Royce Da 5’9” Interview
|Artist:||Royce da 5'9"|
|Next Project:||Street Hop|
|Twitter:||Royce da 5'9" on Twitter|
|Website:||Royce da 5'9"'s Website|
Though music-lovers nationwide are currently holding their breath in anticipation of a certain 8 Mile native’s long-awaited Relapse, Em certainly isn’t the only rapper looking to put Motown back on the hip-hop map in 2009—one Detroit icon with equally big plans for the year is veteran emcee Royce Da 5’9”, who’s preparing to take his career to new heights with the spring release of Street Hop, his first studio album since ‘05’s Independent’s Day.
Though we’ve only had the opportunity to hear one cut off the forthcoming LP, DJ Premier-produced lead single “Shake This,” that record’s already built plenty of buzz in and out of the Booth with its involving lyrics and old-school sound. In addition to his impending solo project, Royce has been making waves with his work as one-fourth of recently-formed supergroup Slaughterhouse.
In an exclusive interview with our own “DJ” Z, Royce Da 5’9” steps into the Booth to discuss how he thinks hip-hop’s gone astray in recent years, which Slaughterhouse member he considers his stiffest competition, and the one vice so near and dear to him that he’s not sure he even wants to shake it off.
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Royce da 5'9" Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Motown emcee whose arsenal of lyrical ammunition will be sprayed at hip-hop fans across the globe this spring with the release of his brand new album, Street Hop. Please welcome Royce Da 5’9”—how you doin’?
Royce: I’m good, Z. That was one hell of an introduction!
DJ Booth: Thank you, I appreciate that—I worked long and hard on it, kinda like you do with your music, so I think that’s fair.
Royce: [laughs] Right, okay.
DJ Booth: Last we spoke, unbelievably, was November of ‘04. I was doing college radio at the time. You had just dropped your Make It Count mixtape. We discussed the politics of your label dealings, and the politics of this country. Needless to say, a lot has changed on both fronts over the last four years, huh?
Royce: Boy, has it ever! It’s crazy—the game is all the way in the reverse of where it was in ‘04, and so is the country! [laughs]
DJ Booth: When I asked you about that election outcome, which had George Bush defeating John Kerry, you said, “It proves that we can only do so much.” Obviously, that was the sentiment at the time. Ironically, the reverse meaning of that statement is actually what got President Obama into office—would you agree?
Royce: Yeah, I agree with that; George Bush did so terribly at his job that you had so many people that were just willing to see what the opposite of him would be like, and that’s Barack Obama. Him getting into office and stinking up the country like he did was a blessing.
DJ Booth: Other than the excitement over the new President, everyone’s excited because, this past fall, you dropped Bar Exam II, and coming up this spring you have your brand new album, Street Hop. I’ve only heard one cut, it’s the single, “Shake This,” but it’s got me pretty excited—so, how excited are you, Royce, for the release of this newest addition to your catalog?
Royce: I’m very excited, but I’m very biased as well. I can’t really make any decisions based off of my opinions, ‘cause I’m just lovin’ everything that we have. Me and Keno, we have to have an official creative discussion on what we’re usin’ and what we’re not usin’, and we haven’t gotten to that point yet, because I’m still cutting for another week or two. I’ll put it like this: me and Keno are gonna fall out tryin’ to pick which songs we’re gonna use, that’s how much crazy ammunition [I’ve got]. I had a straight up show-off session last night. I didn’t cut any vocals—I brought people to the studio just to get their opinion to, play stuff, and I could not get one person in the room to tell me that they didn’t like one record. I couldn’t get one person in the studio to say, “Royce, number seven I don’t like.” I was like, “Look, at any time, please tell me if you don’t like stuff!” Have you seen the one scene in the Notorious movie where Puff’s talkin’ to Big, and he was like, “We’re gonna change the world, Biggie Smalls!” The way he referred to him as Biggie Smalls, and you know Puff never referred to Biggie as “Biggie Smalls.” Well, me Keno, when we talk, he’ll be like, “Yo, we can change the world, Royce Da 5’9”!”
DJ Booth: Have you always felt that way, or is that a feeling that’s just come about during the recording of this new project?
Royce: It’s just this project. I’ve had my reservations in the past, but not with this one. This project is my baby. I recently learned how to put my heart and soul into a project. I’ve given everything I had in the past, but I’ve just got more to give now; I’m just puttin’ way more into what I’m doin’. I’m not censoring myself, I’m sayin’ what I wanna say. It’s a beautiful feeling, it’s just freedom of speech, man! That’s a beautiful thing.
DJ Booth: What do you think stopped you from doing that in the past?
Royce: Nothing stopped me, it’s just that I had less to give back then. Just goin’ through life, accumulating experiences, I’m wiser now. It’s about wisdom, it’s more fuel in the fire.
DJ Booth: Well, it’s to everybody’s benefit. The project is executive produced by Primo, who you worked with back in the day on one of my favorite songs of yours, “Boom.” Describe the chemistry that the two of you share in the studio.
Royce: It’s like a big brother, little brother relationship. Contrary to everybody’s belief, I’m the big brother and he’s the little brother. I basically just sit Prim’ down and be like, “Look, Prim’, this is how I want you to make your beats: I want you to lay the kick first, let the metronome, then you lay the snare. Then, after you’ve finished doin’ all that, holla at me and I’ll let you know if I like the beat.” We do it like that. He listens to me, and that’s why it’s a beautiful situation. I love him, love him like a little brother.
DJ Booth: What you just described, that pretty much is not the case with most artists and the producers that they work with, especially when said producers are icons in their field.
Royce: [laughs] Like I said, it’s a big brother, little brother relationship. Me and Prim’, we took it past music—we’ve got a closer relationship than just music, know what I’m sayin’? Anything we do is gonna come out good, because we just connect.
DJ Booth: Without listening to your current single, “Shake This,” one might assume that you tried to create one of these dancefloor, pop radio hits, but the song is about shaking off negative influences. What would you say, throughout your career, has been the hardest negative influence to shake off?
Royce: It’s gotta be drinking—drinking is my vice. It’s the negative influence that I’ve just learned to go ahead and embrace. I’ve found that I can function better if I just go ahead and embrace the fact that I drink too much, and I need to stop. I’ll probably end up on Celebrity Sober House—you ever watch that show on VH1?
DJ Booth: I’m not a reality TV fan myself, sorry.
Royce: Well, me neither, but it’s hard for me not to know about that show, ‘cause I’ll probably end up on it. Probably in about 15 years, though; I’m gonna get a real good run before I end up on that show.
DJ Booth: If you recognize the drinking as a problem right now, how hard is it for you to just-
Royce: It gives me my edge, man. I don’t wanna be a perfect person. When I look on TV and see perfect people, I see people that I don’t like, ‘cause it’s like, “You’re not perfect. There’s something wrong with you, it’s just that the world don’t see it.” I’m really not with that. I’m just about bein’ real, accepting my ills, and accepting the positives about me. And, you know, my positives outweigh my negatives, which makes me a much more tubular dude than you.
DJ Booth: I haven’t heard that word since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. back in the early ‘90s. But, in all seriousness, how do your family and your coworkers and that people that you associate with the closest feel about the drinking that you do in relation to the work that you’re able to do as a musician, as a husband, and as a father?
Royce: It’s real easy for me to be a husband, because I’m not a raging alcoholic; I’m not sittin’ around with my wife drinking. Okay, you’ve got two people: you’ve got Ryan, and you’ve got Royce Da 5’9.” I’m Ryan at home with my family, and when I step out the door, on my way to the studio to create what I think is music perfection, that’s Royce Da 5’9”. So, on my way to doin’ that, I have to stop at the store and grab a bottle; I’ve been in stages where I’m just workin’ out, and I’m goin’ to the studio every day, but I’m tryin’ to get in shape, and I’m not drinking at all, and I’m creating the same music. It just so happens right now I’ve got the arm injury and I can’t work out, so I wanna drink, baby!
DJ Booth: Is it difficult to turn on and off?
Royce: No, not at all. I’ve been doin’ it for, like, 11 years now, and it hasn’t been a clash thus far. That’s probably why I’m not rushing to stop drinking, because it hasn’t affected anything in my personal life, aside from me deciding to get behind the wheel when I’m drunk, which is stupid. I don’t recommend anybody do that, that was just a bad decision that I made, and that’s the only time that it actually affected my personal life, when I caught the DUI.
DJ Booth: Well, let me tell you something: if a little bit of booze helps you create an album with 12 to 14 cuts that sound anything like “Shake This,” I’m all for your continued drinking, in moderation.
Royce: Thank you, thank you. I don’t do anything in moderation, but thank you.
DJ Booth: [laughs] I had to throw the “moderation” word in.
Royce: [laughs] Right, right.
DJ Booth: In the press release that I read for the project, you were reported as saying, “I’m ready to show all these other rappers just how wack they really are.” So, three-part question, we’re gonna have some fun here. First part, what would your definition be of one of these quote unquote “wack rappers?”
Royce: I’m all for controversy, and I can start sayin’ names and stuff like that, but I don’t really want to do that—I’m not in that mood right now. I just think that people don’t try hard. Rappers are not tryin’ hard these days to actually say something lyrically. I think they’re just focused on makin’ sure that it rhymes—if they’re doin’ that—and they’re makin’ something that’s catchy for people to listen to. I just don’t think that’s what hip-hop is based off of; I think hip-hop came from a place where it’s a cerebral sport, and it’s competitive. It’s kind of like when I said the J Hood line, when I said, “You’re a J Hood gun video,” and he got all upset—don’t get upset, just respond back on the record! It’s a competitive sport. It wasn’t a diss, but if you take it as a diss, respond back on the record, and let’s do something for the love of hip-hop. I think hip-hop is straying away from what it was built on, and that’s just bein’ creative. I don’t think people are tryin’ hard enough to be creative anymore.
DJ Booth: Okay, that’s fair. Well, I’ll tell you what isn’t wack, and that’s the newly-formed supergroup that you are a part of, Slaughterhouse. A few weeks ago I spoke with Joe Budden, he joined me inside the DJBooth, and I asked him point blank, has he ever come with a verse, let all of you hear it, and then, after hearing all of your reactions, thought to himself, “Maybe I need to go back in and rewrite this one.” And he said absolutely not, that’s never happened to him. I then asked him, as a follow-up, if that’s happened to anybody else, where someone wrote a verse, spit it in front of everybody, but no one was feeling it, and he said that he was the only member of Slaughterhouse that has not rewritten a verse yet. Can I get a confirmation on this?
Royce: Well, you know what? He’s right in sayin’ that he’s never rewritten a verse, but that’s probably the reason why he’s always gettin’ slaughtered, on every song! You know, Joey is my man, but if you really listen to all the records, and you go, “This verse is first, this verse is second…” he’s comin’ in third or fourth every time. That’s because he’s too stubborn to rewrite. Me, I don’t have a problem rewritin’. The general public, when they listen, they don’t know who rewrote stuff and everything like that. Normally I’m done with my verse first anyway, that’s why you always hear me first on the joint.
DJ Booth: Competition usually breeds the best material, but in some circumstances I think you will agree it also can breed resentment. Describe the dichotomy intimately, if you will, of the personal and working relationships that you four have when you’re creating new music.
Royce: It’s definitely competitive, in the best way that you can think of. Never competitive to the point where we have a problem, or anybody has any type of resentment. The same type of competitiveness that me and Eminem [had]. We’re competitive, tryin’ to bring the best out of each other—it’s the friendliest competition that you could ever imagine. Joey is the main factor. He puts the competitiveness in the group. He’s always havin’ everybody at everybody. Crook is really my only problem in the group. Joey and Ortiz, they’re my light work. I’m Sargent Slaughter, but Crooked is the only one that gives me problems, personally—like, whenever he lays something, I’ll be scared to hear his next line!
DJ Booth: A lot of my coworkers begged me to ask you who you are ghostwriting for these days.
Royce: I’m writing for Diddy right now, that’s pretty much it. I’m so involved with my project, the Slaughterhouse project, that I don’t have much free time to do side stuff. And I don’t even consider Diddy’s project side stuff, I consider that something that’s gotta get done. I’m officially a go-to guy for him; whenever he calls me, I stop what I’m doing, even if I’ve gotta work ‘em at the same time and just get ‘em done.
DJ Booth: When he sends you a check, does he include Sean John clothing and some cologne?
Royce: Yeah, he sends me everything – he sends me some Sean John clothing, Sean John cologne. He sent me a million-dollar check yesterday that I just got. I’ll probably buy you something for Christmas—what do you want?
DJ Booth: Wow… I’m gonna have to get back to you, ‘cause a million dollars can buy a lot of nice sh*t! [laughs] Obviously, we’re only a few months into 2009, but this is gonna be a big year for you. Come the end of the year, what do you hope will have happened?
Royce: I wanna see my project take off. I’m not even talking about no million copies the first week or nothing like that—I wanna personally, independently see myself at about a hundred thousand, and I wanna see the Slaughterhouse project take off. I wanna be on the road constantly with them brothas, and I think we can do something epic together, as a group. I want to be poppin’ champagne, shakin’ hands, and celebratin’.
DJ Booth: Well, let me tell you something: I would love to join you for that celebration, ‘cause hopefully that’s what happens. Royce, give everybody your website or your MySpace page so they can find out more about you and, of course, the brand new album, dropping this spring.
Royce: It’s myspace.com/roycefivenine.
DJ Booth: Thank you so much for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth, and nothing but the continued best of luck.
Royce: For sure, man. It’s always a pleasure to speak to you.