As Royce Da 5’9″ walks in and takes a seat in our New York City office, the first thing I notice about him is his tranquil demeanor. He’s relaxed and isn’t at all famished, despite being a tackled by a slew of media obligations in lieu of his new solo album Layers. Royce has been through this all before. He’s accustomed to being pressed by media outlets about what’s he cooking up with Eminem or about what studio stories he has in the tank with the legendary DJ Premier. Rather than nose dive into those waters of conversation, we spoke on what matters most at this juncture of his life.
Years ago, the embattled rapper had a vicious bout with alcoholism. Instead of succumbing and letting his demons drag him into oblivion, he mustered up the courage to dropkick the habit out for good in September 2012. Because of that, his lyricism is sharper than ever, his flows are crisper, but more importantly, his life is in better shape. Once a mercurial rapper, Royce is aware of his decision-making. He’s conscientious in his approach and knows what matters to him most: family and music.
By forging partnerships with the likes of DJ Premier (PRhyme), Eminem (Bad Meets Evil, and Slaughterhouse), it’s safe to say that Royce has the right people in his corner. But as we previously stated, it’s not about those guys, it’s about Royce and his second start at life.
On Friday, Royce will drop his first solo album in five years aptly titled Layers. The album will showcase a man ready to showcase his astute lyricism and candidly open up about his life in ways he never has before. With “Tabernacle” serving as our appetizer into Royce’s life and new album, it’s safe to say that he’s ready to give us the him, the real him, this time around.
Check Out Our Interview With Royce Da 5’9″ On the Following Pages.
No Eminem Or Slaughterhouse Features.
The first thing we noticed about the track list for Layers was that there was no Eminem feature, no DJ Premier, nor any members of Slaughterhouse on the album. It’s all you. Was that an intentional move on your part?
R59: Yeah, because with the concept of Layers, it’s basically me peeling back all of the layers of all of the different groups and things that I’ve been involved in over the last 10 years. You know, I jumped in a whole bunch of groups. When I decided to form a group with Preem [Premier], that automatically made Preem’s production sacred to me, you know what I’m saying? I don’t wanna abuse that. I don’t want to have him do beats on my album and do a full project with him. It’s no different from me having him DJ for a solo Royce Da 5’9” show. If we’re going to be a group, we have to take it serious. We gotta be a group. We gotta make it right. I also wanted people to focus on me for this project and focus on this layer because I’m going to give you elements of everything that I’ve given you from these groups, but it’s about me right now.
Your creativity has no boundaries at this point in your career. How would you compare your creativity from when you’re working with DJ Premier and PRhyme, to when you’re working with Slaughterhouse, to working with Eminem, and then to focusing on yourself?
R59: Yeah, with me, there’s no limit. There’s no limit, nobody to clear anything with, nobody to bounce ideas off of. The process is a longer process. It’s definitely a longer process. It takes more time, but it’s just me and my thoughts. It’s me getting out a lot of things that I want to talk about. Nothing is inappropriate to speak about. It’s more free. Working in a group capacity is easier. It’s way easier because all I have to do is my part. You know, everybody is working off everybody. Think about it, your standard songs has two-three verses and hooks. If all I gotta do is a 16 and a hook, and move on, I mean, we can do an album in a week. We did the first Slaughterhouse album in six days.
Advice From Eminem About Combating Addiction
You’re good friends with Eminem and also good friends with Joe Budden. Both men have struggled with addiction, like you. When you finally decided to escape alcohol, what were your conversations like with both Em and Joe, knowing their previous battles with addiction?
R59: Well, I talk to Em’ about it way more than I talk to Joe about it. Em and myself, we’re like actively pursuing sobriety together. It’s not often that he needs to call me and confide in me, but I call him all the time to talk to him about it. When you first get sober, you need to know that there’s somebody out there that can relate to how you’re feeling. That’s basically what Em provided for me. There was no story that I couldn’t go to him with where he couldn’t match me with an even better story, you know? That’s basically the concept of AA. That’s what those meetings are all about. Nobody is above anybody. Your addiction isn’t worst than my addiction. You’re a crackhead, you’re a heroin addict, and I’m an alocholic. I’m fine with that. Society looks at these things in a certain way, but we don’t, because we all have similar problems. We all been through similar things and the gateway is addiction.
Now Joe, Joe has been back and forth with battling addiction for a lot of years before I even met him. So he has a whole other take on it and how he likes to deal with it. I kind of stay out of Joe’s way when it comes to that. I try not to come off as judgmental to any of my friends. Everybody should be allowed to do what they do. Nobody knows Joe like Joe knows Joe. So I never judge him. When I see him, and he looks healthy, I’m happy. That’s pretty much all I can do.
In the past, when rappers like Joe and Em have gotten clean, fans sensed a decline in them musically. Do you ever worry about whether you might lose your edge and aggressiveness musically, considering you’re clean now?
R59: Yeah, I worry about it all the time. I think it just makes me human. I think it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to worry because the day I start getting bored and think it’s not possible to lose my edge, I just may lose it. So I think about it all the time and I just apply myself as much as possible.