5 Things We Learned After Our First Listen to Royce Da 5'9''s New Album 'Book of Ryan'

Royce da 5'9'
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

Royce da 5'9' performs at the 2016 Roots Picnic NYC at Bryant Park on October 2, 2016 in New York City. 

Royce 5’9” has been on a pretty significant tear over the past few years. Proving that hip-hop is not a young man’s game, it can be argued that the Detroit emcee is just now reaching his prime years at the tender age of 40. From the chest thumping exercises alongside DJ Premier on both PRhyme albums and as a part of Slaughterhouse to the newfound introspection as a sober man of five years found on Layers, Royce has proven to be far more than Eminem’s friend.

He’s openly called his new album Book of Ryan his most important album to date, and he’s absolutely right. With so much momentum from his previous work and that head-spinning Funkmaster Flex freestyle that had the entire internet buzzing, Royce needed to deliver with his seventh studio album.

It’s going to take some time for the internet to deliberate and decide whether or not this is Royce’s finest work. Until then, here are five things that immediately jumped out at us after listening to Book of Ryan for the first time.

This Is The Definitive Royce Album

Over the past couple of years, Royce 5’9” has been building toward this moment where he drops an album that is undeniably his most important work of his career. For most rappers, it’s the first album. But for Royce, it’s his 7th. With his recent endeavors, Nickel has been slowly opening up and showcasing an innate ability to deliver personal narratives. But those were warm-ups compared to what he accomplishes on Book of Ryan. No Royce project before this traverses the subject matter that he does on Book of Ryan. It’s extraordinarily personal, but still packs the lyrical punch that attracted listeners in the first place.

Royce Can Rap Really, Really Well

This one seems pretty obvious, but if there was any question about Royce’s lyrical ability, Book of Ryan puts them on full display. He’s branched out from being recognized as just a battle emcee with this outing as he toys with different rhyme schemes and inflections in his voice. Rather than just go full bore with punchlines and metaphors like he once did in his younger years, Royce has figured out when to take his foot off the gas and drift on a beat. The lyricism will always be there but he knows how to make his voice fit the mood he’s trying to achieve.

There’s No Better Rapping Duo Than Eminem & Royce

Pick a group, any group, and put them against Royce and Eminem. You’ll be hard pressed to find a pair who can rap as well as these two. It’s not Batman-and-Robin when the Detroit emcees appear together, because neither is the sidekick. It’s more like Iron Man and Captain America, because people still have a hard time picking between the two. As you already know, when the duo known as Bad Meets Evil connects, bad things happen. Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good. Those who panned Eminem’s last album will be happy to hear Em back to his old form alongside Royce on “Caterpillar.” It’s a fierce exercise in ridiculous linguistics from Royce and Eminem. Microphones are left smoking by the time the four and a half minute track wraps up. Just think: both of these guys are in their 40s.  

Royce’s Attempt At Singing Works

Fifteen years ago, Royce probably would have berated anybody that suggested that he should sing on a track. However, at the age of 40 with more seasoning than a majority of rappers who are still relevant today, he’s more than willing to try something different. He could have kept it simple and rapped about his father’s struggles with cocaine on the song of the same name. Instead, to capture the pain of the track, Royce opts to sing his verses. It’s extremely effective way to communicate how he coped with his father’s journey from being hooked on the white powder to his entrance into rehab because he didn’t want to lose his family.

You’ll Learn More About Royce On This Album Than All Of His Previous Work Combined

Although he’s been in the game for nearly two decades, we haven’t really learned about who Ryan Montgomery until this album. Sure, he’s talked about the night his son was born, meeting Eminem for the first time and getting sober. But his past is something that has been kept under wraps. Book of Ryan peels the layers off of Royce 5’9” in ways his previous albums didn’t, with songs that address his family and his own turbulent childhood. Just about every song on the album is deeply personal. From his superstitious grandfather on “Amazing” and his father’s abusive relationship with his family on “Power” to the fascinating story of why his older brother went to jail on “Protecting Ryan,” it is truly amazing how little we knew about Ryan Montgomery prior to this album.   

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.