The “what if?” stories in hip-hop are often more interesting than reality. Did you know that Nas was supposed to record a “Gimme the Loot (Remix)” with Biggie, but he got so high in the studio he had to leave? Did you know that Duck Down Records almost signed Eminem but backed out in the final stages of the deal?
And did you know that Dr. Dre offered Royce da 5‘9” a record deal, but Royce turned him down?
“I made the decision to sign with Tommy Boy instead of Dr. Dre back in the day,” Royce told Complex. ”I don’t really regret it, because by saying that I’m saying I regret where I am today, which couldn't be further from the truth. But sometimes I wonder what would have happened, what kind of music would I have been able to make? Because he was offering me a $250K budget and unlimited Dr. Dre beats, and Tommy Boy was just offering me $1 million. At 20 years old, the million sounded like such a more valuable deal when in actuality, it wasn’t at all.”
In retrospect, yes, it seems like Dre was the right choice. UNLIMITED DRE BEATS? Those beats alone would have been worth several million dollars. If they had just managed to come up with one “Lose Yourself” level hit, Royce would be washing his hands with diamonds, not to mention the prestige and respectability it would have brought.
At the same time, though, hindsight’s always 20/20. Tommy Boy, the label Royce signed with instead, was a legitimate force at the time, $1 million is a lot of money, and let’s not pretend like signing to Aftermath was some guaranteed meal ticket. Far more artists got crushed under the weight of Dr. Dre’s massive wheels than became stars in the own right on Aftermath, so who knows?
Ultimately, Royce is right. How could he possibly regret anything? He’s currently one hell of an emcee in his own right, half of Bad Meets Evil with Eminem, half of PRhyme with DJ Premier, and one-fourth of Slaughterhouse. I’d say his career worked out just fine.
Still, though...unlimited Dr. Dre beats?