Sunday, 28 December 2014

PRhyme (DJ Premier and Royce Da 59) - PRhyme album review

Ever since Premier and Royce teamed up for the classic 12" "Boom" fans have been clamouring for more collaborations from these two Hip Hop generals.  There have been a few joints paring these two up since "Boom" and they have been great tunes for the most part.  Now ten years after the release of that 12" we have an album from Primo and Royce, nine tracks all produced by DJ Premier.  There are some guests appearances from Common, Jay Electronica, Ab Soul, Mac Miller, Dwele, Killer Mike, Schoolboy Q and Slaughterhouse.  Although the album is entirely produced by DJ Premier he uses samples of live instruments and those live instruments are played by Adrian Younge, who you might remember produced "12 Reasons to die" album for Ghostface back in 2013.  The album is released on DJ Premier and Royce's own label PRhyme Records.  Not only is PRhyme the name of the label its also the name of the group that Premier and Royce make up.
Track one is called "PRhyme" and clocks in at just under four minutes.  Its a slow track for Premier similar to Nas's "Second Childhood" rather than Premier's usual up tempo tracks.  The beat features a crisp set of drums and a nice cymbal.  There is a good baseline and a nice organ riff that comes in from time to time along what sounds like a harpsichord and pan pipes.  Royce is a very skilled wordsmith and he shows this throughout the track dropping metaphors and allegories throughout.  One of my favourite lines from Royce on this track is "I lost a whole bunch of money chasing bitches but I never lost a bitch chasing money".  Royce varies his speed throughout the track at times going slow and avoiding his quick rapid fire style.
"Dat Sound Good" is the second track on the album and the first to feature a couple of guest emcees; Ab Soul and Mac Miller.  The beat is more of the traditional Premier style with an up tempo rhythm and some dope samples.  A nice organ sample and a guitar riff make up the track and of course Premier slices them up nicely (good luck tracing those samples down).  Royce drops the first verse with aplomb with Ab Soul taking the over for the second and Mac Miller doing the final verse.  Of course Premier provides some lovely scratches for the chorus.  A very enjoyable track with a nice beat and decent verse from all three emcees.
Track three is kinda short but damn its good.  Its called "U Looz" and clocks in at just under 2 minutes (although they have a video for it, see above so maybe it will get an extended release as a 12").  It features an upbeat tempo with a heavy electric guitar sample, a tight snare and some dope scratching.  Royce comes hard with his lyrics and even addresses the fact that some people have been saying he is there to replace GURU.  Royce has some more great lines for example "I called my bullets The Expendables, because its hard to believe I can fit all of them boys in one clip".  A very good track with only one complaint about it, I wish it was longer.
Track four is called "You should know" and features the Detroit soul singer and song writer Dwele.  Its a more mellow track switching between a nice guitar sample and some lovely horns.  Royce again shows why he is considered a great Braggadocio emcee with lines like "Thats when I tell 'em like Kobe to Shaq You Lazy" and "I'm more Primo than my own DJ".  Dwele drops a nice lil' hook for the chorus which actually works for the song.  Of course DJ Premier scratches up some nice samples in between verse and at the beginning and end of the track.  Premier produces with instrumentation from Adrian Younge.
Track five is called "Courtesy" and it is a mid tempo joint with a nice 808 drum break and an organ sample.  These create a sparse stripped down joint for Royce to spit over.  He truly lets his complex rhymes flow on this joint with numerous metaphors that take some rewinding before you get his meaning.  This is the sort of rhyming you will never heard on a commercial joint quite simply because the record labels do not know how to market it, they think the majority of consumers won't understand the intricacies of it.
Track six is an interesting joint called "Wishin'" and it features Common.  The beat is slightly slower but features a fantastic guitar solo sample or at least it does for the introduction.  Once the intro is out of the way the track speeds up and alters the way it uses for the guitar solo sample from the intro.  It repeats this for the second verse which is from Common; slow intro then full speed ahead for the the rest of the verse.,  Its an interesting approach that shows Premier is still up for experimenting with his music and more importantly it works.   I enjoyed this track a lot although it could have benefitted from more than one verse from Common especially was his rhymes were only on the slower part of the beat.
Track seven is called "To me, To you" and features Jay Electronica.  Premier supplies a slower than usual beat featuring a dope guitar loop and some xylophones (I think).   Royce drops the first two verses and sound hungry.  Jay Electronica drops the third verse and he sounds good although a reference to Pharaohe at the start of the verse seems a little puzzling.  Its a decent enough track although nothing really groundbreaking.
"Underground Kings" is the albums eighth track and features Schoolboy Q and Killer Mike.  Premier drops a nice tight upbeat track with lovely snares, guitar sample and really nice scratches.  This doesn't sound like a regular Premier beat (not that I have a problem with Premier beats) its something different in a very good way.  Royce drops the first verse with Schoolboy Q doing the second and both of them represent nicely.  However as has been the case for a couple of years now Killer Mike owns the track like so many others he guested on.  Mike sounds hungry over this up tempo military sounding beat, spitting real fire.  Great track, one of my favourite on the album.
The last track on this album is called "Microphone Preem" and features Slaughterhouse which in this case is King Crooked, Royce, Joell Ortizz and Joe Budden.  The beat is raw and faster than most of the album with loud crisp drums and a nice organ loop.  All four emcees are spitting fire but off their performance Royce is still the strongest lyricist in the group.
This is a strong album that I enjoyed.  Royce is easily a top level emcee who can craft a good battle rhyme with the best of them.  Premier try something different on a number of the track here and it works.  He has clearly stepped away from that tried and tested formula although I would have still liked to hear a couple more of those tracks on here.  However I did enjoy every track on here but some where better than the others in my opinion.  In particular; "U Looz", "Underground Kings", "PRhyme" and "Dat Sound Good" are the stand out tracks for me.  However I do feel like this is a collection of very good tracks rather than a cohesive album. Maybe that is caused by the lack of interludes.  What I mean by this is albums like "Daily Operation", "The Sun Rises in the East", "Livin Proof" and a couple of the M.O.P. album sounded like albums crafted by Premier for the artists.  whereas this sounds like a collection of very good tracks.  If Premier and Royce will be working together again as a group I expect that this relationship will soon lead to a classic album.  This isn't a classic but it is easily in my top five albums of 2014.

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