Royce Da 5’9″, DJ Premier and Adrian Younge Discuss ‘PRhyme’ Album, Working with Jay Electronica & New Slaughterhouse Music [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
As Royce Da 5'9", DJ Premier and Adrian Younge sit in a dimly lit room at HeadQCourterz studio in New York City, it's apparent they each come from different worlds. One looks like he's comfortably hanging in his living room, one is dressed as if he's ready to conduct an orchestra and another sits cooly behind his shades. This is just physical appearance, though. As they share laughs over a text from the Alchemist and talk about their work on their collaborative album, 'PRhyme,' it's clear friendship and mutual admiration links them together and forms the core of the project.
In addition to being one of the many anticipated hip-hop albums dropping in December, the 'PRhyme' LP is notable for being the first time in DJ Premier's decades-long career that he's basing an entire project on sampling one artist. Preemo has been digging through psychedelic soul architect Adrian Younge's catalog to create the soundbed Royce is rapping over.
It's admittedly a challenge for DJ Premier, but the 48-year-old still has a fire burning in him, fueled by Royce Da 5'9"'s rhyming spectacles. Younge says 'PRhyme' might be Royce's best work yet. The trio are all smiles when talking to The Boombox about the project, due for a Dec. 9 release. Their resumes say that confidence isn't unfounded. Read on as they discuss the science behind their collaboration, bringing Jay Electronica into the mix, Slaughterhouse's new LP and more.
The Boombox: How enthusiastic were you about working on the album?
Royce Da 5'9": I was enthusiastic the whole time. I was enthusiastic about it when I thought it was gonna be Slaughterhouse. The enthusiasm shifted to a different kind of enthusiasm when I realized it was gonna be just me, Preem and Adrian. Because now it's like I'm enthusiastic to be able to finally do this project with Premier. I'm enthusiastic about finally being able to work with Adrian Younge and be able to kill two birds with one stone. We didn't record extra songs and picked the best songs. We didn't do 20 songs and picked the best nine. We did nine records and used nine records. That in itself let's you know I was enthusiastic about each song.
Adrian, tell us a little bit about your involvement with this project.
Adrian Younge: [Premier] touched my Delfonics album and 'Black Dynamite' album. What Preemo did with this and how Royce went into it, to me, I look at it as the best work Royce has ever done. I look at this as a fact that Premo -- who's been doing this for decades -- is still continuing to get better and better. It's one of those albums that's, yeah, based on my work, but it's really how they put this together. The derivative version just took all this to the next level.
Watch PRhyme's 'U Looz' Video
Royce, do you think this is your best work?
Royce: I'd hope so. As artists, we'd like our latest to be our best. Unfortunately, one of the things about being in music for so long is timing plays a key. There are always going to be those certain songs that you do or bodies of work that you do that hit people a certain way at a certain time.
I have an album called 'Death Is Certain' that I can't seem to top in the eyes of people for some reason. There's just something about that era and what people wanted to hear and the timing. 'Boom' is another one. Something about 'Boom' with me and Preem. We didn't overthink it, but when he did it, we didn't know it would hit people like that. It just hit people in a way you can't plan on.
I had every intention of going in there and doing the best that I could ever do. So we'll see.
Was it more difficult to sample just one artist?
Premier: It was more challenging. I don't want to call it difficult because I'm gonna pull it off. That's the fun part of it. The challenge is to make a good impression on him, because I'm now taking what he made from scratch -- no sampling records or nothing. He made the instrumentation sound like what I like to sample when I dig it.
To use one artist for a whole album, I've never done that. That's challenge No. 2. Challenge No. 3: I have to do it in a way where Adrian is going, "Damn, what the f--- did I do?" It doesn't have to be in every cut ... 'You Lose' is one of my favorite. I know it's short and everything, but I love that song. There's people going, "'You Lose' should be a full song." And it's like nah, because it's dope as it is.
I wanted to f--- up Adrian's ear when he heard it and go, "Wait a minute, you took that?"
But everything was to impress Adrian because I know no matter what me and Royce do, we're gonna make bangers. This is the project Adrian's involved the whole way just by providing his original music.
A lot of people talk about bringing it back, bringing it back to that '90s, "real hip-hop feeling." How do you feel about that expression with newer artists like Mac Miller involved with this album?
Premier: I hate when people say bringing it back now. Don't get me wrong; I kinda had that attitude, too. But not fully because I'm like, "Where the hell are we going?"
Royce: That's why it's so good that we collaborated. DJ Premier and Adrian Younge ... he's been pulling it from between 1968 and '73. That's pretty much the time frame that inspires him to make the beautiful music that he makes. And Preem is pretty much one of the architects of the Golden Era. He's not somebody who's known for bringing it back; he's known for being one of the architects. So when you put a current MC who understands that time and who is considered a lyricist -- not a rapper, just a lyricist.
I may not make MTV's "hottest list" -- which I could care less -- but if you wanna throw 10 rappers in a cypher, you'd probably name me or somebody from my group. You would probably put me in the category of somebody you'd want standing in front of some turntables. This is what we do, so we're not taking it back. We're just informing you.
Younge: When people make the educated argument that things should go back, it's more like going back to a feeling they had when they heard some of the music that came out. Not going back to that music being rehashed. That's stupid. As me being somebody that makes arguably nostalgic music, I cannot stand when somebody tries to make old music just to sound old.
How did you you grab Jay Electronica for 'To Me, To You'?
Royce: I reached out to him. When he hit me back, I was in Detroit. When I reached out to him, next thing you know I get a phone call from a 313 number. I reached out to him via email and told my man Denaun Porter [formerly of D12]. One of Jay Elect's managers lives in Detroit, too.
He was like, "What up, this is my new number. I'm in the D, by the way." It's like, yo, only you. He had an apartment downtown and everything. He does that type of s---: "You know what, I think for the next two months I'll live in Chicago." He'd get a spot there for a couple of months and just live there. Nobody would know he was there. He's like a rich nomad. I had to put a little pressure on him, but Denaun actually took the joint to his crib and played it for him. He was excited about it, so he started writing [his verse] right on the spot. He sat on the verse for a while. It took me a minute to actually get him to record it.
Listen to PRhyme's 'To Me, To You' Feat. Jay Electronica
On the track, you say, "Miss me with your mollies and your Tyrese wisdom." What's the inspiration?
Royce: I'm sober now, and I come from the ecstasy era. So while people are going off mollies and s--- now, I was gone off ecstasy back in the day. And I did a lot of stupid s--- on that drug. Molly is just something at my drunkest I wouldn't allow myself into. You know that thing that they do with their mouth when they're high on pills and s---? I just think that's weird. Those dudes who do that always get beat up.
The Tyrese wisdom is a thing that started on Twitter. Somebody started taking a bunch of Tyrese's tweets and started doing a bunch of weird s--- to them. The guys with the fake wisdom and all that s---, miss me with that.
Did you take inspiration from any artists this year?
Premier: We pretty much put Adrian as an artist. I found his records and said, "'I'm making an album. To do that, it was like something I found from a record store but never had before. I put him in a category with David Axelrod. He just makes this incredible s--- when you just want to sample the entire catalog because his s--- is just that heavy. James Brown, same thing.
Premier, what could you find in Royce that you couldn't find in any other artist?
Premier: There's a certain artist that you work with and you know what you're gonna get. I'm gonna put my all into it regardless. Even in rehearsal for this Boiler Room thing we gotta do, I might interject a word or two or whatever. But once we perform, it's super on because that's how much I expect from the person watching us to get us.
Working with Royce, you just know he's gonna do all kinds of crazy things with his approach to a song. It's never gonna be the same thing. It's gonna be aggressive and hype.
Another guy that rhymes is just gonna give you a rhyme. I want artistry. He gives you artistry. People are not artists because they rap. There's a difference between MC'ing and rapping.
How far are you with the Slaughterhouse album?
Royce: Sixty percent. I don't know. We're doing that project on a more "feel" basis. We put together a Slaughterhouse of producers. We have Just Blaze executive producing it, and then we have AraabMuzik, Cardiak, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. We had everybody in one room and they were creating together, and we were creating together. We did that for 20 days and came out with a lot of great stuff. So now it's about making another trip and making even more stuff to round it out. I would say what we accumulated over those 30 days definitely put us at about 60 or 70 percent. We've got some of the best stuff we've ever done as a collective.
It's something that we're not rushing. Shady Records is a very self-contained unit. So when we roll out an Eminem album, we all support that. Once that slows down, we gotta be ready to step up.
Premier: The one I did for them was intended for the album, then I got a call saying, "Hey, we want your song, 'Ya'll Already Know' to jump off 'Shady XV.'" I was like, "Word? That's dope." I thought it was a good look because it helps set up 'PRhyme,' it helps set up 'Slaughterhouse' and it helps set up 'Shady XV.'
Watch PRhyme's 'Courtesy' Video