Who is the real Royce da 5’9″? Is he the emcee that guest appeared on Eminem’s “Bad Meets Evil”? The emcee the underground-anointed king after releasing the Primo-laced hit “Boom” in 2000? Or is Royce the emcee that threw up a commercial brick with “Rock City 2.0” in 2002?
With Death is Certain, Royce is out to recapture the heat and the respect that once showered down upon him. The Detroit emcee makes amends for selling out his style for radio spins; Death is Certain is a return to the ferocious emcee that kept heads bouncing and hands on the rewind button.
For the lead single, Royce reunites with the rock-steady DJ Premier for a certified banger, “Hip-Hop.” Besides the Primo cut, the underrated Carlos “6 July” Broady handles the majority of the production. Look no further than the soulful track “Regardless,” were Royce spits: “I played myself for radio play / I never danced, but the skill itself is a second chance.”
Unlike most hip-hop albums today, Death is Certain ends strong, with four passionate gems “Bomb 1st,” “Everybody Goes,” “Death is Certain Pt. 2” and “Something’s Wrong With Him,” where Royce blasts off spittin’: “Fuck a metaphor, fuck hip-hop, ’cause hip-hop sucks, you got niggas on top swinging from Tupac’s nuts.” Head for the bomb shelter — Royce is dropping nuclear ones.
The album does suffer from some weak beats, like on “I & Me,” “Gangsta” and “What I Know.” Others may take issue with Royce’s borrowing of classic lines from Biggie and Pac. Death is Certain does not break down any new creative barriers, but returns to dark passionate hip-hip in the same vein as Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. The album is a personal and introspective look at the state of mind of an emcee desperately attempting to regain his position in the rap game. In many ways, Death is Certain is for Royce as Stillmatic was for Nas, a triumphant resurrection and a warning shot of things to come.