At The DJBooth we are committed to bringing you real, original, and thoughtful hip-hop commentary; a rare commodity these days. It's literally what Nathan, Yoh, and I devote every waking hour to....that and arguing over food.
But in all seriousness, our main goal is to create content you wont see anywhere else. No lists littered with gifs, no slideshows, just straight hip-hop talk. It's no easy task avoiding the expected, but we try out best. There's always an interesting, creative spin to be put on every topic we tackle, it's just our job to find it. There is one recent project, however, that drips hip-hop out of every cutthroat bar, every surgical cut, every perfectly placed sample, that trying to put a fun, unique spin on it doesn't feel right. For a project that is straight up, no nonsense hip-hop, it requires a straight up, no bullshit review.
That project is Royce and Premo's collaborative album, PRhyme.
There is something so fitting about this being the last big album of the year. From Cole's latest effort to RTJ to everything coming out of Chicago, it seems like hip-hop is in a very experimental stage. There are so many different sounds and genres being fused that sometimes "hip-hop" doesn't exactly mean hip-hop anymore, and that's largely a good thing. But then you hear PRhyme and you're reminded exactly why you love hip-hop so much.
Let's start with Royce. I've always respected him - Bad Meets Evil and Slaughterhouse are awesome - but I've never been totally "sold." He just wasn't elite in my book. Well, you can now throw that shit out the window because no rapper on any record this year put in the kind of work Royce did. He might not sell like Kendrick, but there is no doubt in my mind he could go bar-for-bar with him. Who needs a "Control" response when you have the most impressive individual effort of the year in "Courtesy"? Instead of losing steam, with each passing bar Royce gets stronger; his rhymes are like an avalanche careening down the side of a mountain, picking up mass and speed with each roll. It's only a matter of time before it crashes into a cabin, severely maiming a group of skiers...only instead of skiers its both your ears and the hopes and dreams of every rapper ever who will ever again hop on a Premo track. And yes, that actually is what Royce's raps sounds like.
This song is the epitome of a parking lot song. You know, that song that, no matter where you are or what you are going to do, when you reach your destination you stay in the whip until it ends. No joke, I missed getting Chipotle because the first time I heard this record I had to listen three times. It takes so many listens to catch everything he says and it can be so easy to get lost in his delivery that you have to pay extra close attention. There are those "oh shit" stank face moments ("Niggas wanna ride my wave, bitches wanna surfboard me."), moments that make you laugh, ("Daddy taught me if the ass is so fat it's a fact / That if you with your ho, don't matter it's still appropriate to scope at it.") and lines that simply blow you away with their force and complexity. Just take a listen to that second verse:
"If you can imagine
Me hopping up out of the cabin like I'm one of the dukes of hazzard
Like fuck it, leave the top off like time for foreplay
That last line that was be-foyer ya time
Like Big Ben sitting in Beyoncé doorway
While I'm receiving Four Seasons, Norwegian top in Norway
Listening to rappers kick knowledge
That they probably got from Toure"
The verse is so rich, so poetic, yet so fucking hard! I can't get over this one little section. For most rappers it's "Norwegian girls give me head with their tittles out" but Royce goes into a 30 second depiction, highlighted by a Dukes of Hazard reference. Royce talking about getting head isn't a groundbreaking subject in rap (there is literally a song called "Getting Some Head") but the richness of his elaborate, extended description is so engaging, that it makes for a totally unique experience. And those are just a few bars off one song!
And that's just half of the equation.
DJ Premier is just as crucial to the strength PRhyme and he doesn't even say a word.
A few weeks ago, we asked "Which Producers Used the Most Samples in Hip-Hop History?" Can you guess who was number one? Premo, of course, and it wasn't even close. Honestly, I have been thinking about that fact since I wrote the article. How is it possible for Premo to be so far ahead of every one else? Well, when I listen to PRhyme, it's not hard to see how he managed to blow the competition away. As a producer/sample fiend, this album is all you could ever want. The beats are so straightforward, but so effective. What really stands out, aside from how well each beat is constructed and how well the album flows, is the scratches. Premo's scratching is often what paces the effort, serving as a hook of sorts.
Take "Underground Kings." With Royce doing his thing plus ScHoolboy and Killer Mike the beat might seem like an after thought, but Premier's scratching paces the track and allows your brain to process the transition to and from each hard-nosed, virulent emcee. A hook would have felt weird here, and doesn't fit the lyrical onslaught that takes place, but Premo's skillz help keep the gritty, hostile vibe. On "You Should Know," one of the softer, more bouncy tracks on the album, Premo's scratching serves as a interesting juxtaposition to Dwele's crooning. Hearing a Nas-centered scratch, "talk a bunch of shit motherfucker stop frontin," over some soulful crooning doesn't immediately seem like they would mesh, but Premo makes it work and the result is a softer, more rounded sound that can still sock you in the jaw.
So, before you ride off in the sunset, leaving 2014 behind you, be sure to give this album a listen (and purchase). It really seems fitting that this is the last review I write, because it's albums like PRhyme that have inspired me to make hip-hop the centerpiece of my life. I can't think of a better way to end the year in hip-hop than with the most hip-hop album of the year. Did I mentioned I love hip-hop? Did I mention I love PRyhme?
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]