Detroit emcee and Shady Records affiliate, Royce Da 5’9″ has been chopping at the walls of Hip Hop with a machine gun flow, breathing incendiary rounds of lyrical power.
What’s a rapper to do, when they’ve come to master their flow and lyricism, when they’ve sparred with the best emcees and come out toughened by fire? For Royce the answer is to turn that scalpel he calls a pen onto his own psyche. Layers, as a record, is the most introspective project Nickel has released. There’s a rather recurrent stigma in rapping where if you’re to tell a story, you have to sacrifice some lyricism for the sake of clarity. Paying no mind to that, Nickel balances lyricism and narration straight out the gate with “Tabernacle”, reflecting on the birth of his son coinciding with the death of his grandmother.
There’s nothing lost on the record. Royce comes through with passion on every verse, taking steps outside of his comfort zone as a spitter without sacrificing any lyrical bite. “Gotta know” and “Quiet” that sit back to back on the tail end of the album, show Nickel’s ability to tear through off-kilter beats without missing a step or altering the melody.
Last week at Andrew Thiele’s (the artist behind the cover art of Layers) new exhibition, I had the honor of listening through the record alongside Royce, and some impeccable artists whose presence spoke as a cosign to the album’s quality. I got to bump shoulders with spitters like Pharoahe Monch and Torae who were both enthralled to be there for Royce. While Layers‘s initial vibe was enjoyable, with an artist like Royce, I was more excited to sit down and listen closely to the bars he dropped on the album.
The most impressive thing about Layers, is Royce’s insistence on not being pegged as a particular type of emcee. True to the name of the record, he opens up the layers of his psyche which include the skills of a spitter, a story-teller, and a street emcee. It’s a really amazing Hip Hop album, and will give even hardcore Royce fans a deeper look into the mind of Nickel Nine the god.
You can pre-order the record on iTunes it drops 4/15/16
art by your homie, Arthur Banach
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