Royce and Premier struggle but succeed with the duo’s second album

‘PRhyme 2’ dropped on March 16

By Matthew Joseph, Collegian Staff

The P stands for Premier. The R stands for Royce Da 5’9”.

PRhyme is the producer-emcee duo of the widely-considered “best producer of all time” DJ Premier and Midwest rapper Royce da 5’9”, and the two dropped their second studio album, “PRhyme 2,” on March 16.

Getting his start from the late 80s duo Gang Starr, Premier pioneered the East Coast sound, taking soul and Motown drum breaks and crafting them into a “boom-bap” rhythm (think Nas and Biggie, or contemporaries Joey Bada$$ and Flatbush Zombies). Royce is the self-destructive but still underrated talent from Detroit. Royce is a best friend of Eminem’s, acting as almost a mentor, and runs with Slaughterhouse on Marshall and Dre’s label Interscope. Marrying East Coast wordplay with Midwest flows, Royce is a beast of a rapper, with well-deserved stardom from his 2002 debut but weighed down by alcoholism and adultery.

“If I could figure out how to bottle that, I’d be out of debt,” Royce raps on “Black History,” the opener and strongest cut from PRhyme 2. With a tactful cadence, Royce spills his flow between measures in a way that creates an engaging story. He narrates his premature birth and his parents, who are burdened with addiction. Released too early from the hospital from a lack of insurance, Royce finishes his best verse on the album “I learned everything I need to know at day one in the hospital. They gonna doubt you, n****. And you can’t even pay no one to care about you, n****.”

With short, rapid-fire hooks, Royce remains the centerpiece of the duo’s second album. The first PRhyme album was incredibly well-received, with bold, inventive production and rock-solid features that incorporated effortless collaboration from Royce and Premier. However, the formula struggles on PRhyme 2. Premier—in an attempt to bolster another producer, AntMan Wonder—limits himself to samples chosen for him. The samples aren’t particularly bad, but restricting his flexibility creates unnecessary friction between Royce and the beat. Drums fail to compliment Royce’s delivery on “Era” while over-indulgent orchestral samples steal the attention on “Rock It”.

Royce indulges himself as well. No matter how dastardly clever his rhymes are, there are always songs that seem to fall short as Royce refers to controversial rapper XXXTentacion on the track “Era.” PRhyme 2’s features are another disappointment. Yelawolf kills his flow on “W.O.W. (With Out Warning)” despite not saying anything particularly substantial, and 2 Chainz steals the show on “Flirt.” But Dave East, CeeLo and even Big K.R.I.T. are entirely forgetful. In comparison, ScHoolboy Q and Common starred in their roles on PRhyme’s first album, and Ab-Soul gave one of the best verses in his career.

But it’s impossible to completely miss the mark with these two talents. The back half of the album delivers fun interpolation of hooks from “Can I Kick It?,” “Luchini (This Is It)” and even Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran (So Far Away).” Premier’s production absolutely soars on tracks “1 of the Hardest” and “Sunflower Seeds,” while Royce delivers numerous lines packed with wordplay and plenty of “a-ha” moments, as the duo’s formula continues to shine through every setback. And the aforementioned “Black History” might be the best of Royce’s career. It’s so refreshing to hear one of the best rappers on the best producer’s beats. It’s a much-needed respite from the trap takeover of 2016 and 2017. Hearing Premier return to the studio is the dream of any rap fan, and if Royce’s 2016 mixtape “Trust The Shooter” is any indication, the two have plenty left to offer.

Matthew Joseph can be reached at [email protected]