INTERVIEW: 5 Questions with Royce da 5’9″

by Marcus K. Dowling

The most intriguing story of music in 2011 may be hip hop’s now seemingly permanent entrenchment as the gold standard of pop music. With this development though comes a unique period of time in which underground veterans of rap seem forced to choose whether to embrace the mainstream appeal of the genre, or to continue to occupy the former construction of hip hop success. Detroit urban legend Royce da 5’9″‘s 2011 shows that it is indeed possible to successfully occupy two spaces at the same time, filling both the pop and independent lanes to rap superstardom.

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A savvy blend of DIY roots and key mainstream acceptance may allow many to say that Royce da 5’9″ is 2011’s most successful emcee. An on again off again partnership with Eminem dominated the pop charts as super-duo Bad Meets Evil. As well, again partnering with fellow top hip-hop underground stalwarts Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Joe Budden for Slaughterhouse’s eponymous EP project and a smugly arrogant yet ┬ályrically concussive solo album Success is Certain define Royce as a hot property in all realms of the hip hop community. Three releases landing in the Billboard Top Album charts in a calendar year is impressive. Getting the opportunity to pick the brain of the top emcee, certainly an honor, his brief answers a clear sign of veteran awareness and a nod to the simplicity of excellence when following a clear path to success.

1. Do you feel that as hip hop becomes a more recognized mainstream music entity that lyrical talent has become a de-emphasized trait? Or, do you feel that being an above average lyricst only increases an emcee’s ability to have mainstream appeal. Why?

A. Look at the biggest emcees in the game Jay Z, Eminem and Lil Wayne. I think that shows that the biggest artist are all great lyricists. In my opinion to be a great artist you have to write great lyrics.

2. When presented with the idea of the Slaughterhouse combo, were you as excited as many in the hip hop world were at the possibilities? What have you learned about yourself through recording with that crew, and what, if anything have you learned from the three other emcees?

A. I was very excited to be a part of SH. I learned that there was 3 other individuals on the so called “underground who had a similar story to mines and was just as talented as me. I’m honored to be around such a talented group of brothers.

3. What were three key songs that made you decide to be an emcee, and what are three songs, if any that have helped you to evolve in your craft as a professional?

A. I don’t know if there was 3 songs but there was 3 emcees, Rass Kass, Redman and LL Cool J.

4. What are some of the most significant differences in your personal relationship with Eminem since 1999 when “Bad Meets Evil” was on the Slim Shady LP to 2011 where Bad Meets Evil is a performing duo?

A. The biggest different is that we have both grown as men and he’s sober. He takes his sobriety very seriously as well as everyone around him.

5. Have you accomplished many of the goals you set for yourself when you started rapping? What has changed about your goals and desires as your career has matured?

A. I’ve accomplished some goals but my goal is to never run out of goals and to keep working hard to accomplish them.