Royce The 5'9" Created His Own Lane By Entering The Music Industry As A Fan
From an illustrious and distinguished solo career to collaborations projects with DJ Premier (Phryme) and Eminem (Bad Meets Evil) and super group Slaughterhouse, Royce Da 5’9 has seen and done it all. From his appearance on Eminem’s Bad Meets Evil in 99 to his first solo release ‘Rock City’ in 2002, Royce quickly established himself as one of the premier lyricists in the game, bar for bar. The legendary Detroit rapper is constantly evolving to reach new heights as an artist.
His latest album ‘Book of Ryan’, however, had Royce Da 5’9 showcasing a different side of himself, with his most introspective project of his career. Touching on issues such sobriety, addiction, family and more, this album allowed the fans to see a different side of Royce, though still filled with bangers like ‘Caterpillar’ and ‘Dumb’. About to begin his first ever solo tour of Australia later this month, we spoke to Royce about the album, Detroit hip-hop, working with DJ Premier and more, Victor McMillan writes.
Your latest album ‘Book of Ryan’ touched on some very personal issues throughout, how difficult was it for you both writing those tracks and then putting them out to the public?
It was a little bit of a process. When you set out to do an album you kind of know what it’s going to sound like and you are kinda waiting to hear what you’ve been hearing in your head, so it took me like 5 years to get to that place where I felt like I said everything I needed to say and I said in a way that was respectful. I talked about and touched on a lot of things that also involve us as people as well. I just had to take the time to make sure I did things the proper way and the way I needed to do so it was a long process, definitely the longest process that I’ve ever done.
The album had a very cinematic in a sense that it was telling your life story, what led to wanting to put out this type of project at this point of your career?
It’s one of those things man where its art you know what I’m sayin’. Us artists that are really about the actual art form of it it’s kind of like natural so I try to never force it. When I did the Book of Ryan it was at a time where it was time, that’s just what came out. I had been fully sober so a lot of memories started to hit me, a lot of memories that I didn’t really ever think I’d think of again, so it just kind of like started spilling out of me, I couldn’t really help it.
I went a lot of years rapping with not really rapping much about my personal self, not really letting people in but you know I was more focused on my techniques and shit like that. I just felt like I reached a point where it was just time, I was ready to talk about, I was ready from my new sobriety so I figured what better time than now to tell it all at once.
In the piece you wrote ‘Why I Quit Drinking’ you stated that you felt like were at rock bottom even though financially you were at your peak, do you think this an important message to others that mental health and success are always not synonymous?
Hopefully people take heed and pay attention to it. Unfortunately man this is one of those kind of games and one of those kind of businesses where the younger guys are gonna just do what they’re gonna do. I feel like as their elder statesman I’m failing them If I don’t warn them you know what I mean like it’s not fair for me to go through all these things and learn and be able to survive everything I’ve survived. I don’t believe that god put me in this position for free I believe it was for me to share information. If they choose to take it or not it’s up to them, I can’t really make them, you know, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Everybody kind of matures when they’re ready but I lay it out for everybody, every chance I get, everything that the game offers you and that the game tells you comes with the business and that the game tells you I lay it out, so hopefully they take heed (laughs).
Your work with DJ Premier has created some of the most seminal tracks and projects of your career, how did you first connect and what is it about the duo that works so well?
We connected way back in the day just like as a fan, I always wanted to work with Preme so quite naturally he was one of the first guys I reached out to producer wise when I signed my first deal. When we first started working together we did a couple of tracks over the course of a couple of albums and we just starting getting cool. I feel like that’s the key to any good producer, like beat making is one thing but producing is like there is a psychology to it, there’s a certain comfortable space and if you have the right personality you can put the artist in and that’s when the magic happens. When you feel connected to somebody you know, you just keep working with them, it’s like Em won’t stop working with Dre, Timbaland won’t stop working with 50. I found success whenever I went in there with him, I never had to force nothing and it was always easy work so we just kept it going.
Ever since your debut album ‘Rock City’ you have championed your hometown city of Detroit, how have you seen the progression of Detroit hip-hop over the years to today?
I think its great man I think we’re in a good space. We came from a long bumpy road, I think where we are today there’s a lot of doors open and there’s a lot of young artists that are very smart, very business minded, making good decisions and making great music so they are representing us well. There’s really nothing I can complain about in that regard I mean I’m really happy. I wish we had maybe a little more unity but I’m nitpicking at that point. We came from total separation you know, so I’m glad to see some unity and I’m glad to see multiple guys from different camps in different situations at the same time to where it’s not like one guy is putting everybody on. In my era all of us kind of fell up under Marshall’s umbrella but it’s not like that now, it’s more spread out and that’s really something I’ve always wanted to see, it was like that with Motown, there were all kinds of people all over the place
The music industry has changed a lot over recent years, how have you found navigating through it in its current state?
I don’t really navigate man you know, I’m just not as concerned as everybody else needs to be I just don’t understand what there is to be concerned about. We came in the business as fans, listening to the music we like and we don’t listen to the music we don’t like you know. A lot of the shit they’re doing now they aren’t making it for me but I’m not a professional athlete man you know I’m a poet. The way that my mind works, the way that I think, this doesn’t spoil. I’m not worried about spraining my ankle or tearing a hamstring so I don’t really care like there’s so god is not creating a younger artist that can fuck with me so they need to work on that. My thing is more so trying to do what I can to develop these guys because the whole development part of the game in general is out of the window now, it’s all about paying attention to numbers, dollars and streams and shit like that so these dudes are missing out on a lot of development, they can be a lot better than they are as artists. There’s probably only a handful of guys that could go to funk flex, spit a freestyle and kill it, they don’t even have raps in their catalogue, they’re literally programmed to make songs for the radio and that’s totally not the way to go.
If you see a lack of originality or dedication to the art happening does it give you more motivation to hone your own craft?
I mean I’ve always been motivated to hone my craft. When I got into the game I was a late bloomer, I didn’t really know much besides how to rap a good verse so I did all my development in the game, so I always want to do better. I’ve never really looked at other people and said that makes me want to get better.
This will be your first ever solo headline tour of Australia, what can the fans over here expect?
A lot of energy man, a lot of energy. The last time I was in Australia I had a blast, the shows were fucking great and the fans were awesome, the energy was amazing, I just can’t wait, I can’t wait, I’m going to bring everything I’ve got.
What Stimulates Your Soul?
My daughters, you know I come to the studio and I literally spend days here so when I go back home I feel like I just walked into the house like it’s a vacation. I look at my daughters and I feel like I’m actually getting away from the business, so it’s definitely my soul stimulation.
ROYCE 5’9” is headed to Australia for his first ever headline shows!
ROYCE 5’9” December 2018 Australian Tour Dates:
Friday 14th – Sydney – Manning Bar
Saturday 15th – Brisbane – Eatons Hill
Sunday 16th – Byron Bay – The Northern
Wednesday 19th – Adelaide – HQ
Thursday 20th – Melbourne – Stay Gold
Friday 21st – Melbourne – Max Watts
Saturday 22nd – Perth – Capitol
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