New York, N.Y. -- We’ve seen artists try to maintain cultural relevancy and struggle against the perpetual motion of music and style. Artists have dominated the airwaves, only to fall by the wayside when their later efforts are either too repetitious or haven’t reached far enough into the future. Artists with the ability to push the limits of their genre and ride those waves into the future are few and far between.
Some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop only a few years ago have fallen into the unfortunate state of cultural stasis. Think of
– the dynamic flow, the personal struggle that oozed out of every song on his first two albums. Who would have thought that he would become irrelevant in today’s music world, and that his most recent album would be all but glossed over? Or think of
; the Southern powerhouse who introduced America to Crunk and forced the rap game to recognize the legitimacy of the South is no longer on stage with the modern-day pop icons. Even
, arguably the biggest act of the 21st century, is struggling today to replicate the success of his breakthrough album,
Get Rich or Die Trying
Despite the changing spirit of the times, there has always been a niche for artists like
Royce da 5’9”
. Royce fulfills one of heads' basic desires: the desire to hear an outstanding emcee simply go hard over classic hip-hop beats.
With the release of the emcee's fourth solo album on the horizon, fans everywhere are wondering: which Royce will show up? Will it be the Royce who, in 2001, had every stereo system thumping with "Boom?" Or will it be the Royce of recent memory whose only notable achievements include a brief stint in jail and a relatively unpublicized beef with
This past Tuesday, Sept. 15., DJBooth.net and other tastemakers gathered at executive producer
's studio to learn the answer to that question. As attendees of the listening session soon found out,
contains elements of
Royces. It offers gritty battle-raps alongside hard-nosed drum lines. Recorded at the formed D&D Studios in Manhattan (the same studio in which
recorded—in under a week—their
), the album has an all-too-familiar feel. The first half is promising, with Royce flowing over guitar-laced beats by
(“Count For Nothing”), and collaborating with
. On the second half of the album Royce leaves something to be desired, rhyming over average beats with little exuberance.
The divide between the first half and the second half of this album mirrors the peaks and valleys of Royce’s career, and fans may be left wishing for the artist to find the consistency of which he's clearly capable.