Royce Da 5’9″ – Success Is Certain [Review]

Note: Royce Da 5’9′”s album Success Is Certain will be reviewed in the Group Therapy format. This means you will see thoughts by both DJ LP & Calvin 2.0. Much respect and thanks to the authors. – B-Easy.

DJ LP: Royce Da 5’9” has had a very interesting year in Hip-Hop, from signing with Shady (with the Slaughterhouse Machine), to reuniting with Eminem and collaborating to put out the Bad Meets Evil album. But don’t think it’s over for Royce yet as he gives us his latest independent work and let’s not forget the upcoming Slaughterhouse album. Right now let’s focus on Success is Certain.

Calvin 2.0: Well here’s a name we should all be familiar with by now. Royce Da 5’9″ has been the grind for over a decade now. From his beginnings spitting alongside partner in rhyme Slim Shady, falling out with said companion, bringing out several solo projects along with being a member of super group Slaughterhouse, ghost writing for Diddy, then eventually teaming back up with Eminem to bring out last month’s newest Bad Meets Evil album. So after the collaborative album with Shady, bringing out last year’s Street Hop it seems like Nickel 9 is bringing a new meaning to the phrase striking while the iron is hot. Let’s see if Royce brings the heat…

1. Legendary
Featuring Travis Barker; Produced by Eminem & The Futuristiks

DJ LP: Right off the back we are given a very interesting beat. At first listen I wasn’t sure to make of the beat. Couple listens and it finally hit me that we got a somewhat rock beat going here (Could have realized it faster if I noticed the Travis Barker feature). But I’m digging the beat and the drums that Travis gave us. My only complaint with this track is the hook. The “legendary” sample/scratching would have been good enough for the hook and we could have avoided the singing hook (kind of rockish if you ask me) – Where is Premo when you need him? Don’t get me wrong though, great track.

Calvin 2.0: I don’t know what it is with this song but I just can’t find any reason to love it even though the credits say some of my favorites have something to do with the song’s creation. Not saying it’s terrible but it’s just not that great of a song, especially for an opening track. It’s the production that let’s Royce down. The repetitive guitar loop and Jay-Z sample doesn’t help either. Even though Royce doesn’t sound motivated at all he still does his thing on the mic, particularly in the first verse:

I’m a heavyweight, I’m catastrophic when I set it like Farenheit 9/11,
Meditate till the levees break
I tar and feather featherweight till my fetti straight
The mac 11 will clap your melon and give your ass spaghetti face
Uh, you ever look inside some dying eyes?
You’ll see surprise and realize there’s no denying God

2. Writer’s Block
Featuring Eminem; Produced by StreetRunner & Soram

DJ LP: Looking at the Eminem feature and thinking about the Bad Meets Evil album we would expect to get a verse from Shady. However this is not the case. Em sticks to hook duty and lets Royce do his thing. I’m so-so about the beat. I like it but I can’t say I love it. One thing that did catch my attention was a couple bars that Nickel said near the beginning

Niggas be quick to call me the new 50 Cent
Because of my relationship with Marshall
Used to make me a little partial, but here’s the brain fuck
We the same cuz
I’m probably about to fall out with a young buck
While I attempt to fuck the fucking game up
Anyone see what I’m talking about? Course we know Nickel is having fun here and not sending any shots

Calvin 2.0: Those who have been following Royce’s career lately would have heard this one when it was leaked a few months back. This should have been the first song on the album as it’s clearly evident Royce is way more amped and aggressive here compared to the last track. The beat is epic enough to start a stampede at a Christian Rock concert and Marshall’s yelling on the hook keeps the rage flowing. Royce’s flow is incredible. NICE!

3. Merry Go Round
Produced by Nottz

DJ LP: The hook for this one sounds like something you would hear at the round table with King Arthur. Quickly everything picks up as the beat speeds up along with Nickels flow. During the second verse we get a summed up history of Nickel’s career

I went from high on pills
To triumph, to hidin’ from bills, to buyin buildin’s
Then I went from writin’ for Dre
To wonderin’ if my head was on straight on the sidelines
Feelin’ I forgot about listenin’ to “Forgot About Dre”
From there I went to about a bottle a day
Tellin’ who we know “Get outta my face!” okay I know what Kino said about Dre
I look at Kino to this day like that was a stupid mistake
But if it wasn’t for him doin that, what would I be doin today?
If it wasn’t for Ca$his sayin’ that he gonna beat my ass
Then me and Em prob’ly wouldn’t be laughin bout us gettin past it
If it wasn’t for me bein outcasted I woulda never been on the underground rappin wit SLAUGHTERHOUSE!

Calvin 2.0: Royce gets some singing done on the chorus for this one. We’re treated to an autobiographical account of Nickel’s friendships turned sour, dramas and politics in the music industry, a few brief lines about his relationship with Eminem (again) and some of the hardships he’s faced, like being black balled from music business. But don’t feel sorry for him as he says it at the end of the last verse. Everything happens for a reason. The hook gets a little tiresome but things are kept short with the track only going for just over 2 and half minutes.

4. Where My Money
Produced by StreetRunner

DJ LP: This next track has been around for a while (My library shows November). Right away I’ll say I’m not a huge fan of the beat which is a surprise because I tend to like a lot of StreetRunner beats. Nickel does ask “Where My Money at” but we know that is no longer the case since he is making Shady money. I’ll say pass on this track though.

Calvin 2.0: “I’ma kill somebody if somebody don’t make me real rich this year!” should grab your attention within the first 30 seconds of this funky track. Royce gets a gem of a beat from StreetRunner with frantic handclaps and awesome horns. This is pretty much Royce Da 5’ 9” announces his return to the top while taking shots at the state of hip-hop and the people who run the industry.

Now who give a fuck about who bar is the hardest?
When the DJ’s think they bigger stars than the artist
Ridin around in Ferraris doin more A&R’in than the A&R’s
And half them niggaz don’t even scratch
That’s like the blind leadin the blind leader
Hip-Hop is like the FBI in the trap readin the Don Diva
It makes no sense

This is a great track with the intensity Royce should have been showing from the very beginning of the album. First class beat, brilliant hook, great message, excellent flow. I’m running out of positive adjectives so I’ll just say it’s a track worth listening to.

5. ER
Featuring Kid Vishis; Produced by StreetRunner

DJ LP: This time around I’m loving the beat and even the hook

As long as I’m alive the game goin’ to be breathing
Even though it’s …….weezing

Both Nickel and Kid Vishis turns in good aggressive verses. This sounds like something that could have been on the Bad Meets Evil album (Which is a good thing). Kid Vishis has shown improvement since his last appearance on a Royce album (Street Hop). Dare I say I’m even liking his flow better than Nickel’s? Check this one out

Calvin: “ER” plays out like a much more vicious and dark version of Weezy’s “Dr. Carter”. Royce and his brother Vishis tell their stories of being rebuilt and revived to become beasts in Hip-Hop. Both MC’s go in and make the beat that more venomous while slamming “tight jean wearing rappers”.

6. On The Boulevard
Featuring Nottz & Adonis; Produced by Nottz

DJ LP: The piano opening kind of reminds me of “Above The Law” on the Bad Meets Evil album. But this track slows things down a bit, Nottz gives us a nice and smooth production as Adonis gives us a story about Kenny and Nickel also closes the track. I’m not sure if that’s Nottz on the chorus but the hook sums up the feel of the track. Nice.

Calvin 2.0: Nottz provides Nickel and Adonis with a somber beat to place their stories over. Both rappers speak about themselves in the third person referencing them as “Kenny”. Not much depth in the story telling, just basically saying they’ve struggled and not to fuck with them, in a nutshell that is. Nothing too great. Plus anyone else think the outro sounds very similar to Beyonce’s intro on American Gangster?

7. I Ain’t Coming Down
Produced by The Alchemist

DJ LP: I’m not going to lie but Alchemist makes me feel as if I’m playing a Legend of Zelda game and I’m in the water stage. Once again this is another track I’m not really feeling. We have another song that Nickel sings the hook but gives us solid verses. You might like it so take a listen and you be the judge.

Calvin 2.0: Man, Royce has been mentioning his past beefs A LOT lately. It’s getting a little tiresome. The guy just needs to make ONE song about his experiences with Shady, D12, Trick Trick, Ca$his, and whoever else. I understand the situation is probably too big to condense into one track but I don’t know if I wanna hear anymore shit about Royce’s relationships with other people. I guess you could put this down to venting and hopefully he’ll move onto other subjects next go around. The Alchemist’s spaced out beat is simplistic and kinda boring. Probably mark this one as a miss.

8. Security
Produce by Mr. Porter

DJ LP:

“The truth is, I was at Proofs funeral, cryin’ like a baby”

Nickel gives us something real as he talks about Proof. This is some real shit and you have to listen to this track to really respect it. Check it out

Calvin 2.0: Maybe I spoke too soon about Royce’s choice of subject matter. This shit right here is what we need to hear. Cleverly incorporating Mr. Porter’s sampled chorus into his verses 5’9” narrates late D12 member Proof’s last hours on earth before he was gunned down at an after hours spot in Detroit. The first verse touches on the beef the two had while the second talks about the night Proof was killed. Finally the third verse is about the aftermath of his death. It might sound strange but Royce’s somber tone, which shows his pain and grief, fits well over Porter’s upbeat sound track. My favourite track on the album so far. R.I.P. Big Proof.

9. Second Place
Produced by DJ Premier

DJ LP: This is my favorite track on the album. Check out the Sound Session on this track.

Calvin 2.0: Well doesn’t the song credits say it? Royce again ripping up a classic Premo beat. Legen…wait for it…dary (Shout out to Barney). Not much else I can say about this song apart from displaying some lyrics:

Look, I’m in a zone for rilla
In a freezer with Medusa
“I’m fucking a stone-cold killer
You bitch-fobbing, I’m insiding,
I tell your kids this. Daddy’s been doing more
Dick-riding than Carrie Wington
I’m very venomous, you very innocent and
I will send a monster to your house!
Call him Harry Henderson
Oh my God, I was just in jail
Then the devil caught pneumonia, and it made me sick as hell
You niggas counting me out can get the riches still
You’re all in the Matrix, should’ve picked a different pill
You about to see how far that Paul Rosenberg’ll go
The height of my game is like a DeMar (De)Rozen vertical
No one understands me, only one sicker than me is Em
I’m into DMC, runs in the family”

10. My Own Planet
Featuring Joe Budden; Produced by Mr. Porter

DJ LP: This track has also been around for a while. The original featured a Big Sean verse, however another version came out with a Joe Budden verse and that’s the one Nickel decided to go with on the album. Also if you’ve been keeping tabs this is the first time that a Slaughterhouse member has appeared on the whole album.

Mr. Porter gives us a smooth production and Royce gives us a calm/smooth flow. Joe Budden comes into the track on the third verse and gives the track the energy it deserves with a flow more suited for the beat. I’ll give Joey this one.

Calvin 2.0: The direction is changed a little here with Mr. Porter’s Neptunes (no pun intended) styled production, along with his own rendition of Pharrell’s falsetto. Bringing along Joe Budden for the trip into space Royce talks about everything from getting caught drink driving, censorship and voyages into space. Joe mostly focuses on his large member (no homo). A decent track.

11. I’ve Been Up I’ve Been Down
Produced by Mr. Porter & The Alchemist

DJ LP: Another smooth track from Mr. Porter and this time he gets help from Alchemist. I’m not used to hearing such a smooth track from both these producers, of course each time they hook up with Slaughterhouse we get a more aggressive beat.

This is a great way to end the album. We may have a singing Nickel but this time it does work. Not that Nickel can’t pull off a singing hook, it’s just sometimes it doesn’t work. Glad it works here though. We get a solid performance from Nickel in the second longest track on the album. When it’s over you’ll wish it was an even longer track. Take a listen, you won’t regret it.

Calvin 2.0: As most outro tracks go things get real here. Even though all we’ve heard throughout this album is honest, heartfelt lyrics (apart from maybe “Legendary”) that theme continues. Reflecting on his 10 plus years in the game and the struggles of growing up in a disconnect family. This is what I really like about Royce Da 5’9”, his honesty on the mic. Never fronting, just spitting about things that matter to him.

Bottom Line:
DJ LP: Nickel Nine gives us a solid dolo performance. From Street Hop being release and “Second Place” hitting the net I’ve been pretty excited for the album (of course the Slaughterhouse album and Bad Meets Evil album also). The album is by no means perfect and does have its lows (“Where My Money” & “I Ain’t Coming Down”) it also has its highs (“Second Place”, “ER”, “I’ve Been Up I’ve Been Down” to name a few). I was disappointed about the absence of a Slaughterhouse feature and more DJ Premiere produced tracks on this album but I’m sure we’ll get all that settled on the Slaughterhouse album. Until then check this album out and support real Hip-Hop. [Rating: 4 Stars]

Calvin 2.0: One thing that sticks out after listening to this album is that Royce mentions his relationship with Em a lot. Guess that was on his mind at the time of recording. Especially since the two have made up since and now Royce being signed to Shady Records as part of Slaughterhouse.

Speaking of which, it seems like Royce has quickly put out this album to fill his obligations for Gracie Productions so he can sign to Shady Records as a solo artist. Which hey, isn’t such a bad thing I guess.

Though some tracks are probably left over from last years Street Hop it’s cool that Royce didn’t go after the pop appeal (Not that he ever does) with this album. With beats like “Security” he could have made some club joint but instead focused what was important to him. And I think that’s saying a lot for rappers these days since it’s so simple to create a track that would make a good ringtone, make a bit of money, and run. Instead here Royce sticks to what he knows and what his fans appreciate. Good street music spat in a masterful way. [Rating: 3.5 Stars]

Note: The average rating her is 3.75 but in these situations, we round down (Sorry LP) – B-Easy

Download: Royce Da 5’9″ feat. Eminem – “Writer’s Block (DJ Premier Remix)”

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