Royce Da 5'9" Death Is Certain

Due to his association with a certain blond-haired MC a few years back, Detroit’s Royce Da 5’9 must have thought that his success was assured. But somewhere along the line it all went wrong. His major label debut was consistently delayed and eventually came out via the indie route while his former bleached rhyme partner went on to build his own empire, signing other acts despite Royce’s obvious label difficulties. The experience has obviously left Royce with much to think about and the evidence is all over Death Is Certain. There are several rueful rhymes about what could have been and swipes at Tupac imitators getting all the props and how his own wife would rather listen to Joe Budden. While he comes off a little bitter, there are some gems here showing off Royce’s forceful and clearly enunciated flow. The clear standout is "Hip Hop” where Royce reconnects with DJ Premier after the success of "Boom” a few years back. A moody ambience hovers over the album thanks to Royce’s borderline depression, yet Carlos "Six” Broady’s dour beats don’t seem to consistently complement Royce’s style well. While he also makes mistakes with some tracks most notably trying unsuccessfully to cover Notorious BIG’s "What’s Beef,” there’s still enough evidence here to suggest that Royce may yet gain the success his frank honesty on this record deserves. (Koch)