Royce 5'9 conducted by Christopher "Scav" Yuscavage  

Royce 5'9


Talk about getting knocked down and still coming back for more. After an under-the-radar beef between Royce Da 5'9" and Eminem (and D-12), an under-the-radar critically-acclaimed album ("Death is Certain"), and more, Royce Da 5'9" has been the poster-boy in hip-hop for having so much go wrong, but still fighting his way back into the hip-hop arena. With another full-length album in production (scheduled to be released in 2005 and produced by Virginian Nottz), Royce fires back at the industry with his second volume in the "M.I.C." mixtape series. Packed with rare tracks and a glimpse at the post-"Death" Royce, "M.I.C." looks to be Royce's entrance (once again) back into the scope of hip-hop. On a fall day just before the release of Royce's "M.I.C.," he took some time out to speak with Christopher "Scav" Yuscavage of MVRemix to tell us some more about his current label situation, his upcoming work, and why he loves being called an underdog and told that he'll never make it like his homeboy Eminem

MVRemix: Okay, Royce, so you've got the M.I.C. (Makin' It Count) mixtape dropping in late October. What made you choose to go the mixtape route between "Death Is Certain" and your upcoming release?

Royce 5'9: I think that, every artist, it's absolutely necessary to go the mixtape route. Whether they put them out themselves or whether they giving mixtape DJs the records or just doing as many freestyles as they can or whatever. I just chose to promote myself as opposed to leaning on other DJs. I'm always going to try and get verses to the Kay Slay's and the DJ Envy's. I'm always going to try and do that but I don't really want to depend on that. I kind of want to do things myself to keep my buzz going.

MVRemix: And now, your next solo album is set to drop in early 2005. Can you talk just a little bit more about that album?

Royce 5'9: It will more than likely be the M.I.C., Volume 3. I'm really just trying to brand my company, brand the name of my company, and brand the artists that I'm working with locally. You know, Volume 3 is going to be a sound kind of opposite of Volume 2. It's going to be more West Coast-ish, more South-ish. It's going to throw people for a loop just to show people the kind of diversity that I think I have. And then that will set up my next album, the Nottz album, with my man from Virginia. You know, he's going to produce that whole album. That album is going to basically be the medium between this mixtape, my "Death is Certain" album, and the next mixtape that I'm putting out - right in the middle. It's going to showcase the darker side of me and the brighter side of me.

MVRemix: Like you said, on this M.I.C. mixtape, you give a lot more shine to some of the more underground counterparts. Was that the intention - to put out your album but also give the limelight to others?

Royce 5'9: Yeah, I mean, and plus I want to set up my album. And it's more so to set up my company, too, to let people know what I'm going to be coming with and the way that we're all growing together, you know, as artists and the fact that we're doing things ourselves.

MVRemix: I just went through your album last night actually, and one of the remarkable changes between "Death is Certain" and this album is obviously your whole mindset and whole approach to this one. You know, "Death" was obviously a lot darker and angrier. This one, what mindset did you go into this one with? You seem a lot more focused on putting yourself out there, showing people that you can still do what you do best.

Royce 5'9: Yeah, with this mixtape, honestly, I never came to the table and said I'm going to record a mixtape. These are songs that - I never stopped working, you know - I'm always in the studio so these are just songs that I did on the day-to-day. I call it working out. These are like exercise songs for me. And I decided not to sit on them and let them sit on the computer. You know, 'Pac, when he died, he had hundreds of songs. I decided not to let them sit around. Just go ahead and put them out. Let people hear what I'm working on whether they like them or not. That's how I maintain my buzz going into the next album.

MVRemix: Now on the press release that I got for you, your publicist Matt Conaway, he refers to you as the "underdog of hip-hop." Is that how you view yourself, and do you think you carry a chip on your shoulder because of that?

Royce 5'9: Um, you know what, any chip that I might have had on my shoulder over the years is no longer there. You know, I definitely, if I refer to myself as the underdog of hip-hop, that's just a way to motivate myself. Like, I feel like every person has to realize what things motivate them and use them as a positive as opposed to a negative. You know, I love when people say things like, 'He's not gonna make it without Em,' or, 'His career's over.' Things like that, I try and take stuff like that and turn it into a positive. The whole underdog moniker, that's something that the public planted on me. You can't really control what the public is going to call you or how they view you, so I just take that, roll with it, and use that as a positive.

MVRemix: Okay, now just some questions focused around some specific songs off this mixtape. First off, Nottz did the beats for you from "Nickel" and "Jump." Do you guys work together in the studio? And how well do you guys vibe in the studio, if so?

Royce 5'9: We vibe real well. The reason we vibe so well is because Nottz is a lot like me. You know, when I'm in the studio, I don't really like to talk a lot. I really, if I'm talking, that means I'm not thinking. And I need to be thinking and the only time I need to be talking is in the booth. With Nottz, when you in the studio with him, he's not talking to you. We are both just kind of quiet and trying to create. He's trying to figure out what he's going to put into the beat, and I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to say on top of it. We already agree when we first come into the studio that the beat is crazy. So it's to the point now where sometimes he can just send me beats and I can do them on my own without him even being there. It's just an automatic vibe, because the music and the rhymes just automatically match.

MVRemix: Now also, in the credits for the album, I saw that you co-produced a couple of the songs.

Royce 5'9: Yes, I actually produced "Simon Says." I produced that beat myself.

MVRemix: Is that something you've been working on a lot on? Is that something you want to pursue in the future?

Royce 5'9: Yeah, I definitely am always with expanding. I never am content with just doing one thing. When it's all said and done, I want to be looked at and I want to feel like that I've done everything. So anything involved in music, I would take a stab at before I just say that I can't do it.

MVRemix: Do you have any specific things that you are doing production for now? Anything to look out for Royce, the producer?

Royce 5'9: Right now? I'm really just trying to master the art of songwriting. When I feel like I got that mastered, that's when I'm going to venture off into other things real heavy and probably just do that until I feel that I've mastered that or decided that that's just something that I can't do.

MVRemix: Another song on the album, "On the Road," talks about you going out onto the road to do gigs and shows. Kind of a two-part question, where is the weirdest place that you've ever had to perform at? And where are some of your favorite places to perform at?

Royce 5'9: The weirdest performances would have to be when I'm on a promo tour. And let's say that I get to a city and I'm supposed to do radio there. And I do a radio interview there. And let's say in that city that the radio station is having a party - let's say the radio station is having a weekly party. And it's an event that goes on every week, and I show up there. Then they gonna stop the music and everything for me to perform when a lot of people ain't heard of me. I hate those shows. Those are always the weirdest ones. (pause) The best ones would have to be overseas where my real underground records like "Hip-Hop" and "Boom" are real big over there. See, the underground is a big market overseas. So naturally, those are the most fun shows to do, because everyone knows the words, the big venues are packed, you know what I'm saying'? That's every artists' dream. So I like to go over there, do what I got to do, and then come back to reality and try to get myself situated over here.

MVRemix: Another track off this mixtape, "52 Bars," you say, you know, "this is gonna be hip-hop 101," you count off the bars for people. Was there an education factor that you had behind that, or did you basically just want to get on there and rip that beat?

Royce 5'9: Basically, it was just telling people how to count bars. If you listen to it closely, you'll hear me counting them. And, you know, a lot of people, a lot of emcees, believe it or not, don't know how to count bars. A lot of them think they know how to and are doing it wrong, or just don't know how at all. They'll just tell you that they don't know how. So I basically just, that's just something that came out that today. I had been had that rhyme written for a minute, and I just decided to put it over that beat and put a little twist on it, just something entertaining.

MVRemix: In the same song, you may have to explain this a little more thoroughly, but in "52 Bars" you say that you "wish Sony would just drop me like 50." In a previous interview, you mentioned that once you put out your next independent album, which turned out to be "Death is Certain," you were going to sit down and talk with Columbia. So how is your label situation going right now?

Royce 5'9: Well, as far as Sony, I never really had conversation with them about where we gonna go from here. You know, I'm still signed to them. I understand they've had mergers, and a lot of people that I used to deal with at the label in the past are not even there no more. So a lot of people there, I don't even know. So, what we've been doing is carrying on like a self-contained unit and doing our own thing. When it comes time to take the step into the next bigger situation, we obviously have to talk to Sony and figure out what they want to do. I'm hoping to give them that option. I'm hoping to give them the option to do another album or whatever, but it's definitely just a talk that's waiting to happen that hasn't happened yet.

MVRemix: So then, you dropped this mixtape on Sure Shot Recordings. How did you set that up? How did you get involved with them?

Royce 5'9: Well, my man, Chris Landry, whose company is Sure Shot, he's somebody that I met while dealing with Game Records back in the day. You know, I've always had a relationship with him, and he's always been a stand-up kind of guy. So he basically got his situation crackin', his label situation with mixtapes. And I'm the type of person, I feel like if it's not broke, don't fix it. You know, we already had an existing relationship so let's get together and try to make some money, and that's just what I did.

MVRemix: Okay, okay, just a couple more questions. One of the final tracks on your mixtape is called "No Talent Rappers." What do you think makes up a no talent rapper? Just judging from the state of hip-hop right now, what do you think makes one up?

Royce 5'9: A rapper who is just not conscious of how to put words together. There's some rappers you can listen to, or me as an artist, at least, there's some rappers I can listen to and just tell that they're not even concerned with how they put their words together. They just get on the beats and say the most simplest things they can say. They're not making it interesting. To me, I mean, what is your talent? And a lot of them are just teamed up with whatever producer is hot right now. Somebody gives them a hook and then they just put verses on there. And that's not really a talent, you know, anybody can write a verse. That don't make you talented.

MVRemix: And on top of all that, who do you like that's out right now? Who do you listen to in your own personal stereo or in the car or whatever?

Royce 5'9: I'm the type that I really listen to whatever comes out to keep my ear in the streets. You know, when 'Kiss's album came out. I listened to Lil' Wayne's album. I listened to T.I.'s album. I listened to Jay-Z. Anybody that's hot that comes out, I listen to it to see what's hot in music. But I try, just on the day-to-day, to listen to what I been recording and try to figure out what to do to make it better. And I spend a lot of listening time just assessing my own stuff. I try not to listen to too many other peoples' stuff, just so that I don't get too influenced. So I don't get too influenced, and they say, 'Oh, you sound like such-and-such.' And then I know I been listening to them too much. I just try to respectfully only listen to them when I need to - see what's going on in rap. Who's hot, why they're hot. I usually can get all that out of listening to somebody's album once or twice.

MVRemix: Aright, last question, you want to talk any about your future projects? What are you getting involved with?

Royce 5'9: Yeah, yeah, be on the lookout for "M.I.C., Volume 2" and "Volume 3." Be on the lookout for my next album, which will be dropping sometime in '05 by my man Nottz from VA. I don't have a title yet, but it will be one of the best albums that ever came out in hip-hop. I'm guaranteeing it. Peace!

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