Review Summary: "This is Street Hop, no rules, The rest of y'all niggaz watered down like O'Douls, I'm willin to do what you won't do, I'm old school, I'm a mac, I punch rappers cause I'm Pro-Tools"
If there ever was an artist whose luck could be summed up with the term “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”, it’d be Royce Da 5’9”. The man, who likes to be called Nickel-9, is a man of many words, an amazing swagger and an immense amount of bad luck to accompany all that. He came to the rap scene in 1998, showcasing his skills and colossal talent, ready to take over by a storm...But alas! Just a few months before Royce’s break out, another MC from Detroit, Michigan was proclaimed the ‘Best out the Mid-west’; Eminem. Mr. Marshall Mathers, backed by Dr.Dre’s powerhouse label Aftermath, released the acclaimed Slim Shady LP and the rest was set: The world from the next 7 years would be on Eminem’s nuts and Royce was left behind in the shadows.
But 3 albums, 2 EPs and truck-loads of collaborations in, after a decade, the Hip-Hop world is gearing up for the release of the highly anticipated 4th album by the rapper, titled “Street Hop”. The man, who despite critical acknowledgement had somehow slipped through the cracks of fame, now is ready to take his rightful place as one of the Hottest MCs in the game, despite what you might see on MTv. His formation of the super group ‘Slaughterhouse’, and their self-titled debut, only served as a footstep in Royce’s plan to carve a niche for himself in this over saturated landscape of music and whether or not the album is “the Hip-Hop for the Streets”, you respect the man’s determination.
Lyrics - Never has Royce been at the top of his lyrical game as he is now. The album is full of quotable and punch-lines, that if you don’t have some protection while diving into this album, you might end up reeling from a raw mind ***! The album supports Nickel-9 at his finest and for those who thought he dominated the Slaughterhouse album, will be amazed at how much hungrier he is on this album. Royce sounds like a kid who is getting his chance at glory, so he make the most of it and delivers completely destructive lines such as “Every bullet's a note, I write with a firing pen every time the trigger pull it's a quote, Inside a poof full of smoke, Sniffin lines of that gunpowder, I'm hotter than a pair of boots and a coat, And a turtleneck, the best rapper alive could be the best rapper that died, a murderous, if you ain't get it by now I'm suicidal.” He does not let up and continues to show us exactly what makes him one of the best rappers today. For those of you who love Lil Wayne (shame on you first of all!) will be amazed to see how Royce can borrow Wayne’s style and take it a step further with his punch lines in ‘Count for Nothing’: “Ahh I put the gun to lames, Eeny-miny Motown play the numbers game, Five shots on my block, is like for once I see like my pops is Cyclops, With both eyes I see you got no sides, Bring it to your Chippendale neck with the bowties, All you stand, grab a bitch ass like Aye call me OJ Da Juiceman.” Plenty of stories are told in this album with a string of songs playing out like a movie and Royce even manages to become a storyteller on ‘Murder’, where the story revolves around him being set-up and having to commit the titled crime in order to preserve his life and his loved ones too.
Production - While Royce has never been a genius at finding suitable beats, he always manages to get ones that work with his style. However here on Street Hop, a slew of producers compose the tracks on which he runs his lyrical engine. DJ Premier blesses the album with 3 beats that certify this album. While one many miss his refined scratches and barrage of samples, the style of these productions, end up working well. ‘Something 2 Ride 2’ featuring Phonte of Little Brother, is a laid-back joint that is about just relaxing and understanding the dynamics of smoking and drinking, something the men understand extremely well. The chorus is amazing, as Primo makes a certain part sound like MJ’s trademarked pitch, or at least it does to me. Underground producer Emile produces a smash on Far Away, that has its own fake beginning, with Royce (with a auto-tune chorus, that he refers to as ‘clowning’) lets the females know that he has no plans to tae them anywhere, instead turning his attention to the people who forget about him and his city.
Songs - After praising Royce’s accomplishments all over the album, what did I conclude about the overall album? The way I see it, the LP definitely comprises of amazing songs that should cement Nickel-9’s position in the game. Opener ‘Gun Harmonizing’ is a sure hit with the fans of his style, as he teamed with Crooked I, have a run at the beat and make an amazing combo, both being the superior of the four in Slaughterhouse; and speaking of Slaughterhouse, they join forces on ‘The Warrior’ which a magnificently crafted track, managing to stay afloat with it piano looped beat and constant break-down, making it a perfect throwback cut, something the group’s fan will adore. Perhaps the song best describing Royce’s hunger and will to destroy the competition can be observed in ‘Street Hop 2010’. Sampling a Bollywood song, producer-extraordinaire Nottz makes a jaw-dropping creation, that lets Royce craft punch-line after punch-line, that seemed to never end, making this reviewer breathe deeply at the end, as it had left my head spinning, trying to keep up with all those lyrical stabs, such as “Water (water),I'm a mixture between Chris Brown and Chris Jericho, where's your daughter, I'm more than y'all can handle, At the Grammy's I'll send an Indian girl to the podium, to say "No thank you" like, Marlon Brando, The Oscars, The Godfather , Our father you should praise me, I got some syphilis nun-chucks wearing an AIDS key, That mean I'm sick when I kick ***, Come to my concert get some SARS on the tip of your Tic-Ket.” Amazing! The Denaun Porter produced ‘Mine In Thiz’, while seeming bland, picks up into the song and lets us experience life through Royce’s crazy mind and how much he dominates. Plus the catchy chorus is crazy.
Overall - With the combination of both the lyrical murder (pun intended) and fine production, you’d think that the album would be a perfect thing, but as much as I loved this LP, there are certain parts that make the experience somewhat bad. Busta Rhymes in ‘Dinner Time’ is just annoying and should have stayed away from this album. If he was absent, then the song would definitely be one of the best on the album. The generic ‘Bad Boy’ is just what you’d expect from producers StreetRunner, though he manages to salvage himself on 'The Warrior' and ‘New Money’ which is also the single from the album. But the album ends on a perfect note with the Primo made ‘Hood Love’, where Royce lets us know that despite all the achievements he has and how much he will try to avoid any further problem in life, he is glad that the hood has love for him and vice versa. ‘Gangsta’ (featuring Trick Trick) is another left-over that could be a B-Side at best. ‘Thing for Your Girlfriend’ is something of a strange song, as it seems so out of place on the album that it just seems perfect. After a constant onslaught of lyrical assault, being given a break on a light-hearted-dedicated-to-the-ladies type track is needed and does so, assisted by newcomer K-Young’s crooning about sexing other mens female companions.
Conclusion - Street Hop is definitely a unique album. While Royce is easily the star of the album and never does any guest over shadow him on any track, he manages to find the right tracks that compliment his style of music. Production is spot-on, for the majority of the album and while it fails in certain aspect, Street Hop is one of the better albums from this year. It seems that Royce Da 5’9” still has the appetite and desire of a young kid, while gaining the maturity of a grown man. This combination and determination has made this a must listen for any Hip-Hop fan. Royce has crafted an album that just slightly falls short of being his DEFINING album.