Published Nov 25, 2014No one asked one of the world's most famous MCs to wear a hooded sweatshirt promoting a newly formed independent rap group in a viral video that has already garnered more than 2.6 million YouTube views. Yet Eminem spitting a rapid-fire, six-and-a-half-minute freestyle while wearing a grey PRhyme hoodie might be the best free promotion Royce Da 5'9"and DJ Premier could've hoped for.
"I ain't ask him to do nothing," Eminem's friend and fellow Detroit rhymer Royce tells Exclaim! "He liked the design of it, he liked the way it fit, and he loved the project. Em is the kind of person where if he sees something that he likes to wear, then he'll get a bunch of them and just wear that. Air Maxes, the Kangol hat — he's got a few signature things. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. He'll say, 'I like this, so I'll wear this shit every day.'"
Royce is signed to Eminem's Shady Records as part of supergroup Slaughterhouse, and originally the nine-song PRhyme project (out December 9 on their own label) was intended to be a group EP, an exercise using samples exclusively from composer Adrian Younge's catalogue to keep the Slaughterhouse brand rolling after the release date of the crew's third LP got pushed back.
But when members Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz were busy working on their solo albums, Royce asked Premier if he wanted to do the EP as just a duo.
"[Royce] and I always make magic in the studio, and it's easier to work with just one artist and get it done," explains the legendary producer, initially hesitant to confine his process to sampling just one artist. "Still, the intention was to do five songs. As we started getting into it, Royce felt it needed a couple more to make it feel more complete. Those two songs turned into two more. Next thing you know, we have nine songs."
The project features cameos by Common, Jay Electronica, Killer Mike and the rest of Slaughterhouse — all arranged by Royce, to Premier's delight — and has fans of sample-based beats and ridiculous wordplay salivating. Eminem's heard it, and he loves it.
Premier ran into Marshall Mathers two weeks ago by chance at the Sirius FM studios. "The first thing he said to me was, 'Yo! This PRhyme album is so dope. Man… I love what y'all did with it.' And he had a PRhyme hoodie on. He goes, 'Yo! I wear this hoodie every day. I have three of them. I don't even wash. I rotate them.' And I could see him doing that. I don't know him like Royce does, but I could see he meant that. You could see it in his eyes. He wasn't just saying that to make me happy."
The encouragement flows both ways. Royce, who formed the Bad Meets Evil duo with Eminem back in 1997, points to the diamond-selling star as a prime example of maintaining longevity in hip-hop.
"When you take away the amount of sales and look at just the sharpness of his art, his gift, the necessary steps he takes to still be good at what he does — that's inspirational to be around. His style has gone through many different changes; he hasn't stayed the same," says Royce.
Although Royce and Em have yet to discuss a new Bad Meets Evil project, they did hit the studio to record two tracks for the newly released Shady XV compilation, "Vegas" and "Detroit Vs. Everybody." More importantly, Royce, who has been sober for two years after using alcohol as a social crutch, has taken his habit-kicking cues from Mathers' own road to sobriety.
"He's somebody who I've always tried to pattern myself after and watched his journey," Royce says. "Even with him getting sober and showing you can become a grown man in the public eye. He's a good influence."