While everybody else in hip-hop nowadays is talking about chips – big chips, getting chips, whips and chips, more chips than Frito-Lay – Royce Da 5’9” has finally shaken the chip off of his own shoulder.
The Detroit emcee, who was the former partner-in-rhyme of fellow hometown rapper Eminem (check their “Bad Meets Evil” EP), has put himself beyond the commercial attempts of his debut album, “Rock City,” and taken one huge step back from his dark sophomore effort, “Death is Certain.” Instead, he delivers the ever-so-necessary mixtape, “M.I.C. (Make It Count),” an offering that should hold Royce fans back before his third solo attempt (a Nottz-produced disc due out in early 2005).
As the mixtape scene grew with the successful manipulation of the market by 50 Cent, emcees now not only need one to keep their names out in the public, but also need an appealing and diversified effort on the mixtape to keep their names fresh within the public – call it the progress report of hip-hop. And “M.I.C.” does just that for Royce by delivering a 15-track round-up of previously unheard material that finds Royce somewhere between his poppy days of “Rock City” and his depressed days of “Death is Certain.”
Kicking the album off with “Buzzin’,” a track devoted to keeping the name Royce Da 5’9” buzzing throughout every street and speaker system, not only livens up “M.I.C.,” but also will capture those unfamiliar with the Detroit rapper’s distinct and vicious flow.
But if newbies still have not caught on (or if Royce fans just need a refresher), the chemistry of Royce and producer Nottz on “Nickel” reaffirms the “Nickel-Nine” mantra against the backdrop of a simple, yet lovely, violin-laced beat. Royce also reaffirms that, though the chip on his shoulder may be gone, he still is not letting weak rappers off the hook that easily. (“Now you say Maybach in your rhymes because it rhymes with laid-back, like that’s the only thing that it rhymes with.”)
Still, at most times, the only thing that Royce needs to prove to anyone is that he can still rip a microphone in half at will. “Simon Says (Street Games),” which features production that sounds curiously similar to 50 Cent’s “Places To Go” (“8 Mile Soundtrack”), the hip-hop 101 lessons of “52 Bars,” and the Run DMC-influenced “F*ck A Hook” all show that, though Royce has grown since his earlier days, his charisma and flow over a beat can be nearly perfect at times – and, of course, he can still shatter the M.I.C.!
Several efforts are not nearly as appealing (“Stand Up” and “Switch,” for example), but mainly fail due to the lack of Royce and the presence of his D-Elite family that rarely match the tenacity or strength of even an average 5’9” track. The effort is there but the all-Royce, all-the-time format of “M.I.C.” works best for the Heighted One.
The “potato rappers” of modern hip-hop – the rappers only focused on making chips – should beware with the likes of Royce Da 5’9” on the loose. Though only a mixtape to whet the appetites for future material, “M.I.C.” successfully launches Royce back into the hip-hop arena with a bang that ripples outside of just Detroit.
Royce Da 5’9” finally wiped the chip off his shoulder. Now, it’s the “mic,” and not his former foes, that should be shivering in its’ Timberlands.