Royce Da 5’9”: “Eminem doesn’t just rhyme words – he’s a master”

The acclaimed lyricist talks to NME about new album ‘The Allegory’ and why he’s a rap G.O.A.T.

There’s never been a better time to give Royce Da 5’9″ his dues. Whether it’s his work with Eminem, DJ Premier, as part of rap supergroup Slaughterhouse or the long list of extraordinary freestyles he’s delivered over the years, he’s given hip-hop more than enough reasons to salute his contributions – and he’s not done yet.

Royce is now ready to be an example for the next generation, using his music to arm them with the information they’ll need for the future. His latest album, ‘The Allegory’, came out in February and is inspired by Greek philosopher Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, throwing you into a world of complex rhyme schemes and sophisticated storytelling.

NME caught up with Royce to talk about the importance of sharing knowledge as well as Eminem’s lyrical back and forth with Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian.

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You recently started wearing a goat ring. Does this mean you’ve finally started to look at yourself as one of the ‘greatest of all time’?

Royce: “If you just wanna talk about pure skill, I mean yeah, I feel like I’m in the conversation. I feel like you have rappers, you have MCs, and then you have practitioners, masters. I feel like I’m a practitioner. I don’t just rap, I figure out new things to do that I don’t see nobody else doing.”

You’ve been in this game for over 20 years, but would you say you’re now more focused than ever before?

“Yeah, I feel like I definitely know my purpose and that is to create freely and share information. I’ve been blessed with the clarity and the comprehension skills to be able to see things a lot more clearer than a lot of people can. We’re in a state of a 911 in the record industry right now. We’re coming into the game with zero information. It’s almost standard to just come in and sign a really bad deal. It’s getting to a point where we’re being targeted. Not only are artists being targeted, but young black artists are being targeted. The only thing we can do is try to give them information and then also put ourselves in positions to where we can help them.”

On the new album you have an interlude that features Eminem. Why the decision to have him speak on a skit instead of rapping?

“That’s just how it happened. We were having a deep conversation and I was just like, ‘Yo man listen, you know how crazy that shit sounds, right?’ If I sent you a beat do you think you could say what you just said over it?’ He talked for about 12 minutes and then Paul [Rosenberg] took it and edited it down and then they sent it over. But the original conversation was way iller.”

Royce Da 5'9"
Royce Da 5’9″. CREDIT: Press

What do you mean?

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“When he’s talking to me he’s not having to be so careful about how he comes across. He knows he can trust me so he’s more candid. I understand where he’s coming from in every area and he understands where I’m coming from in every area so it’s a way for both of us to get out how we feel. We were talking about white privilege and his perspective on it and he had a lot of ill points that I think people would’ve enjoyed hearing.”

In a recent interview on Crook’s Corner he addressed being a ‘guest’ in hip-hop in response to Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian’s comments about him prospering off of black culture

“You know what? At the very beginning, when Lord Jamar first started talking about it, that’s one of the first things Marshall said to me: ‘I hope black people know that I know I’m a fucking guest in the house of hip-hop.’ He was talking like that way back then. So the fact that Lord Jamar has taken it and flipped it to make it seem like Marshall was disagreeing with him ain’t right. That’s not what [Eminem] has a problem with. He doesn’t have a problem with you saying he’s a guest, he has a problem with you grouping him in with motherfuckers that come into the culture, walk all over it and dip out. You ain’t talking about a motherfucker that just rhymes words. Let’s get this shit right man, he’s a master at this.

“I watched this man get booed off stage plenty of nights trying to find his place in the black community. He respects the culture and he gives to the culture. There’s never been a day where he’s treated the culture like he wasn’t a guest.”

In that same interview Eminem said whenever he gets on a record with you or Crook he gets anxiety because you’re such elite MCs…

“That’s what he said?”

That’s what he said.

“Nah, I think he just means I dress better than him.”

Do you ever feel that way when jumping on a record with anyone?

“Anxiety? I’m not so sure that it’s anxiety but I do understand what he’s saying. For me, if I’m doing something with Marshall, or Crook, or Joe [Budden], or Joell [Ortiz], I just think a little bit more than I usually would. I don’t necessarily get worried but that’s because I’m not as competitive as Marshall is. Being out-rapped is not that big of a deal. Somebody has to make sure that we’re making a song. And sometimes if you do shit with Marshall he won’t let you out-rap him. He doesn’t care about the song… It’s like, ‘I don’t mind getting out-rapped by you, bro. It’s not that big of a deal.’ I don’t think it’s gonna be career suicide for me or anything. But yo, he be acting like somebody gonna throw him off a cliff if he gets out-rapped.”

He said he’s really affected by you two.

“I don’t know why. When I come in the studio I don’t want no problems, man. I’m just your friendly neighbourhood rapper guy.”

Royce Da 5’9”’s new album ‘The Allegory’ is out now

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