Published May 08, 2018After numerous delays and much anticipation, rapper Royce 5'9" finally dropped his long-prophesied Book of Ryan, packed with big features and even bigger bars. Five years in the making — according to a recent interview — the album is his most intimate to date, with the rapper giving listeners an up-close and personal look into his life, an almost continuation of "Tabernacle," which appeared on 2016's Layers.
At times humorous in its approach, and at other points poignantly sombre, the album plays out as a series of memories, threaded together as though they are being read like a book. The concept itself becomes clear in two skits. First, there's "My Parallel," where he describes it as his untold tale of scandal — a reference to Gill Scott Heron's "Comment #1"; then there's "Who Are You," where his son explains he's writing a paper on him (titled Book of Ryan), but doesn't honestly know who his father really is/was.
Seeping with references to his battles with addiction, the violent dynamic of his household while coming of age ("Power"), mental health and the pressures that come along with internalizing issues while habitually taking care of others ("Strong Friend"), Royce manages to make his truths into a digestible listen.
Songs like "Boblo Boat," a nostalgia-laced collaboration with J. Cole, "Summer on Lock" featuring Jadakiss, Pusha T, Fabolous and Agent Sasco, and both versions of "Caterpillar" — featuring Eminem and Logic respectively — provide the album with standalone songs that still manage to sit perfectly within the LP.
A member of the (now defunct) group Slaughterhouse, Royce has built a strong reputation as a lyricist, possibly one of the best out there right now. For anyone who has been following his career since Rock City — and even those who have been following him since the Game Records days — Book of Ryan is a welcome origin story, an issue zero that leaves no stone unturned. (eOne)