"How can I go from rocking with Dre to falling out with Shady, to poppin' my glock on the block, to dropping on Koch".
Royce's career has been defined by disappointments, setbacks and delays. The man once destined to take the throne for Detroit has found out about the industry's pitfalls the hard way. His debut album "Rock City" was delayed, bootlegged and scrapped on numerous occasions, only to be released long after its intended release date. While satisfying for some, the album remained a huge disappointment in the hearts of true Royce fans expecting something monumental. Since the release of "Rock City 1.0 & 2.0", Royce has experienced even more hardship and drama. This time feuding with his once close friends D-12 & Eminem. The destroying and rebuilding process for Royce had officially begun, and with a new sense of hunger and direction Royce was poised to take his spot back. This rebuilding processes has finally came to a stop as Royce set to release his highly anticipated sophomore effort "Death Is Certain". The man who went from rocking with Dre, to falling out with Shady has officially lived up to all expectations set upon him many years ago. "Death Is Certain" not only marks the return of Royce 5'9, but proof that the much hyped emcee can deliver a great album on his own.
With "Death Is Certain" Royce Nickel Nine proves you can always go back home, no matter how hard it gets. There is no denying that Royce has experienced a lot more turmoil than the average artist in the Hip Hop game, and this is blatantly obvious throughout all of Royce's material on his sophomore effort. As Royce proclaims on the brutally truthful "I & Me", "I done paid my dues, I done learned more from my mistakes than I learned from any grade in my school". And like all great emcees Royce realized his mistakes and in turn capitalized off of them. Royce has taken all the pain, hunger and hardships and transported it onto wax for one of the years most honest albums.
There is no denying that Royce holds a grudge with the industry that has kept him back all these years. And with this type of energy behind him "Death Is Certain" turns out to be one big canvas that Royce paints with all his heart and soul. Whether it's the honest life depictions of "I & Me", which Royce proclaims as the "truest shit he's ever wrote". Or the introspective rhymes of "T.O.D.A.Y.", where Royce asks "can I hold my own and rap without having to go back to Pharrell or Poke & Tone. Can a married man still appeal to broads, knowing everything he's spitting from here on in gonna be raw. Can a nigga simply spit that real shit just for niggas that feel me, or will the system kill me?" It's clear that Royce is a changed man who has grown up immensely over the years. And while the overused sample utilized on "T.O.D.A.Y." has been done one too many times, it still manages to work to perfection.
The beauty of "Death Is Certain" is it's ability to follow one distinct vibe and sound. Just about every track follows the same mold, making the album extremely cohesive. There are absolutely no filler tracks, as the albums dark and powerful vibe remains strong throughout. And as Royce states on the standout track "Something Is Wrong With Him", even his own wife thinks his album is too dark. "My wife don't like my album, it's way too dark for women, she says it sounds like I hold grudges. She would rather listen to Joe Buddens, no disrespect".
While "Death Is Certain" features consistent tracks throughout, the DJ Premier produced "Hip Hop" is nothing short of a classic, easily making it the best song on the album. The vintage Primo beat blends all too well with Royce, as the duo has always managed to produce magnificent songs. Royce said it the best when he stated "Me and Preme, both names go together like they ain't supposed to be separate like D&D". While Primo comes through for a track, the majority of the production on the album is handled by veteran Carlos "Six July" Broady. While not one of Hip Hop's biggest names, Broady has always been one of the industry most overlooked producers, which is never more evident after hearing his solid work on "Death Is Certain". Royce and Broady certainly have established a great connection together, as they hook up for some greats moments that display the duo's precise chemistry. The Biggie inspired "Beef" is pulled off nicely, as is other attempts such as "I Promise" & "Gangsta".
In an era when artistic creativity and honesty is compromised for record sales and popularity, it is a breath of fresh air to see Royce put forth an effort like "Death Is Certain". The life and times of Royce Da 5'9 are poured out into every song, and one has to appreciate such an effort. Not many artists have the ability to look inside one's self and analyze their flaws, mistakes and shortcomings. Royce was not only able to do this, but work it to his advantage and rebuild his career from the ground up again because of it. Whether you have been a fan of Royce's all along or not, "Death Is Certain" is an album that will officially mark the return of Royce 5'9 into Hip Hop's heavyweights. His ability to open up and draw the listener inside the world of Royce Da 5'9 remains the albums strongpoint. And as Royce perfectly states himself, "I was taught rhyme from the heart, and they will feel you". That has never been more true in Royce's life than now. And whether or not the listening public embraces "Death Is Certain" like they should, Royce could care less. He is no longer interested in becoming the next superstar emcee to blow, or the recipient of Detroit's crown. Give Royce the respect he deserves and you can have the rest. "Don't call me Royce no more, its Ryan, I just threw Detroit's crown away"