Just Bars: An interview with Royce Da 5’9 of Prhyme

Last week, I was fortunate enough to speak with Royce Da 5’9 about his newest collaborative project, Prhyme. Royce is one of those rare artists that has constantly improved throughout his career, and every project he works on is better than his last. Over the past decade Royce has cemented himself as one of the best rappers to come out of Detroit, which is no small feat considering some of the city’s talents, including his good friend Marshall Mathers.

Besides being a member of Bad Meets Evil and Slaughterhouse, he, along with legendary Hip Hop producer DJ Premier, formed the group PRhyme last year. Their self-titled album, released in December of 2014, rekindles the spirit of the old-school philosophy of beats and bars, while also bringing this somewhat tired sub-genre into the 21st Century. I spoke to Royce about the state of Hip Hop in his hometown of Detroit, his favorite working dynamic and more.

What’s your favorite dynamic (ie. solo, Bad Meets Evil, Slaughterhouse, Prhyme)?

Man, I don’t know if I’ve been doing [Prhyme] long enough to be able to compare it. You’re talking about, basically, all my favorite people in the industry, and like, I’m in a group with them. It’s like, all these guys are my friends, like Marshall [Eminem] obviously, it’s no secret we’ve been friends since we were kids. The Slaughterhouse guys, all those guys are my friends. It doesn’t really feel like work that much. I can’t say which one is my favorite, like they all just up there. I only can say that I like working with [groups] better than I like doing my own stuff. I definitely like working with people, especially people that push me, inspire me, make me laugh, more so than I like being in the studio by myself in Detroit.

On the inspiration for Prhyme:

I want to fill a void, I wanna do something that’s just bars, something over the soundtrack of the music from one of the architects of what I feel is the golden era of hip hop. The way [Preem’s] music affected me, I would like to provide that kind of soundtrack for the kids today. Maybe it can affect them in the same way, you know, and it would be more of a contribution to the artform than it would be just doing an album and throwing it out there, and that’s what it’s all about.

Royce at the Middle East in Cambridge

A lot of older artists have been releasing some good material in the past few years. What do you think led to this resurgence?

You know what man, I don’t know. I did notice that a lot of the older artists started releasing a lot music all around the same time. I would imagine man, somebody like Common, Ghostface, you know guys like that man, they’re so cemented in this music shit and they’re so legendary,it probably wouldn’t take much [to get support for new music]. They have the luxury of being able to get up and roll out whenever they feel like it. A lot of times it comes down to just being inspired by something. Maybe they heard something, that they feel is dope, and it inspired them to go in the studio and do something, and then once they come up with a body of work that they’re comfortable with, they roll it right out. I watch Marshall do it all the time. When he’s in the studio, he’s working, he comes up with something that he feels ‘you know what, I want to put this out there’, he just rolls it out. He doesn’t really work on anybody’s time, he’s legendary, he does what he wants to do. I aspire to get to that level, you know what I’m saying, I want to get to that level. I want to be where [these artists] are when I get to that age in that respect.

 What is the state of Hip Hop in Detroit?

 We’ve got a lot of exciting new artists coming up, you know, my little brother Kid Vishis put out an album called Timing is Everything, that’s doing really well. We got a lot of the underdogs coming up too, like Earlly Mac, Dej Loaf. I remember when before that record [Try Me] took off, she was runnin around with bunch of really really dope stuff You see a lot of these kids at the studios, like Collective Studios. You got Chavis Chandler, you’ve got Young Roc, Say It Ain’t Tone, I mean it’s like a whole community of em that have been around for a little while, but now they’re coming into their artistry and starting to feel like it’s their time, and that’s exciting. To be able to even think that I’m gonna be able to watch that, and be able to say that I saw them develop and grow is dope, same when I saw Big Sean. When I first met Sean he was unpolished, he was very unpolished, you know what I’m saying, and I just watched him develop, and now he looks like he’s gonna be one of the greats.

Royce

Royce with his younger brother, Kid Vishis

 If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, who would you wanna work with?

 I’ve got a very open-door policy when it comes to working, and I usually judge that based off of the kind of music I’m doing at that time. You know what I’ve been doing a lot lately? I’ve been writing these hooks where I’ve been singing the hooks myself, and what’ll happen is I’ll listen to it, and I’ll be like ‘ok, well, if I put that out there people will think I’m just trying to be a singer now, so I’m gonna need somebody to sing this hook. Who would kill it?’

 And that’s basically how artists think. There has to be something about a particular record that they’re working on [with someone] in mind. Going into the creative process we already know how many of our peers we respect.  If I started naming names, as soon as we’re done I’ll think of somebody else and be like ‘aw man, I should’ve said them too!’, it’s so easy to forget somebody. There’s plenty of people that I would like to work with, you know, but I won’t put that call in unless I have something ready to go. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time, and that all comes down to respecting the artist.

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