Two years ago if you would have asked someone who was going be the next up and coming emcee to blow, most would have answered Royce Da 5'9. After appearing on Eminem's "The Slim Shady LP" Royce's career took off. However, it was the Shady and Royce collaboration of "Bad Meets Evil" that truly transported him to the next level. With such joints as "Nuttin' To Do", "Scary Movie" and the Alchemist produced "I'm The King", Royce 5'9 was officially the hottest young emcee out. However, the road from there on out was anything but pleasant for Royce. For over 2 years Royce suffered set back after set back. "Rock City" was delayed for almost two years due to Tommy Boy's folding and numerous other record company politics. Royce's hype and momentum was all but lost. If Royce had released his debut album when the hype was at its pinnacle, his career would have certainly blown up. However, still to this day, Royce has never officially released an album in the States and is all but a forgotten memory is Hip-Hop history. However, Royce was able to release his debut album "Rock City" in the UK on Game/Columbia records, but like the rest of his career, the album falls short of expectations.
While Royce is still the same hungry emcee he was in 2000, it seems years of frustration and setbacks have taken their toll on the once dominant emcee. This is never more evident than on "Rock City", where we get an album thrown together in one big mess. "Rock City" is not the classic debut Hip-Hop fans expected. While lyrically Royce is better than ever, the direction he takes for most of the album is what ends up as the biggest disappointment. It's evident that Royce is not infatuated with being the "underground" hero everybody wants him to be, and is looking to strike it big in the commercial market. However, after listening to "Rock City" it is evident that Royce does not have that knack for making "good" commercial music. Tracks like the Neptune's produced "Get'cha Paper", "She's The One, the Trackmasters produced "You Can't Touch Me" and "We Live (Danger)" are all horrendous attempts at satisfying a large crowd. Each of the tracks simplistic, cut and dry production makes each track unbearable to listen to. While one cannot criticize Royce for trying to put out some big club hits to revitalize his career. He just needs to put together better records in order to do so. Trying to follow the industry "blueprint" for a commercial hit is something Royce cannot afford to do. He should use his own hit making ability and creative to put out something truly worthwhile instead of relying on the trendy producers of the moment.
Besides the commercial attempts, the rest of "Rock City" is either hit or miss. Tracks like the horrible "Let's Go" featuring Twista, "What Would You Do" and "Who Am I" are all boring, run of the mill tracks that should have been left off the final version of the album. The biggest disappointment on "Rock City" is the group collabo of "D-Elite Part 2" which is produced by Alchemist. Acting as the biggest waste of an Alchemist beat ever, the track doesn't feature Royce, but his amateur group of emcees consisting of Tre', Cha Cha, Jah 5'9, Cut Throat and Billy Nix. Royce should have saved the Alchemist banger for himself, instead of letting these unknown, second rate emcees ruin the beautiful track.
While minimal there are some shining moments for Royce on "Rock City". When the production aspect actually meets up with Royce's standards is when we get those classic tracks we though we would, as seen on the lead single "Rock City" produced by Eminem, "It's Tuesday", and the two DJ Premier laced tracks "My Friend" and "Boom". And even though "Boom" is almost 2 years old, it is still one of his finest works to date. However, the true gem of "Rock City" is the heartfelt, insight full tales of "Life" featuring Amerie. Without a doubt, "Life" is the finest material Royce has ever put out in his career and is utterly amazing. The soulful track is by far the most emotional and insightful Royce has ever gotten, and is proof that Royce is capable of making a good song.
In the end "Rock City" personifies Royce's career to a tee, unpredictable. It's truly a sad sight to see Royce end up in this position, when the man has so much talent and potential. The industry is a cruel place, and Royce has found that out first hand. Thankfully, this version of "Rock City" was only released in the UK and isn't his official debut album for the States. Hopefully Royce will get his act together and fix some of the problems that plague this release, such as mediocre production and horrible guest appearances. Royce needs to gather a better assortment of producers next time around in order to truly reach his full potential. With Eminem acting as executive producer, maybe Marshall needs to put a bigger hand the in production aspect and hook Royce up with some of his own production. And instead of relying on The Neptune's or Trackmasters for a big hit, why not call on Dr. Dre, who certainly knows a thing or two about hit records. And while we can speculate for days, let's just hope Royce gets the chance he deserves. If not, he'll just be another emcee in a long list of names that had potential, but were never able to capitalize on it.