Royce Da 5’9″ is an industry veteran that has ridden the ups and downs of the record industry as many of your favorite rappers have. Royce also happens to be one of ML’s favorites, so we’ve followed him in all that he has gone through so far. Fresh off his reemergence with his post jail bid mixtape The Bar Exam, which is an appropriately lyrically hungry mixtape, we caught up with Royce a few months ago. We talked to Royce about his mixtape, being a boxing fiend and his relationship with many of Detroit’s other rappers like some guy named Eminem. You. know. the. drill. read.
ML: What’s going on?
Royce Da 5’9”: How you doin ML?
ML: Pretty good, how bout yourself?
R: Not bad at all, not bad at all, just chillin.
ML: How’s your day going?
R: It’s going great.
ML: Could you talk about the mixtape you just put out, The Bar Exam?
R: It’s leaked, pretty much everywhere, like all over the internet. The Bar Exam is just something basically me and Prem wanted to get together; myself, Prem and Statik. We wanted to get together and do something; we just wanted to go a different direction from where everybody was going. It seems like nobody’s really taken the art of MCing serious anymore. Rap is kind of going through a phase where it’s not really about that. So we really just wanted to be true to what we do as artist, which is stay true to the art form and just start my way from the underground back up. So, I have no gimmicks or nothing, I just wanted to spit through the whole thing, and then Statik came and they dropped a few different beats under there. Shoot that was pretty much it; it was simple, simple format.
ML: Any reason for the title for the mixtape?
R: Yeah. When I was locked up, when I was at the trustee camp, I came up with it. It really does mean, examine the bar; examine every bar, like; every bar, examine it. Do you know what I’m saying?
ML: Yeah. You mentioned that it’s leaked everywhere, how do you feel about that?
R: I feel good about it. I feel good about it because what I was shooting for was as many people as possible to hear it. So it wasn’t about this, not about the money at all, so I’m not worried about how much money I can stand to lose. You know, by it being leaked and a lot of people having it for free. What’s more important is – just more people hearing it. So shit, I’m happy about it being leaked. Even though I didn’t leak it, I’m happy that enough people wanted to hear it to where they would go as far as to download it and however they got it.
ML: There’s definitely a big buzz for the mixtape and not a lot of mixtapes get that kind of buzz?
ML: What was the beat selection for the mixtape? How did you pick out the beats you wanted, the ones that weren’t yours that you wanted to freestyle on?
R: A lot of them I wanted to stick with the Premier theme. You know, when you got a producer like Premier hosting your mixtape I really felt like, let me just use some Premier classics and a lot of other beats. I just wanted to use something, I felt that was classic, every beat was beats that I love; minus the ones that, of course [where] Statik took some of them and took the beats from under my vocals and replaced some of the beats and put my vocals in Serato and synced it up with new beats. But most of the beats I picked myself, I actually round over like, the Feeling It beat – the Million & One Questions beat. All those beats like that, are beats that was always classic to me.
ML: Two personal notes from that mixtape: You killed the Go Getta beat. Then on Million, you killed it. The second thing: I noticed on the mixtape for The Return of Malcolm, the beat is different from the original one I heard maybe two or three months ago, is that what Statik did – he changed the beat?
R: Yeah, Statik did, Statik changed that beat. I gave him complete creative control. I let him just go ahead and do what he does – I trust his opinion. My personal opinion, I liked Return of Malcolm a little better over the Jeezy beat, but I also like what Statik did to it; that’s like a personal preference thing. I think the people who never heard the original version, I think will like it just the same. It was good for a change, ‘cause that original one got leaked out anyway, so it was good to hear it differently on the actual track list.
ML: Yeah it’s like getting two songs for the price of one.
ML: You mentioned getting the title for The Bar Exam while you were locked up. What are the conditions of your work release? And do you know when your out of the clear of all that?
R: I’m out everyday, I’m actually out six days a week – I stay in on Mondays. I’m out 10 to 10 everyday, six days a week. So that’s pretty much the conditions. The conditions are…I got a letterhead; it’s like a work paper with my work address as my office in the studio. There’s, actually about three studios on there. I can pretty much go to any one of those four addresses throughout the day and I get an hour lunch, so I can call and say, “Okay, I’m eating lunch here”. And I guess it’s kind of like living with your mother, you just got to let them know everywhere your going, and you got to be on time. That’s the conditions.
ML: So, your typical day is pretty much going to the studio and just working there non-stop?
ML: Everyday. Alright so, the first day you got out is that what you started doing? You hit the studio?
R: Yep, the first day I got out. Because I actually had the Royce is Like freestyle the long [version], it was a hundred plus bars and I had Jeezy, The Return of Malcolm freestyle which is over a hundred bars – I had those written already. It was going to take me a couple days to record both of those because it was so much stuff. I was like, losing my voice on them – I had to drink tea. It was like, so much shit that I had to lay down.
R: I got right in there.
ML: How much stuff did you write while you were in jail?
R: I didn’t write until like the last month that I was over there. It took me awhile to adjust. I was over there for two months before I even touched a pencil in that manner – I had to get adjusted. I had never been in jail before so it was new to me, and everybody knew me and I never had a moment to myself. There was always people around me, we was always talking about music, and it was just…*Laughs*…it was a fucking nightmare! So I ended up getting this job over there. Where I was working, I had to walk over to the other jail, and I was getting people’s bags when they went out to court. So I would be like in the laundry room by myself for like hours at a time. That was my moment of solitude that I needed. As soon as I got that solitude it was just like…it just started flowin and I just started writing everything down, it went from there.
ML: You know that’s a really unique story. Like you’d think of maybe writing stuff in your cell. But in your case the only place you could write was during spare time at your job.
R: Yeah, because I never had a moment to myself. I was in a ten man cell and then I went over to a camp, it’s like being it the Army, and so it’s a lot of open dorm room with bunks in it. So I never had a single cell to myself and I never had that solitude until I got that job.
ML: I was reading online, is it true that you never lost a rap battle?
R: Yeah, I’ve never lost a rap battle. I didn’t have that many battles though. I didn’t have that many, I wasn’t battling a lot like Em and all of them dudes. But no, I never lost…*Laughs*…I’ve got a flawless record.
ML: Alright, all knock-outs.
R: Yeah, yeah all knock-outs, all clean sweeps.
ML: When was the last time you battled?
R: I don’t even remember, man. It was before I was signed.
ML: You mentioned Em, when was the last time you spoke to him?
R: I haven’t spoken to Em in a minute – years.
ML: Alright. the other thing I wanted to ask you. Would you say the track, The Dream, featuring Rell; it was originally suppose to be on Papoose’s LP, right?
R: We both had the beat, yeah.
ML: So, you acquired the beat for your mixtape as well?
R: No, I actually…I was recording it for my album and after it got leaked out, after Papoose leaked his version, it was like, well…I mean there’s nothing else I can…I can’t really put it on my album – so from there it was like a leaked record. So I just put it on the mixtape.
ML: Oh, alright I see. Are you still in talks on maybe getting on The Jones Experience with that Nas Label?
R: I haven’t had any conversations with Nas about it, you know, of course I’m open to it. Until you hear about me actually being in a situation – I’m always open to that idea. I think it’s a great idea but that’s going to be on Nas, there’s only so much that I can push for that.
ML: So you’d be open going to a major? You don’t have anything against going to a major?
R: Oh I’m definitely going to a major!
ML: I wanted to ask you the whole Rock City situation, your first album with the majors and all the delays it suffered from. What was that whole experience like, looking back a few years now?
R: It was a learning experience to the 10th power, it’s the only way you’re going to learn anything in this business. Especially if you come from a market or a regent where no one knows really about the business, because the business hasn’t been there for along time – you know since the Motown Era. Like the record industry, as we know it, exists in L.A., New York and Atlanta and a little bit of Miami. You know its like; I dove in head first into it with a bunch of people…with a few people who didn’t know anything about it either. So you know everything I learned from it, I learned just from making mistakes. I figure if I get a record deal – I made it. You know and that’s not the case, you got to be somewhere there’s a perfect fit for you. I can go get a record deal right now with no problem; it’s not about the money. It’s not about saying, “Oh I gotta million dollar record deal” and nothing like that. It’s about going somewhere where the company’s sees the vision that you see, and you guys can collaborate and it can be a perfect fit – and y’all can make money together. You can’t come to the table with ideas and they got different ideas and everybody thinks they know the direction Royce needs to go, and you know – it’s a disaster. And that’s pretty much the situation that I found myself in, in the past. Because I can go so many different directions everybody likes a certain kind of Royce. You know…“You should make radio records” and it’s like, “Aw, no you should do all underground shit” or “You should just spit”, everybody thinks they know all the answers. You know at the end of the day it only hurts me when it doesn’t work. So it’s just about me doing what I’m comfortable with and the label being comfortable what I see, and we go on from there.
ML: Is there a single thing from the whole experience of putting out Rock City that you would change?
R: Not a single thing.
ML: Not a single thing, alright.
R: Not a single thing. But the only thing that was wrong with Rock City, with me looking back, was how creative I was. But I don’t think I could have been more creative. I think I was young and just mentally I wasn’t there. So I can’t go back in time and make myself more focused. Like mentally getting your head in it and being more focused, and knowing what it takes to win – comes with experience. It’s like boxing; you know you got to get that ring experience, once you got it – you got that one up on your opponent. Right now I’ve got the experience; I know what to do, I know what not to do; I know what kind of people to surround myself around. I know all the ends and outs of it now and I’m more ready now than I’ve ever been. But you know, you can’t teach that to no body. I can tell my little brother all day, “Vishis look, you can’t do this – you can’t do that” but some shit he’s just going to have to learn on his own.
ML: Yeah I guess that’s the only way you’d do it with the labels, there’s no guide. You just go in a see works for you.
R: That’ll do it. Just as long as you can come up with a record, there’s always going to be an opportunity for you. You know they say you only get one shot – that’s not true. You get as many shots as you want, as long as you got bullets in the gun. You can keep shootin, you got shots.
ML: That’s very true. What is the status of D-Elite cause I haven’t heard anything about them in a minute. Are they defunct?
R: Yeah I’m sad to say, there isn’t any more D-Elite. It’s just myself, my company, my company is M.I.C. Records; I got Young Vishis, that’s my little brother; my man June, from D-Elite who, regardless of whatever happened with any of our careers – he’s been my friend since…he’s a real friend, you know what I’m saying? So he’s always going to be with me; my cousin, Suckafree – another artist. And shit right now we just dealin with that right now. Just trying to develop those guys and trying to really get something – get a real movement off the ground. But the first focus is on me, I’m not really in there like I would really like to be, so.
ML: One thing I forgot to ask when you were talking about the battles. I remember hearing the twelve minute session you had with Em and Stretch Armstrong. That’s like, one of the classics freestyle recordings I’ve ever heard. Was that a battle or just passing the mic around or…?
R: The twelve minute thing was… Yeah, we were on a radio show. We were doing Stretch Armstrong’s radio show, and that was back in the good ole days when you could just go on the radio do an interview and just spit for a long time. That’s another thing that rap is missin. Like whose radio show that you can think of that you can go do that at right now? Probably college radio – that’s it. You know so, that’s just some of the shit that me and Em came up doing. You know, when everything was all good and now it’s all political. Yeah but that was just an interview, and just a freestyle session. It wasn’t a battle or anything like that.
ML: So, in Detroit you’re seeing a decrease in people getting a chance at freestyle?
R: Yeah, it’s all about selling records now. *Laughs* It’s all about selling records and playing top 40 records – that’s what it’s all about.
ML: Alright. I know you co-wrote a song for Diddy, and you co-wrote numerous tracks for Dre. Over your career, how many tracks have you’ve written for other people?
R: I just wrote a couple songs for Dre only one made the album that was The Message for Mary J. Blige. Yeah I wrote Tell Me for Diddy, Christina Aguilera, that’s it.
ML: Is that something you like to do or not really?
R: It would probably depend on the person – on the artist; legendary people, I’d do it all day – I’ll put my own career on hold to do it. I enjoy being around those brothers, because I’m like a sponge. Is ghostwriting something I can just do all the time? I don’t know, I don’t know. It would depend on what the situation is; what kind of benefit I can get out of it. It’s never about money, it’s about the knowledge. What can be more beneficial then sitting around Dre and Puff, involving with them and trying to get out of them what they want to say? Like, that knowledge, in itself, is more beneficial then anything else you can do, so I would do that all day. But just writing for any run-of-the-mill artist – I don’t know. It’d have to just be one of those situations that’s just a good fit.
ML: Has there been opportunities that you’ve turned down because some people you just couldn’t write for?
R: There’ve been a few opportunities that I’ve turned down. There’ve been a few opportunities that I turned down that I don’t really want to talk about them. It wasn’t an artist it just the time frame, schedule clash.
ML: Alright. I wanted to move on to the up-coming album. It’s going to be called, Street Hop correct?
ML: And Premo’s going to be executive producing it?
ML: How did you first meet Premo?
R: Yeah, I met Prem when I was signed at Tommy Boy. I went to the studio the first time, he gave me a like stencil of a beat, and it was just like drums and a little piece of a sample. And I didn’t really like it and we started talking on the phone a lot. So, I started telling him about this idea that I had about the record called, My Friend. And we were just vibin like we were just talking, kickin it about – lots of different shit. Because if anybody talks to Prem they know he has lots to say, about a lot of stuff – he’s a really insightful dude. You sit and talk to him about different things and he’ll have some much insight on everything you’ll find yourself talking to him for hours on end. So we just basically kicked ideas around and when I actually went in to cut the vocals, you know shit, we just made a connection. We really haven’t stopped working since. I’m kind of a person, if I work with somebody, and there’s a-chemistry there, I’ll try and maintain that chemistry as long as I can. Usually that chemistry turns into a friendship. I’m just kind of like a family oriented kind of dude. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. You’ll find with me, that with a lot of people been working with – I’m still working. That’s kind of how me and Prem met, you know, the relationship – the working relationship just kind of grew from something small to something like doing an album where he is executive producing it.
ML: Yeah, with him executive producing it. What is that experience like? Do you guys’ debate decisions or if he says, “Maybe I think you should change that” do you just go with that? How is that process, between you two?
R: A lot of debating. *Laughs* A lot of debating, like Prem has his way that he wants to do things, and with me looking up to him the way that I do, I pretty much give him complete creative control. It would have to be something I feel very, very strongly about that we disagree about. Which is not often, but we’ll end up debating. Other then that it’ll just be… We’ll debate over how some vocals sound. It’ll never be nothing like, “Okay, I hate this beat” “Okay well I love this beat I’m gonna do it anyway”, it’s never that. So it’s always, “Aw, man the way you said that line was crazy!” This is a usual debate with me and Prem; “The way you just said that line was crazy!” “No, I should do the line over.” “No, I’m telling you, you should leave it like it is!” “But Prem, I know how I’m gonna to sound!” “No, I’m telling you, you listen, you need to…” You know what I’m saying, that’s a typical Royce and Prem debate.
ML: You know, you mentioned once you got out you worked non-stop. What’s the longest studio session that you’ve had over your career?
R: Since I’ve been out?
ML: No, no your whole career.
R: Oh man I couldn’t tell you man, I’ve been in the studio, shit… I’ve not left the studio, I’ve been in the studio needing to brush my teeth and take a shower. I’ve been in the studio that long, I mean, I stay in there as long as whoever’s studio it is or the engineer will allow me to stay in there. I’ll stay in there while two engineers are on shifts. And that’s just me though, you know.
ML: Alright. So you know I definitely get the vibe, that you’re that type of MC that is itching to get in the studio, and not going in the studio “because I gotta record something”?
R: Yeah. I go in there… I itch to go in there especially when I got something to lay down. I don’t itch to go in there to kick around ideas. I usually… I catch an idea and I go lay it down – I hate sitting on ideas.
ML: Has there ever been a moment like in the middle of the night or something comes up and you got to run to the studio to go do it?
R: Nah, but I’ll get up in the middle of the night and run to my pad though, because I don’t have a good memory. You know like: Jay-Z and Lil Wayne and those dudes like that: [Jada]kiss., you know they’ll go in the studio and they’ll memorize everything in their head and lay it down. I can’t do that, I can memorize hooks. Anything more then 8 bars – I’m not trying to stress myself out. I put it on paper then I don’t have to think about it, I just keep thinking about my lines. That’s how I always like to do my shit.
ML: Is there any chance you’re going to be working with Canibus for his next album?
R: You know what – I actually did something with Canibus. I don’t know if it’s going on his up and coming album but we got something recorded. We definitely got something recorded, so you’ll probably have to talk to him and ask him what he’s gonna put it on. But yeah we definitely got in there. You know me and Bis had to hook up.
ML: How’d you hook up?
R: They actually called us and said that he wanted to work with me, so I shot to the studio and did it real fast. Shit, I’ve been a fan of Canibus since the first time I heard him spit anything – Beast from the East. So you know I rushed right to the table to do that. That was actually… Was that last summer or the summer before last? No, you know what? It was last summer we did it. It was last summer because I was going… I had went from his studio to Daddy’s house to work on the Press Play album, so it was last summer.
ML: So you enjoyed working with him. You’d definitely do something again?
R: Oh definitely!
ML: Have you heard the rhyme he made with like a gazillion possible combinations? Have you heard about that?
R: Nah, I haven’t heard about that.
ML: He made a thousand bar rhyme that has like, an infinite rhyme. It’s on his websites. It’s really something complex, you know its something only Canibus would come up with.
ML: You should try and check that out.
ML: With the new CD, when do you hope to get it out? Do you have a, maybe a month or a range you chose?
R: You know what? I want to shake this situation first. Once I can get out these papers I can get in these offices and put a real good deal on the table. You know, right now we got some good opportunities in the making, I want to be real hands-on with it. I want to take my time and make sure that it’s done right. The album is timeless, there’s no rush to put it out. It’s not gonna play out, the quality of it is not gonna lesson over time, it is what it is. As soon as I can get out and we can get in these offices and I can find a home for it; we can work on putting it on a release schedule. I just want to make sure that it’s set up properly – it’s promoted properly and I’m willing to take the time to do it. So, I can’t even promise a particular release date yet.
ML: Were you were happy with how your previous two albums were promoted?
R: You know what? Independence Day was like a learning experience for me because – we did all that [on our own]. We did all that so any mishap with the promotion or errors in the promotion is completely on us. So that was like a wake up call for us because me doing that album is what made me want to get back on a major. I realized how hard it is you know, to do that and how much money it cost and how much time and effort it takes. And what I learned is, I can’t possibly do that and be an artist at the same time. It’s too much work, now I see why people have staffs and they have different departments, so I can’t be every department. In Death is Certain – nah, I really wasn’t happy with the way it was promoted, but I understand it, I understand how Koch does what they do. I got a new found respect for Koch; I didn’t understand it while I was with them. But now that I look back and I went independent myself – it’s brilliant the way that they do albums. Because they promote them to a certain point to where they’re making money, and they don’t put the extra money into it where that the artist can make money, and why should they? So whatever you get upfront is what you get. See I was nowhere near all that, financially. So, it’s ingenious because it’s the opposite end of a spectrum of a major label. They operate exactly like a major label, except on a smaller scale. I understand that now, now that I’m more of a businessman, I didn’t understand it then. So, I can’t say that I’m unhappy with the way it was promoted – I understand.
ML: So you’re trying to put out Street Hop through a major?
ML: But for the most part would you say the album’s done or like what percent would you put the album at?
R: It’s never done.
ML: It’s never done?
R: It’s never done until it’s out. It’s like right before we take it to master, I might go record another record. You know what I’m sayin? The album is my baby, it’s my baby. I’ve got enough records done to put it out right now if I wanted to. It’s like the work in progress for more then my entire career. So this is the album, mentally, if I had of been where I am now, this is what I wanted to do with Rock City. I wanted to come with all of the concepts, you know, I wanted to mix it with some of the brighter records but stay within the lane. I think with Rock City I just went too bright and then the concepts that I had through Rock City were good but they wasn’t executed as well as what the concepts were. Now I’m executing the concepts better then what the concepts are, and the concepts are better then what anybody is thinking of in the game right now. So it’s like a step higher.
ML: What role is Vishis and June going play on Street Hop? Are you going try to make them all over the album or get them on a few tracks?
R: I’m going for classic this time. I might not even have any guest appearances on the album.
ML: Just Royce?
R: Yep, I might not have any guest appearances on the album and I might only have about twelve songs – maybe eleven.
ML: Alright, but there’s going to be a lot more tracks that you record otherwise for them?
R: Yeah, I mean, in terms of what I do with Vishis and June and Suckafree – we gonna be doing a lot of mixtape shit. Like The Bar Exam came out May 17th by the time it’s officially released I had another mixtape recorded. You know, so it only takes me a week or two to go do a mixtape, because that’s like 18 freestyles. I can do that in less then 18 days.
ML: How many tracks have you recorded, including freestyles, since you’ve got out? Hundreds?
R: Since I got out?
R: Oh man, shit I’ve been out four months so… *Laughs* … quite a few.
ML: Yeah, alright, so you got a lot of mixtape material in the stash.
R: Yeah, yeah I got a lot of shit, and I got a lot of ideas. The next mixtape I do I’m really going to take the mixtape thing to the next level.
ML: So that’s already in the plans?
R: It’s already in the making.
ML: Alright. I know you work with Dilla for Life Goes On, right?
ML: How is it working with him? And being from Detroit, I want to say has the image of his work changed since his passing?
R: I think people appreciate it a little bit more – which is usually the case. Thank God he wasn’t murdered. Then they really pay attention to it, that just kind of how hip hop is. And it’s especially worse in Detroit because over here we’re so competitive here. Nobody’s really broke it open as a strong representative of the city. You know, Em doesn’t count because he’s gotten too large, he doesn’t speak for the city anymore – he speaks for the world. So we don’t have like a T.I., like a A-Town kind of representer – we don’t have that here. I mean like, if somebody asks about Detroit they gonna ask about me, D-12, Em, Obie, Trick Trick. They’re gonna ask about everybody the same, some maybe a little more than others. But I mean it’s pretty much represented by a lot of different people, so you get your opinions real far spread out. And the people who I named, we don’t really all fuck with each other. You see everything is all kind of spread out, you know and it’s only because of how competitive it is. Somebody wants to be a first one to do that. The people that I name, we give each other props. But the people who rally behind us who say, “Royce is the best” or “Nah, Trick Trick is the best.” Those people are the ones doing the competing and talking, and it’s been like that.
ML: Yeah, now that you mention, I can see, Slum Village and Phat Kat and their all in their own circles and…
R: Exactly! Exactly.
ML: ‘Cause you know Detroit has put out a lot of names, but in Atlanta you’ll see T.I. getting it. Now he’s working with Ludacris, Ludacris gets on an Outkast beat, you know, they’re all interchangeable. But you can’t draw the same connection with Detroit artist and the first person that makes that happen, I think, will be really successful.
R: Yeah, we can all do records with each other right now; radio’s not going to jump behind it like they should. Detroit is just different, man.
ML: How did you hook-up with Dilla for Life Goes On?
R: I’ve been knowin Jay Dee for a minute, once I got established in the game, I actually, I met Jay Dee before I was even signed. Once I got established in the game, it was only right, you know, that we linked up and did something. That was just like a regular old order of importance, so we linked up. We actually did Life Goes On after we did… First we did Let’s Grow and we did a song called, Snatchies that I’ve never released. Me and Jay, we did a couple songs but actually Life Goes On and Let’s Grow was the only ones that actually came out.
ML: The things you mentioned you know, that everyone stays in their own circles; it’s harder to get a freestyle session going on the radio. I just want to talk specifically about Detroit. How has the hip hop scene in Detroit changed in over like the last five years or so, from your eyes?
R: Everybody spread out – it didn’t use to be like this. It used to be everybody… How do you think I met Em, Proof and all them? Everybody use to go to the Hip Hop Shop and the Ebony Showcase and St. Andrews and all these you know, open mics and hip hop venues. Now, it’s like people go but once everybody started getting deals and shit, shit just kind a like, it went kind a sour. It wasn’t a support group; it was more like a competition. And that’s how it’s changed in my eyes. I mean, I don’t really go to the open mics and shit no more so I couldn’t really tell you what they doin over there. That’s how it feels to me.
ML: Hip Hop Shop got demolished right? So it’s like a dry cleaner now or something like that?
R: Aw man, I don’t even know what it is. I know I haven’t been over there in a minute; it’s been a year since I’ve been on Seven Mile, because I’ve been going through the whole jail thing. On work release I don’t even go to the city.
ML: Yeah, ‘cause I remember Young RJ telling me about the Hip Hop Shop, how that was instrumental in Detroit years ago.
R: If it wasn’t for the Hip Hop Shop I don’t think I would have met Proof, I don’t think I would have met none of them dudes.
ML: The other thing I wanted to ask you, is there any chance of you working with Ras Kass? Because I think you guys have a good chemistry.
R: There’s always a chance for me to work with Ras. All that has to happen is; I come across a beat or a song, it’s like, “Ras got to sound ill on this” and I send it to him, he gonna do it and vise versa. You know, anything he has he wants me to get on, [I'll do], you know, we got that kind of relationship. So you know that’s always a possibility.
ML: Alright. You know over your career you’ve built-up quite an extensive resume. And one of my favorite, under appreciated if you will, Royce tracks you recorded is that Beatminerz Intro. I want to say, five or six years ago?
ML: Tracks like that, what do you think are the top three tracks that you would say are slept on? You know, that’s one of your best works but not a lot of people pay attention to it. Do you have tracks like that?
R: I think the whole Death is Certain album. *Laughs* You know what I’m sayin? I should’ve got five mics, and that’s just my personal opinion. I think if I had an extremely crazy buzz I would have got five mics. Just for me to get four and not have any buzz at all and be coming out independently, that was good. That just meant that people actually felt like they thought it sounded better then they thought it would sound. And I did that album, with not really a budget, you know that was all Prem did one, Reef did one; Ty Fyffe did one then Los (6 July) did the rest of the album. So I think in terms of songs blending together and lyrics and just in terms of the contribution of hip hop, I think I should have got five mics. I think that whole album was slept on; I think it was a classic and I would re-release it. If I can actually get myself in a position I want to be in, I would re-release the album.
ML: Do you think that’s your best album to date?
R: Yeah I think it’s the best album.
ML: Alright, you mentioned the five mics; do you pay attention to reviews and what people are saying?
R: Hell yeah I’ll pay attention to everything; I always want to know what somebody’s saying. If they say bad shit about me – it bothers me. If they say something good about me – it motivates me. If they say bad shit about me, the fact that I’m bothered motivates me. And I’ll never stop being like that – I’m a MC. Hell yeah, I don’t brush my shoulders off, I don’t turn my back on people saying stuff, I don’t turn the other cheek, hell no!
ML: Do you go online and see what the online world is saying about your stuff? Do you do that or do you just stick to the magazines?
R: On the computer everyday looking and seeing what people are saying.
ML: What are some spots that you frequent?
R: I go to HipHopGame; I go to Allhiphop. I go to SOHH, Hiphopsite. I do this everyday. I’m on Boxden, registered with Boxden. I look at all the leaks, everything. If some of The Bar Exam got leaked – I knew about it. Somebody forwarded it to me and the first thing I did was go see where it was leaked to first. And I watched the trail on it and I look at the comments. I’m on it everyday, all day.
ML: So, from what I’ve seen it’s gotten pretty positive reviews. So, you’re happy with how all that went?
R: Yeah, I’m real happy – real happy with it.
R: I can tell when somebody is just trying to be an asshole and when they really feel a certain way about it, just based off of what they say [it]. I like looking at the comments and trying to distinguish, [to see] rather [if] they [are] just frontin or do they really feel that [way]. Because I don’t want nobody to not like it, I want everybody to like it. I just know that not everybody’s going to have something good to say about it. You know what I’m saying?
ML: Alright. Something that I always ask people that I interview; I don’t know if you had a chance to buy anything considering the conditions of your work release, but what’s the last thing you’ve bought? It could be anything.
R: The last thing that I bought – I bought my son a bike today. I bought him a bike; he’s nine years old so I got him a 20” bike today. He had the next size down with training wheels and he got his training wheels off late. So he was riding his bike yesterday and he had a flat, he needed the inner tube patched up. I said, “You know what? *Laughs* I’m just gonna get you another bike, because the bike looks too small anyway.” So I went and got him another one today. He doesn’t know yet though. He’ll be home from school at 3:30 and it’s sitting in his room, waiting for him. So, that’s the last thing I bought today.
ML: Alright, that’s cool, so he’s probably going to be riding it around today when he gets back from school.
R: Yeah but it’s raining right now but knowing him, he’ll want to go out anyways and that’s fine with me.
ML: The other thing I always ask, are you a sports fan? Do you follow any sports?
R: I love boxing!
R: Boxing, yep.
ML: Do you still follow boxing to this day? Are you into heavy weight, middle weight?
R: *Laughs* I follow all weights.
ML: All weights?
R: I should be an analyst. I should be up there with Emmanuel Stewart and them guys.
ML: HBO should holler at you to be a ring side analyst.
R: Yeah I follow all divisions. I’m not one of those blam! boxing fans, like I really know boxing stuff. I follow boxing like I use to follow basketball back in the day. I don’t even follow basketball that way no more, I’m all into boxing now.
ML: So what do you think of the heavy weight division? Because there haven’t been any big names, in awhile. Do you think the heavy weight division is dying out?
R: Maybe it’s just going through a transformation. It does it every 15 or so years, 15 to 20 years it does this, it’s no big deal. It’s like when Ken Norton was the champion. It’s kind of like that now. Guys like James Toney can move up in weight and win a title. You know, Sam Peter could have been something if, I think he still could be something, I think he put the James Toney fight a little prematurely. They should have seasoned him a little bit more because he was an excellent puncher. He had an incredible knock-out power but he doesn’t move his head – that comes with experience. That loss that he had on his record, he didn’t need that loss. But hopefully it didn’t do nothing to his spirit. But as far as the heavy weight division it’s cool man. The Klitschko dude is okay I guess. I don’t really fuck with the heavy weight division just because it’s, like you said; it’s a void in that division right now.
ML: Do you think getting all those titles to maybe unite just so they have one title would help the division?
R: Not really. They did have a tournament on HBO, it was like, I don’t know how many matches. I know it was it was Rahman, Chris Byrd, Klitschko – they had like a little tournament thing. Like a bunch of fights to unite all the belts together. I can’t even remember what the outcome of it. The shit wasn’t even on paid-per-view man, that’s slackin.
ML: Are you going to be watching the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight on Saturday?
R: You know it! Hell yeah!
ML: Who’s your pick?
R: Floyd all the way.
R: I don’t bet against Floyd.
ML: Do you think that if De La Hoya loses – he’s done?
R: De La Hoya is going to be done when he says he’s done. He’s not going to stop because he don’t know if he can beat nobody no more, just because he lost to Floyd. De La Hoya just needs to be motivated man, that’s what keeps him going, it’s not the money. You know he can go get 25 million anytime he wants to, all he has to do is go fight somebody with a name because he’s the golden boy. I don’t think he’s reaching that time, he look real good against Myorga but that was the problem; it was against Myorga. Anybody with skill like De La Hoya has is going to look good against Myorga, because he doesn’t move his head. Anybody who can punch and has skill beats Myorga and looks like that against him. So it was easy for him to look like that against Myorga and that’s where everybody’s getting fooled at. And they kinda talking about Floyd because they have a problem with the way he’s carrying his self outside the ring. But what they don’t realize is that shit don’t have to do with nothing. *Laughs* When he gets in the ring, when do you see him get unprofessional in the ring? When have you known him not to train? Come in the ring against a bum and he look like he could fight 20 rounds. I’ve seen De La Hoya in the ring, tired, overweight, you know what I’m sayin – not looking so good. You never see Floyd looking like that, Floyd was born to do this, he’s a machine.
ML: Very true. Who’s your favorite fighter of all time? And why?
R: Of all time, it’d had to be Muhammad Ali, it’s between Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson. Sugar Ray Robinson because – he’s crushed people, he used to crush people. And a lot of people, the reason why [they] don’t realize [how good] Sugar Ray Robinson [was] is because a lot of his fights never even made it to tape. He was right before the era when they was filming fights. So you didn’t get a chance to really, really see him. You know what I mean? Muhammad Ali just did incredible shit! That’s how Floyd is – a modern day Muhammad Ali. He does a lot of talking, it’s just the hip hop era, he’s just a little more brash with a little more harsh. Muhammad Ali did the same thing; he predicted when he was going to win rounds, he cursed, he disrespected his opponents. He went and threw rocks at Sonny Listen’s house, [Floyd] did the same shit. Floyd stole Oscar’s luggage – Muhammad Ali threw rocks at Sonny Listen’s house before the fight, what’s the difference? You know what I’m sayin? They fell in love with him because he turned it into a black movement. He didn’t want to go into the Army, he turned to Muslim and it was like a revolutionary period back then that black people as a whole was going through anyway. So it was just a different time, he had a whole race rallying behind him. Floyd, you know everybody’s going against the hip hop movement right now, so of course he’s looking like the devil in this fight. But there has to be a bad guy, and it’s not like he’s talking more then he normally talks, the camera’s just on him more because it’s a big fight.
R: You know. I talk all day about boxing.
ML: The last thing I’m going to ask you about boxing. When you watch boxing do you like to get a bunch of friends together or you don’t want the distraction, you want to focus on the match?
R: It depends on what the fight is. But I’m good at tuning people out. I go watch fights with my father all day and me and him, we going to argue to no end. My man KC, sometimes I don’t like to watch with him but a lot of times he won’t come over to watch it anyway, he’ll watch it at his house because he orders all the fights too or we’ll be on the phone. And if I really want to focus I tell him, “I’m gonna call you back”, you know what I’m sayin, but shit man, I can tune people out. Most of the time it’s just me and a few people, I couldn’t sit and watch in no bar or nothing like that. Definitely not, that’s just too many people.
ML: Your dad got you into boxing though?
ML: Alright. I learned a lot, I didn’t know that Royce is a boxing fan. You learn something new every day.
R: I love boxing.
ML: You read books about boxing? Because I know there are a lot of books on boxing that you’d probably like..
R: I read books. I read a Muhammad Ali book when I was real young. I definitely read books. The ESPN magazine has Floyd on the cover this month, I still haven’t seen it yet, I seen the cover online but they suppose to have an article on him and they got a separate article on Oscar in the same thing. And they’re supposed to have a picture of Roger his daddy. My man was telling me about the article, he was telling me how big his daddy was – he like cut up and shit. I want to see that and see what’s up with that.
ML: Alright. Well I’m going to let you go. I really appreciate the time; I had a really good time talking to you.
R: No problem and I appreciate it.
ML: Oh the other thing I was going to say; as soon as the work release thing is over are you going to hit the road – try to get on tour?
R: Oh yeah. I’m definitely out of here. If not on the road, I’m going to go to New York, probably post up for a minute and just do some networking and reconnect where I lost connection with some folks. Probably spend some time out there, maybe a few weeks out there. Then I’ll probably get on the road with Prem, we’ll probably go out.
ML: Alright, is there plans? Do you have a tentative date for when you want to hit the road?
R: Nah, it’s all up in the air.
ML: But you definitely want to do it?
R: Definitely going, yeah.
ML: Alright, I really appreciate your time. I hope your son likes the bike.
R: Okay, thank you man, I appreciate it.
ML: I hope your son is poppin’ wheelies in no time.
R: *Laughs* He ain’t gonna do that, his mother won’t let him do that.
ML: Alright, well have a good one.
R: Alright dude.