If the Internet age has proven to be a blessing for underground rappers, Royce Da 5í9Ē is the perfect case study. While his initial albums did not penetrate the mainstream threshold, for a few years it was only his unrelenting tour schedule and online presence that kept the Nickel Nine name alive outside the Midwest.
Being locked up for several months in 2006 for a DUI conviction didnít help his career, but teaming back up with DJ Premier for the acclaimed Bar Exam mixtape in 2007 put Royce back into the limelight, and into the ears of a generation that may not have memorized ďBoomĒ while gaming Grand Theft Auto 3.
Aside from releasing the second installment of his Bar Exam series for free and prepping his first studio album in years, the King of Detroit was in New Jersey for two weeks last month recording with rival-turned-rhyme partner Joe Budden, and organizing, Slaughterhouse, what could be the most lyrically potent project of 2009.
With two Slaughterhouse tracks and the DJ Premier-produced ďShake ThisĒ already circulating online and generating a hefty buzz, everybody wants to know when any full-length project involving Royce will be available. As it turns out, sooner than you thought.
AllHipHop.com: You were recently in New Jersey recording and getting the Slaughterhouse project worked out. I know Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz were there, but did Crooked I end up there as well?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Yeah he got on a plane and met us in New York. I donít know if you heard the new joint thatís out called ďOnslaught,Ē but when he came out thatís when we recorded that song. Crooked was actually in before we even had that meeting at Buddenís house you might have seen on the net, so he was ready to get on the plane and come in to record some s**t. But we started like six different songs already.
AllHipHop.com: So you figured that if all four of you guys could meet up and lock yourselves away for a couple weeks that the project could be completed?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Thatís the plan, but we gotta focus on our respective projects first. Ortiz has a project coming out through Koch, Budden has the Padded Room coming out through Amalgam Digital, I got Street Hop coming out through M.I.C./Orchard/One Records, and Crooked just dropped the Block Obama 2. And me and Buddens are going on the road for the next two months with D12, and weíll be back right after Christmas. So realistically, if could get a couple weeks after I get home to finish my project, Iíll start writing for the Slaughterhouse project.
AllHipHop.com: Itís kind of crazy how quickly you and Budden went from trading a couple shots on your mixtapes to connecting in person and getting in the studio.
Royce Da 5í9Ē: It was just a misunderstanding man, a miscommunication, which happens a lot. At the end of the day real recognize real, and thereís more strength in numbers. It makes more sense to build something together. And we been banging s**t out. We mostly just got around each other and started doing s**t, and it turned into every day. I think our personalities kind of mix with each other, know what I mean?
AllHipHop.com: Yeah. If you looked at what the majority of people were saying about you guys a few weeks back, there was the hope that you guys would do exactly that instead of making dis records.
Royce Da 5í9Ē: We both get that too.
AllHipHop.com: Were you handling any other business while you were in the New York area?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: It was mostly recording, but there were a few meetings. We also shot the video for a new joint I got called ďPart Of Me.Ē Itís off the Street Hop album that will be released by March. A lot of what I had recorded over the past year for Street Hop actually leaked out, so I had to go back and start recording new s**t. Itís been a work in progress for a long time, but I actually shifted gears during the work on that project to start the Bar Exam 2, so I put everything aside to do that. I took a couple weeks to do that, and now Iím back in album mode.
AllHipHop.com: Speaking of Bar Exam 2, how did you decide to do it with Green Lantern instead of Statik Selektah?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Well Green is like my man, and the theme of it is to use a different DJ every time. So next time weíll go with somebody else. If I was to go off strict relationship, Iíd use Preem every time cause heís like my brother. But I definitely wanted to switch it up. Iíll probably go with Drama or somebody like that next time around. I want the theme to be a different DJ every time. Green definitely laced me, and I think he was really able to keep up with the momentum that the first Bar Exam already had going.
AllHipHop.com: And in terms of momentum, itís been a great year for Detroit artists.
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Yeah Iím proud of everybody from the D, cause they all stepping up in a major way, all at the same time. Overall itís a good look for us. We got Elzhi, Black Milk, Marv One still ainít came out yet, King Gordy, D12 still holding down their spot. Iím about to hit the road with D12, and Obie Trice was supposed to be coming with us, but he had some problems getting into Canada. But weíll be gone for two months with Budden and Classified, so thatís a good look too. Weíve got the whole month of November in Canada, and then weíre in China for four days, and then weíre in Europe for the whole month of December. Iím definitely excited to get on stage with them. D12 and I did a reunion show in Detroit a couple months back. It was good time, a lotta photos and reminiscing, good response from the audience, just a good feel all the way around.
AllHipHop.com: I want to reminisce for a minute. Death Is Certain has certifiable classic status in a lot of circles, but the follow-up M.I.C. mixtape album is probably youíre most overlooked effort. The lead track ďBuzzinĒ was the first time where I remember hearing the Ďblackout flowí that youíve developed and become most known for. Do you remember feeling like you were on another level recording those M.I.C. tracks?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Not that I was trying to outdo Death Is Certain, cause that was just a reflection of where I was at that moment. Death Is Certain was probably my most crazy as an individual at that moment. Iíve calmed down a lot since then, but I was on a whole other page at that time because of what was going on in my life. When I went in there with the M.I.C. mixtape, we was just trying to go in there collectively as a group. It was me trying to give my group shine, put them up on a pedestal, and bring them along in terms of developing. That really was the plan, and it just kind of came out like ďill Royce,Ē and that was kind of the beginning of the end of D-Elite and all that. [Laughs]
So that was basically my mindframe, the same mindframe I always have when I go in the studio. Sometimes I nail it, sometimes I donít, but I always try and take it that extra little bit further.
Even with what Iím doing now, Iím trying to s**t on the Bar Exams. The reception to [Bar Exam 2] is real good, everybody thinks itís the best s**t since sliced bread, but to me it was just a project that I went and did in two weeks, easy. All I did was grab a bottle of Patron on my way to the studio, take my little brother Vishis with me, crack the bottle open and press record. I was thinking that Iíve got to make every line dope, I was just doing what came naturally to me. So I really didnít put a lot of effort into that project, so itíll be that effort times 10 with Street Hop. And then what Iím doing with Joe and them as well, cause they pushing me lyrically. I canít write the same old s**t if Iím in the studio with them. Weíre all into pushing each other.
AllHipHop.com: With the Bar Exam series there is some original stuff, but often youíve been taking the Top 40 beats and rather than just freestyling, youíre actually creating your own song. Does that come from a motivation to show people that you can do the Ďhit recordí under the right circumstances?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Man thatís exactly what it is. I want to be compared to whoís song it was originally. Not in a negative way, I just want people to compare. I want them to hear me and listen to the creativity that put into an existing record, and form their own judgment off of that. And so far itís been a pretty good formula, because Iíve been putting peopleís songs in the coffin. Thatís basically what my plan is.
AllHipHop.com: You get any calls from those artists?
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Yeah Iíve spoken with a few artists. Ever since I started leaking songs to the net and doing the mixtapesque freestyles, Iíve heard from a few artists. And I definitely think Iíve found the path I want to be on in terms of where I want to go with this rap music. I think that Iím on a good path now and Iím going to stick to this for a couple of years. I ainít even about to be concerned with radio and all that s**t that artists get headaches trying to think about. Iím just going to keep doing what I do, and so far everything has been coming to me. So I think radio is going to have to come to me eventually, they wonít have a choice.
ďNow that I know thereís not a problem between [me & Eminem] anymore and we back cool again, we can kick it and he can talk about his daughter and I can talk about my new daughter. Thatís what Iím looking for. The songs and all of that s**t can happen, or it doesnít have to happen, it doesnít matter to me. It would be good if it did, cause Iím sure we can go in there and give Hip-Hop lovers a f**king orgasm with what we would do, but thatís secondary.Ē
AllHipHop.com: The rumor mill is always churning stuff about you. A while back we were hearing about Nas wanting to sign you, then it was Diddy after you wrote for him. The latest buzz is now that youíre back building with D12, you and Eminem might be getting back into the studio.
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Naw, we havenít been in the studio. We actually only had a few conversations as of recently. And we havenít even talked about recording with each other. Like I said before, my concern with him at this point is not even about getting in the studio and recording records, itís about maintaining our friendship which was there from the very beginning. Itís gotten to a point now where his friendship is more important to me than me and him getting back in the studio and actually doing Bad Meets Evil and all that.
Now that I know thereís not a problem between us anymore and we back cool again, we can kick it and he can talk about his daughter and I can talk about my new daughter. Thatís what Iím looking for. The songs and all of that s**t can happen, or it doesnít have to happen, it doesnít matter to me. It would be good if it did, cause Iím sure we can go in there and give Hip-Hop lovers a f**king orgasm with what we would do, but thatís secondary. So where we are in terms of rebuilding our relationship Iím comfortable with. Normally when youíre dealing with a guy like myself and Em, once the friendship is in place everything else comes along easily.
AllHipHop.com: Another project that weíve heard may happen in the next year is a collaboration between you, Black Milk and Elzhi.
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Thatís another thing thatís been discussed to the point where we know itís going to happen, itís just about figuring out when weíre going to do it. Elzhi is busy, heís got a lot of other group projects in the works too, so itís about when we are both going to be at home for a couple weeks or a month at the same time. And Black has gotta come to the table with about 30 beats and we can just go ahead and get it in. But we might as well go ahead and let the Tronic album do what it do, Elzhiís The Preface too, and after my album comes out it can be anything.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us something about what people can expect from Street Hop. We know itís got the usual beats from Nottz, Six July and PremierÖ
Royce Da 5í9Ē: Street Hop will have a few people on it that people probably wouldnít expect. But Preem is definitely doing his executive producer thing on it. Heís actually flying to meet up with me on some of the tour dates in Canada, cause he still wants to do at least three more new ones for the album. Me and Preem got a lot of s**t we sitting on, but when Preem tells you, ďWe gonna do new stuff,Ē we gonna do new stuff. I donít know exactly what date heíll fly out cause heís finishing up on the road too, but as soon as he does heís going to actually get on the tour bus with me, and in each city weíre going to book a studio and bang s**t out.