PRhyme Talk New Album 'PRhyme 2,' Ageism in Hip-Hop & Premiere New Video 'Rock It'
Ever since they first collaborated on “Boom” in 2002, fans have clamored for a collaborative project between Royce Da 5’9” and DJ Premier. After 12 years, the Detroit MC and legendary producer formed PRhyme and released an album to much critical acclaim. But considering the response, the two have decided to re-up and give their loyal base another dosage of neck-snapping beats and rewind button-worthy rhymes with PRhyme 2.
For this installment, DJ Premier carved up the catalog of producer Antman Wonder and hired the services of a variety of emcees ranging from Big K.R.I.T. and Rapsody to 2 Chainz and Cee-Lo Green. If it’s dope beats and dope rhymes that you are in search of, look no further than PRhyme 2. And don’t let their age (Royce is 40 while DJ Premier is 51) put a damper on your expectations, because they’ve only gotten better over time, and PRhyme 2 manages to improve on the foundation laid with the first entry.
Billboard sat down with the duo to discuss how they selected Antman Wonder, ageism in hip-hop, how some of these songs came together, and who might be involved in PRhyme 3. See that interview, as well as their new video for "Rock It," below.
Billboard: Were there any other producers that you had considered using their catalog before you settled on Antman Wonder?
Royce: We talked about using Madlib. We had a short conversation with him. But the final decision was solely on Preem, and all I could do was make suggestions. So, as soon as he start vibing to the Antman stuff, and he start making shit to it, I was like "Okay, we rolling."
Wait, so could Madlib possibly be on the table for a PRhyme 3 album?
Royce: Hey, anybody can happen to be on the table.
DJ Premier: Yeah, I would consider anybody if they got enough sourced music compositions that we can do something with. If it makes Royce excited, I'm excited.
How did you end up working with Antman Wonder?
DJ Premier: I was already up on him. I did a song with him, Skyzoo and Torae (“The Aura”) for Sky and Tor’s Barrel Brothers album. I spoke to him on the phone and he said he was going to make special compositions strictly for PRhyme 2. He made us over 30 joints.
Royce, back in 2015 you aimed some tweets about PRhyme 2 at Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and The Game. How close were you to getting any of them on this album?
Royce: That was just wishful thinking. That was kind of putting feelers out there to see how excited people were about the idea us doing another PRhyme album. I don't think we reached out to any of those guys. I would have loved to have Em on PRhyme -- that's something that the fans have really, really wanted -- but we never came across one that we felt like, "Yeah, let's send this to him." I've been trying to work with Game and Kendrick for a minute, man. Just trying to come up with the right shit that we feel fits.
I have to ask about “Flirt” with 2 Chainz...
DJ Premier: I love that one.
Royce, how much of this interaction with a groupie in your DMs that you talk about in this song is true?
Royce: Everything is true on that song. I speak from my experiences. I don't pull from a lot of other people's experiences like I used to. Because I've got a lot of my own experiences to pull from, so I just kind of do that.
How did 2 Chainz end up on this song?
DJ Premier: Before we even knew that 2 Chainz was gonna be the choice, Royce had already done the song by himself. When I heard the lyrics I was like, "Damn, that shit is dope." Even when he did the "Bitch please miss me, I'm paid as hell/ I got the game locked, arcades in jail." That reminds me of Too Short back in the late ‘80s.
It was almost six months later before I went to Detroit to finish the album. One day we were like, "Who are we gonna get to follow up on your verse that could really nail it?" We started kicking names around. And then Royce’s brother said, "What about 2 Chainz?" I approved immediately, because we knew 2 Chainz would totally know what to do with a song like this. I called him, explained the concept and he's like "Man, you know that's up my alley."
When he sent it back, I was just so open to his verse, because it totally connects with what Royce said. And I thought it was gonna be 16 [bars], he took it past that. I've always been a fan of 2 Chainz since Playaz Circle, and I was confident that he was gonna write a dope rhyme. And he did.
Another person I wanted to talk about on this album that catches a body lyrically is Rapsody on “Loved Ones." How did that come together?
Royce: It was a composition that I started writing before Preem did anything to it. I sent it to Rapsody raw like that, with no drums, because she’s very good at floating on a beat. I told her the concept that I kinda wanted, to stress the importance of how we viewed the word "love." It's like, Preem is a great friend of mine. If Preem had a wife, I wouldn't even consider having sex with his wife. Not in my drunkest, not in my highest, not in nothing. That’s a man code, right?
Royce: But I get drunk and cheat on my wife like it's second nature -- and what's the difference? Why should I be more loyal to my friend than I am to my wife? Why doesn't love just apply across the board? So that's basically what the concept was, and I knew Rapsody could kind of bring it home in her perspective.
She was playing the role of like a girlfriend, and just speaking from a woman's perspective of how they view us. Because a lot of time, they mature faster than we do. But then they gotta sit and wait for us to become more mature, so they could finally have a good man.
I want to talk about maturity in hip-hop. Royce, you’re 40 and Preem you’re in your 50's...
DJ Premier: Nah, I'm 51 [Laughs.]
Royce: Believe me, he’s proud of that 51.
Everyday Struggle tackles the generational issue in hip-hop. But is there really an issue? Because 2 Chainz is 40 and the younger generation loves him, while Chance the Rapper is 24 but has the ear of the older heads.
Royce: It's just the cool factor. I think the main objective for every kid in America and the rest of the world is to fit in. If you’re an OG and you realize that, you'll have less of an issue. They never talk about Pharrell's age because he's so cool. 2 Chainz is cool. Give them a reason to think you're not cool, then they’re gonna crack on your age.
There are too many of guys our age and older attacking them. You never hear Preem do that. He has more of a right to be a gatekeeper than any of these guys, you don't see him acting like that. That's why he's still so cool. It's all perspective, and the narrative is super fuzzy. That whole generational gap, that wall between this genre and that genre, us against them, that's a fuzzy narrative.
Royce, when you were younger did you think there was a place for a 40-year-old in hip-hop?
Royce: I can't remember exactly how I felt about that topic. I do know that things weren't as age sensitive as they are now back then. I didn't see Redman and say, "Oh look at these old niggas." I was happy to see Redman. I don't know what's up with these new kids. Age is a big deal to them. And my advice to them would be, "Please take care of yourself." Because you can't call me old when I look better than you... If you look like shit and you're 20 years old, don't run around bragging about being 20 years old. You gotta take care of yourself.
I never really came into this game thinking about longevity, because all of the artists that I looked up to I knew were gonna still be here. I didn't worry about being here for 20 years, that was kinda like a given for me.
What about you Preemo? Did you visualize yourself being in this spot at 51?
DJ Premier: No, not really. I've heard certain people say, "You ain't gonna see me rapping at 40." When [1989's] “Manifest” popped off, I was 21 going on 22. But I’ve never declined. I think the fact that Gang Starr kept getting more and more successful was the reason we never thought about our age. Guru and I were buying houses and we weren't even gold. The success was so great, who cares how old we are? I used to lie about my age at first because you always want to be 18, but then you start looking at it and you're 40, and the money's still coming. And you're like, "Man, who cares about that?"
Where do you think ageism in hip-hop started?
Royce: I'll tell you about when kids started getting real opinionated: When the Internet started really taking off. You were able to start seeing a lot more comments. But somewhere around when hip-hop stopped being as aggressive. Sometime around when 50 Cent had a stranglehold on the game and Kanye kinda took off, and then Lil Wayne jumped in there.
That fanbase became really, really young. A lot of the kids that they raised -- the Chance the Rappers and the Tyler, the Creators -- all of those kids, once they got in the game and they started doing their thing and they were opinionated artists who got the aggressive content the hell out of there... then the old heads start defending the tough guys, and then we start having the not-so-tough guys versus the tough guys. And obviously the not-so-tough guys troll a little better. So there goes your history right there.
It’s been 16 years since you two first collaborated on “Boom.” When you look back at Royce’s trials and tribulations through life, did you think back then that there would be a possibility that you guys would still be working together more than a decade later?
DJ Premier: Definitely. After “Boom” took off, every album and every year, we'd make another banger. It got to the point where it was normal to know that we’d be working together before I even hear from him, just because we just had that type of a bond.
Royce, could you have done a project like this with Premier 10 years ago?
I didn’t look at it as a possibility at that time and I didn’t rule it out either. A lot of people wanted us to do a collaboration album back then but at that time I knew it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. I knew it was going to take a little time for me to raise my stock a little bit. It would have to come at the right time when he would be ready to collaborate on something like that.
This was originally supposed to be a Slaughterhouse album but it fell through the cracks. So I looked at that as a good time to present it to Premier as something that just me and him can do. We took baby steps. It started as an EP. We did five songs and I pushed him to do four more. After that I asked how he felt about calling the group PRhyme. We never got together to form a group. Everything happened organically.
And about that Slaughterhouse album…
Royce: I don't really know. At this time, everybody is just kind of doing their own thing.