Year of the Nine Nickel – Royce Da 5’9 Interview

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The year 2009 has treated Royce Da 5’9 like Hip-Hop royalty. With the success of Bar Exam his mixtape series and the Slaughterhouse debut LP, Detroit’s finest goes for the Triple Crown with the release of his highly anticipated album, Street Hop.  We sat down with 5’9 to find out how he plans on continuing the great year.

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Parlé:
What can people expect with the new album Street Hop?
Royce:  It’s more diverse. I’m touching on a lot of different kinds of styles. I’m displaying my ability, showing my improvement.
It’s my most lyrical album, my best put together album. I was happy with every mix and that’s very rare. I was happy with every single mix on the album, so if anything is wrong with the album, I’ll take full responsibility. And that makes me feel good about the project.

Parlé:  Who’s on it as far as producers and feature guests?
Royce: The Slaughterhouse family, Bun B, Phonte from Little Brother, Jungle Rock Jr. formerly Chip-Fu of the Fu Schnickens. I got Preem, Emile, my man Nottz, Streetrunner out of Miami, Mr. Porter came though and laced me. He’s actually the executive producer of my next album. Frequency, the Slaughterhouse DJ, he did two joints on there.

Parlé: Chip-Fu, Really? How did that come about?
Royce: You know who introduced me to him? Preem’s manager, Phat Gary. We was in the studio and I kept looking at him like, “He look so familiar.” So when he came out the booth, did a video drop and said, “Jungle Rock Jr. formerly Chip-Fu of Fu-Schnickens.” Me and Crooked looked at each other and was like “Awwww man!” And then he just started laughing, cause I’m sure he get that all the time. That was kind of like a big deal to me.

Parlé:   So the album has been in the making for quite some time?
Royce: Two years in the making. The stuff that I’ve done over the past year was obviously the more newer stuff. I think I might have went through three separate bodies of work. Then I suffered a leak, a lot of my rough copies got leaked and it made me just wanna chill out, forget the date and go to the studio and cut new stuff.

Parlé: It’s been about 5 years since your last LP Independent’s Day. Street Hop should have initially been released 2 or 3 years ago. Then you had the leak, but between that break, what was going on with Royce?
Royce: After the Independents Day album, I was promoting that heavy, and I got arrested for drunk driving. They gave me a year in jail. So I sat down and did that, came back out on work release and started working on the album [Street Hop]. And then I suffered the leak. Really, at that point, it felt like I wasn’t really in a rush because I felt I could actually promote it.

I put a lot of focus on Internet marketing and that’s when I started the Bar Exam series. I did that to keep the buzz up. I wasn’t really concerned. I actually already had the title of the album out there, so I could let people know what I was gonna call it. My thing is I could do these mixtapes in the meantime to keep the buzz going and take my time to do the album right.

Parlé: That was a smart move because it paid off. Between the mixtapes and the Slaughterhouse movement, you’ve become one of the more popular hip-hop acts out there.
Royce: It’s a blessing. A lot of people ask me about the Internet—Is it my gift or my curse? I don’t really think its too much of a curse, I think songs getting leaked and people trying to bootleg it via Internet, it comes with the territory. So you can’t get mad, but if I knew who was doing it to me, that’s a whole other story. I can’t get mad at somebody who would even care to go online and download the music and listen to it.

Parlé: On the first draft of Street Hop, was DJ Premier your executive producer for the album?
Royce: He was always the executive producer. I fell under two different titles—The Revival and Street Hop.

Parlé: You named you’re EP The Revival.
Royce: Yeah. Now before I went to jail, I was already working with Premier. I already got started on the album. We already had the title and we agreed he was gonna executive produce it.

Parlé: Premier did like a quarter of the album right?
Royce: Premier did like 2 joints on the actual album. We recorded about a total of like 8 songs.

Parlé: Wow! And only two made the cut?
Royce: Yep.

Parlé: I’m sure there’s a lot of producers that would’ve loved to jump on your album.
What made you bring Preemo into the project?
Royce: You know what? I like the way Preem works. He’s pretty hands-on. I trust his judgment. A lot of people like the work we have. I went so long without being affiliated with nobody; I really just wanted to show people how strong that alliance was. In the same light, it’s never hit or miss with him, like whenever we do something and put it out, it hits. It’s not like a hit like a big radio record, but it just hits in terms of creatively, people critiquing it. They like, “I love when ya’ll get together.”

New album, ‘Street Hop’ available now

Parlé: There’s not one record with you two on it, even for people who aren’t fond of you two, that isn’t considered classic. Like when people hear “Boom,” the only thing that comes to mind is how incredible that record is, from the scratches to the verses. You don’t get that kind of music these days because rappers just get on beats and spit some wack sh*t. You’re one of the true lyricists to really put in the work and right now, with the album dropping and the Slaughterhouse movement taking off, things are just looking brighter.
Royce: Hopefully!

Parlé: You’re chemistry with Premier can be best defined as unbelievable. When you guys go into the studio, the chemistry is amazing. If you think about it, it’s on the same plane as the work he’s put out with Gang Starr and Nas. You jump on his production and fans already don it a classic. What makes the collaborations, a Royce and Preemo collabo, so magical?
Royce: That’s a good question. I don’t know. Whenever I do a collaboration with somebody, I ain’t gonna lie, I just put my foot in it. Whoever’s on the song, I try to chop their head off, respectively.

Parlé: Was it the same feeling working on the Slaughterhouse album?  You four must have had a bunch of rewrites just tryin’ to outshine each other.
Royce: It wasn’t a lot of rewriting; it will be on the next go around for the new album. We’ve been doing a lot of work with each other and with the first Slaughterhouse album, we didn’t have enough time, we only had 6 days to complete the album. It was more of a speedwriting thing. They always like to say friendly competition. I don’t like using that term because my mind frame was I was not competing with those dudes because when I create, my mind has to be as free as possible. I can’t stress myself out tryin’ to out-rap these niggas every time. That’ll be stressful for me every time.

I’m real critical and a lot of times, I’m critical of myself, but I think very highly of them, too. I think that mutual respect between us is what keeps the egos from coming into the mix.

Parlé: So lets go into the Slaughterhouse movement. You four got the industry, media and fans going crazy over ya’ll. What’s the next step for the group?
Royce: Right now our focus is the tour. Once we get on the tour, the schedule is gonna be so grueling and hectic that the shows in these cities, some of those nights we not gonna have hotel rooms. We just gonna get right back on the bus and mash to the next city, in order to make that show on time. It’s gonna be the first time I ever been on tour that’s this long and be continuous with these actual dates. So I’m just worried about my health, getting on this road, and when we come back we start the next album. We lookin’ to put that out on a major.

Parlé: Any expected release date for the follow-up?
Royce: Not yet. We gonna try and secure a situation first and then we can start looking at release dates.

Parlé: So the rumor out now is that Shady Records is somewhere in the mix. Is that something you see happening for the group? Or is it just like a mutual relationship? Like you’d love to have Em on the album, do business possibly in the future, but right now it’s just up for negotiations.
Royce: It’s everything you just said. It’s somethin’ I would love to see happen. It’s something that’s very possible. Things are looking as bright as they can look for the Slaughterhouse camp.

Parlé: You’ve been in the game 10 years deep, a decade my dude. You continue to grow with every project and get better. Where do you see yourself amongst today’s hip-hop class? Do you see yourself among the elite or lower than that class?
Royce: If you speaking about the perception that the actual listening public has, I might be in between. What I find now, what you just said, like “Yo I put this dude on to you, like you one of the best,” normally when people listen and they give me a chance, they don’t have a problem putting me with the elite.

Now when it comes to my peers, “The Elite,” I’m in “The Elite.” There’s not nobody I’m gonna run into that doesn’t feel I’m not in “The Elite.” I think with the album, if it gets out there the way that I think The Orchard is gonna push it out there, then I think it’ll change the public’s perception and they’ll put me up there with those guys. Hopefully!

Interview by Alejandro Bracetti for Parlé Magazine