Royce 5'9": Layers

Royce 5'9", is he dropping the da or is he just dropping the ball?


- Motor City native, the artist formerly known as Royce da 5'9", has returned after seemingly taking 2015 off. Back now on his musical grind as simply Royce 5'9", the Detroit emcee has morphed in front of our very eyes with the least consequential name change in history.

Before his brief sabbatical, Royce was neck deep in a micro rap career resurgence. His previous outing as one half of PRhyme, alongside hip-hop legend DJ Premier, saw Royce involved in quite simply the best and most realised body of work he's ever put to tape in his, then, fifteen year career.  

Though the stalwart emcee has never fallen off or put out a less than worthy record, Royce has managed to remain on the back burner since day one; forever the hip-hop Robin to Eminem's all encompassing Batman like figure. Whether it was being replaced by Jay-Z on the epic Eminem collaboration Renegade or his sporadic run with Eminem as one half of Bad Meets Evil or even his relatively unsuccessful run with the rap super-group Slaughterhouse, Royce had always failed to break through the butt-hole of, real, unadulterated success.

Refreshed and refocused, now seemed like the time for Royce to pounce into action and solidify himself as a true rap force. It's been five long years since previous solo outing, the slightly ironically titled, Success Is Certain, and studio album number six, Layers, has finally arrived, released in Australia through Hilltop Hoods' very own Golden Era records, their first international release to date.

Hot on the tail of Royce's Truster The Shooter mixtape, a tape less than a month old, Layers see's 5'9" steady out his trajectory and take a slight step back down to Earth. Layers is by no means a bad record. Royce is no doubt an extremely talented emcee with a strong flow and always on point wordplay. But unlike the sub forty minute PRhyme record, Layers clocks in at over an hour and feels overblown and overloaded. It’s 2016 and those cheeky skits need to be abolished. Royce would also fare better if he avoided rapping quite so much about how good at rapping he is, especially when he ventures into the realm of the downright corny. Bars like "I'm so deep I could break up whale fights" do not conjure up much faith in a dude that I know is better than that.

Layers has some absolutely fire tracks but overall is a good couple notches away from being a bonafide classic, bogged down by its own feelings of self importance and instead of the walk off, home run, Royce has settled for another very solid, but not great record that has unfortunately become his calling card. Funnily enough with a bit of quality control and a few tracks replaced by some found on his very recent mixtape, you’d have a good forty-five minutes of great music. It feels more like a missed opportunity than a total misstep and with another studio LP apparently lined up for later this year heres hoping Royce 5’9” finds his feet and makes me look like an overcritical dingus.

- Jay Edwards.


Album Details

Album Title: Layers
Artist: Royce 5'9"
Record Label: (Bad Half / Golden Era)