Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier are tired of you pronouncing their group name wrong. Less than a minute into their long-awaited new album, PRhyme 2, the legendary NY-via-Texas producer clarifies the name’s origins over a sinister sample before Royce barrels through to speak to “the real fans, not the ones who call us P-rhyme.” With a combined 50-plus years of experience between them, the duo demands respect—even in their downtime.
During his recent interview with DJBooth scribe Yoh, Royce mentioned that his work with PRhyme is comparable to his “cheat day,” and at its best, PRhyme has always been as indulgent and satisfying as a large slice of pie from a quality mom-and-pop pizza spot that you don’t have to share. Royce overturns several notebooks with the heart of a schoolyard bully and the mouth of a sharpshooter; only he could make a flex as silly as “My ratchet blows be trappin’ souls like Bryson Tiller” sound suitably hard.
Much like the original PRhyme, there are several forgettable records (the Yelawolf collab “W.O.W.” being one) but flexed storytelling muscles and a fairly stacked guest list keep things moving between the booms and baps. It's readily apparent that every feature, from Roc Marciano to Big K.R.I.T., to guest feature killer 2 Chainz, has been waiting to cut loose on a Preemo beat for a minute.
Philadelphia beatsmith Antman Wonder replaces Adrian Younge as Premier’s one-artist treasure trove this time around, and his compositions grant Premier a more lush soundbed compared to the more analog approach that dominated the original PRhyme. The palette change adds flourishes to Preemo’s signature neck-snapping beats and record scratches, making the overall sound more adventurous. The robotic chimes of “Era” give Royce and guest Dave East room to at least attempt to skate on asteroids. The steely bassline and conga slaps of “Sunflower Seeds” offer a little more body to the slap Preemo sifts out Wonder's compositions. The airy beat for “Flirt” could’ve been lifted straight out of a Disney World theme park ride if the drums wouldn’t rattle the Hundred Acre Wood.
Though they both have earned the right to have fun, a truth Royce shared during his interview with Yoh, PRhyme 2 does feel, at times, as though he and Preem are jogging in place. The beats and rhymes are different enough to never feel stale, so your mileage will vary depending on whether or not you’re fine with less of that new bar smell. “Flirt” pines for the days of DM-less macking, but lands somewhere near a bolder-than-usual Match.com commercial that even 2 Chainz can’t save. Royce also sings more hooks than usual, and they land anywhere from deceptively pretty coos ("Black History," “Do Ya Thing”) to shouting into a mic (“Respect My Gun”).
Legends connecting across generations is and always has been the future of music. Royce and Premier proved that by putting PRhyme together in the first place and a song like the understanding “Everyday Struggle” is the kind of olive branch that should fall from the sky more often. PRhyme 2 is yet another dazzling bit of jump roping between title matches, sometimes flashy but always familiar.
Three Standout Songs:
A holdover from Royce’s 2016 EP, Trust the Shooter, "Black History" kicks the album's door open in grand fashion. Royce weaves stories of needing a breathing machine as an infant and his own autistic son being misdiagnosed with ADHD with having to deal with cold record executives over frantic organ keys before bridging three different generations of hip-hop while demanding his respect: “Y’all tired of me saying I’m the greatest? / Fuck y’all, I’m tired of re-reminding.”
The song might be almost two years old, but it's the PRhyme manifesto.
“Sunflower Seeds” ft. Novel & Summer of ‘96
Few things beat eating your favorite snack while pushing a whip, at least as far as Royce is concerned. Premier’s beat is the star of this song, all slick steely bass and church organs creating a crisp pocket for his motivational stories.
“Loved Ones” ft. Rapsody
Sex and infidelity are two of Royce’s favorite topics, but he’s never covered them quite like he does on “Loved Ones.” He plays the indifferent cheating foil to Rapsody’s dejected partner, both of them finding the music inside a heated exchange. The sinister twinkling melody they’re gliding over only makes things that much more menacing. Where’s the love?