s.  Premier has made classic records for not only himself but also the likes of AZ, Big L, Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West and even Christina Aguilera.

There was a point I can remember that if an artist was on the come-up – they would do whatever it took to get a beat from Premier.  DJ Premier’s production was so good, it even made artist like Group Home, sound like legit rap superstars although their talent level was way below average. . .

When it comes to MC’ing – Royce Da 5’9 is way above that.

Not many can go line-for-line with Eminem, but Royce seemingly does it with ease.  He has been around just as long as Eminem but Royce’s road was not as fortunate.  Bad relationships, bad deals and Royce’s own missteps kept Royce no higher than the underground for most, or even all, of his career.

Royce has been a steady worker and now after two releases with the rap group Slaughterhouse and releasing the certified gold EP, “Hell: The Sequel” with Eminem – Royce has found new life in his music.

His fan-base is a dedicated one and it has only grown over the last few years.

(Photo by John Ricard/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Ricard/Getty Images)

The “PRhyme” project opens with the title track which brings trademark Premier scratches over a hard snare and bluesy bassline.   Royce declares in the chorus how it doesn’t matter how long he’s in the rap game because he’s in his “permanent prime.”  Royce likes to “pull the skirt” up on the hip hop audience with lines like : “I‘m running this race all by myself / My competition is in the selfie olympics.”

Chicago’s own, Common has a guest appearance on the track “Wishin’” which displays a DJ Premier trademark of switching up the beat as if in a live cypher moment. Like a true MC, Royce’s natural desire to be a best on a track shines when he’s around others who can spit “So tomorrow, in hindsight, if you an artist, death’s near / the fans know / What you draw falls on deaf ears like Van Gogh.”

“You Should Know” shows Royce at his sharpest on the album.  Royce is an MC who has worn the title of underachiever throughout his career, while also bearing to the listener his alcoholism and infidelity, which unlike other rappers, he actually is embarrassed about.

On “You Should Know” Royce gives the listener, or future mic wielder, lessons about the rap game in terms of labels leading you down the wrong path and also to redefine his position as one who is confident to knock anyone off of their pedestal. Royce is that pure MC and displays it effortlessly : “I don’t know why ya’ll so highly regarded / you rhyme like you’re borderline mildly retarded  . . . fuck you and your damn charts and your crowd participation / I’m putting a land mine under your stage, hand his place raining fan parts / and called that shit crowd participation.”

The issue some have with Royce is that he tends to stretch out metaphors or reaches too deep in a rhyme scheme or delivery to make his point at times.  He does this on the track “Courtesy,” : “How you looking like beef jerky, beefin in every verse / but never beefin in person? Randy Savage / you wouldn’t snap a slim jim / you wouldn’t rip a wrapping on a Christmas in Santa’s attic / with the hands of Eddie Scissors, ain’t you average?” — It’s moments like these that make the listener go “I get it. . . I think?”

At first glance it seems as if there are too many features on an EP that many thought would be purely an opportunity to hear Royce and  only Royce over Premier beats, but the features don’t disappoint – for the most part. After Royce and Ab-Soul handle their business on “Dat Sound Good” – they give Mac Miller clean up duties on the third verse and he goes in with lines like “. . . I’m goin’ crazy / bought a Mercedes with money I raised for Haiti / abducted Brenda’s baby, sold it to a gay couple / take drugs too, high enough to juggle with some space shuttles.

Unfortunately, the feature that lacks the bang is the Slaughterhouse feature.  The album ends on “Microphone Preem” in which DJ Premier supplies a beat that sounds like a toned down version of Jay-Z and M.O.P’s “Put it In the Air” and comes with an all out “eh” effort from Royce’s band-mates, Joell Ortiz, Crooked-I and Joe Budden.

Fans of Premier and Royce, will listen to the album hoping for some grand finale and be highly disappointed.

PRhyme delivers for those that want to hear “rappers rap.”  What that means is, don’t expect any kind of story to be told or ground to be broken.  The “hip hop head” in you will appreciate the rawness and realness of the record but after a few listens the novelty will wear off.

Maybe a longer release would’ve done them some good because then Royce might’ve gone deeper into his demons, as he’s done many times before and exhibit his brand of story telling.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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