When compiling my list of favorite albums of 2016, Royce da 5’9"'s Layers was one of the first projects that came to mind. What I found most impressive is how the album showcased growth in an emcee who has murdered microphones for the last 20 years.
There’s an expected stagnancy when rappers get older, stuck in a zone of comfort, or constantly chasing the artist that they once were—Royce successfully entered into the next phase of his career with intricate rhymes, impressive storytelling, an improved ear for production, and not a hint of alcohol on his breath. PRhyme proclaimed a return, and Layers promised that a new and improved Royce was here to say.
After dropping one of the best albums of his long career, Royce’s momentum isn’t slowing down. Early this afternoon, Royce uploaded a short clip to his Instagram previewing a new verse over Phresher’s “Wait A Minute.” It’s rather surprising since “Wait A Minute” is a moderately buzzing trap hit, and that’s a realm in rap Royce isn’t known for dabbling in.
Like the true pro that he is, Nickle Nine not only adapts to the trap terrain but completely torches the pulsing production. Utilizing a more conventional flow, Royce keeps the trap aesthetic without sacrificing his revered penmanship. He doesn't sound like an old dog poorly executing a new trick, but a razor sharp magician pulling golden bars from his hat. From what we can hear, he references Trey Songz and 21 Savage, and makes a Charlemagne Tha God and Tomi Lahren odd couple line that is the kind of humorous lyricism we expect from Royce.
Despite the video slicing up his performance, the snippet reveals the Detroit veteran taking a step into an arena that’s been mostly dominated by newer artists. It doesn’t come off as a desperate attempt at relevance, but the sharpening of a sword against the latest steel. Remy Ma recently went viral with her vigorous verse on Phresher’s bubbling single—another seasoned rapper who has found success in the new playground. 50 Cent has also tried his hand at a remix.
It’s worth noting that Royce recently was featured alongside DJBooth Top Prospects EarthGang, Atlanta’s most promising duo. I wouldn’t consider “The L’s” a trap record, but their collaboration further proves Royce is staying aware of newer artists and adding his touch. Instead of resisting the times, he’s bringing his talents to the table, and the results have been praiseworthy.
Royce is a rapper, one of the sharpest pens still writing rhymes, but he’s also a survivor. He may not be the most well-known, but he has made it through a number of eras, and has done so by being a quality artist. There’s a way to grow old, and grow within the times—Royce has done so time and time again.
Don’t be surprised if the “Wait A Minute” preview is a sign of more to come. If Royce has his eyes on conquering trap then your favorite "mumble rapper" better beware, he is a true force to be reckoned with.
By Yoh, aka YohGang aka @Yoh31.
Art Credit: illfellow