New Music Tuesday: Royce Da 5’9″

A rap album has to cover three bases for me to consider it worth purchasing: good lyrics, good flow, and good beats.  These aren’t particularly high standards—just criteria I expect to be met if money is going to be spent.  What’s been disconcerting in recent years is the advent of “hip-hop” music that covers one only one of these standards at a time, with anything intelligent or musical being pushed aside for heavy bass, lazy lyrics, and boring but memorable hooks.  The formula for hip-hop success has all gone to crud.

Royce Da 5'9"Okay, so I sound like the crotchety old man that starts off every sentence with “When I was your age,” but is it too much to expect rap music to actually be good?  Talib Kweli can do it.  Mos Def can do it.  Common can do it.  Why can’t everyone?

In the case of Royce Da 5’9” and his new album “Street Hop,” I left my hour of listening through the CD pretty satisfied.  The rapper probably best known for his feud with Eminem and D12 a few years ago has now released his fourth solo album, and with only a few exceptions on the musical end of things the record provides what fans had hoped for—hot beats, smart lyrics, tight flow.

On “Dinner Time,” featuring Busta Rhymes, Royce rides the rolling trumpet-driven beat like a slithering serpent, and as always Busta finds new and unique ways to flow on a track.  Other favorites include “Gun Harmonizing,” “Soldier,” “Shake This,” and the narrative “On the Run.”

Members from Royce’s rap super-group Slaughterhouse naturally show up too, with one track, “The Warriors,” devoted specifically to Joell Ortiz, Crooked I, and Joe Budden.  Crooked I shows up again on the album’s first track, and Ortiz again on the last track, giving Royce’s current project plenty of extra hype.

Any modern-day rap album is going to sneak in a few cliché tracks as space fillers, and unfortunately this album is no exception.  However I’ve also learned that a rap album can be considered worthwhile if at least half the tracks meet my three steps to hip-hop success.  “Street Hop” gets the job done—it’s fun, it’s witty, and it’s catchy.  When I was your age, that’s the way rap albums were made.  And we walked eight miles to school in 20 inches of snow.

There I go again…

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About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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