September 3, 2008

Royce Da 5'9" - Independent's Day (June 28, 2005)


Ryan Montgomery was riding a critical high with his second album, Death Is Certain, and although he didn't sell enough copies to warrant repeated exposure on Billboard's album sales charts, he could still be happy with the final results: his sophomore effort received almost universal praise, even with its darker themes, which were fueled by his alcohol-binging loneliness and depression.

After splitting up with the sauce, Royce da 5'9" hit the streets with some mixtapes that kept the momentum going, and released his third album in as many record labels, Independent's Day, in 2005. Obviously a play on a certain well-known holiday (Guy Fawkes Day), Independent's Day was seen as Ryan's attempt to celebrate his status as hip hop's premier underground rapper, a celebration which resulted in an unusual number of radio-friendly attempts, the most notorious of which being a collaboration with Sara Stokes, late of Puff Daddy's MTV-reality-show crew Da Band, on "Wet My Whistle", which may be the reason why Independent's Day ended up selling a negative number of copies: the math for the album's marketing budget was so fuzzy that the label, Trouble Records, seems to have only released this one fucking album in their entire history.

Hell, even the Koch graveyard, which Royce apparently fled from, could have done a better job: maybe they would have set up Royce with a singer on his hook that might have had an actual career. But what do I know? Maybe Royce hooked her up with the job because he was able to wet his whistle. And by that, I mean "score a job with Puff Daddy writing some of his songs in exchange for the favor of including Sara on his third album".

What else did you think I meant? Get your minds out of the gutter, folks.

1. INTRO
Yes, yes, gunshots can sound like fireworks, and vice versa. That comparison doesn't make for a good rap album intro, though.

2. I OWE YOU
So Ryan sets up the conceit of Independent's Day: he's trying his best to appeal to every possible demographic. Eighty year old men in New Brunswick really don't care much for your shit, dunn! How about this: you make some more music for your actual fans, and we'll support the hell out of it. Sound good? The only problem with that plan of attack is trying to determine how many Royce fans there are left after that song he did with fucking Willa Ford.

3. RIDE (FEAT BIG HERK & JUAN)
Utilizing one of the most generic titles in hip hop history, Royce proves that, yes, he can make a song that sounds even worse than the shit that was on the radio in June of 2005, thanks for asking. Big Herk, the second rapper, also sounds a lot like Xzibit's twin.

4. WET MY WHISTLE (FEAT SARA STOKES)
The fuck is this shit?

5. POLITICS (FEAT CEE-LO)
This song is actually halfway decent: it deserves to be on a much better album. Cee-Lo's singing sounds more Goodie Mob than Gnarls Barkley, which is always a plus, and Ryan sounds almost like the Royce da 5'9" persona that his fans first noticed.

6. LOOKING AT MY DOG (FEAT YO GOTTI)
I kind of like Carlos "Six July" Brody's beat, but otherwise I truly feel that this sort of song is beneath Royce. Predictably for a weed carrier, Yo Gotti fails to impress: I have doubts that he could even manage to carry actual weed in a proper fashion, given his horrible performance behind the mic.

7. RIGHT BACK (FEAT JUAN & KID VISHIS)
I'm not even convinced that one of those bullshit rappers in the South could make this beat somehow work for them. Royce, smartly, only appears on one verse and the hook: he then ran out to hide in the restroom for the rest of the recording process, wondering exactly what he had did in a past life to warrant this type of ridiculous output, the kind where his younger brother (Kid Vishis) manages to sound almost as good as Ryan simply because Ryan sucked terribly behind the mic. Circle of life, my two readers.

8. SKIT
...

9. BLOW DAT...
Fuck. My ears just stopped bleeding from the skid mark on hip hop's Underoos that was "Wet My Whistle", and I'm presented with another song that prominently features the word "whistle" in its hook? God, this shit sucks. So far, I'm finding U-God's Golden Arms Redemption to be more entertaining that Independent's Day. No, I'm being serious.

10. CHIPS ON PISTONS (FEAT BLADE ICEWOOD)
Can somebody please do something to Ryan that causes him to spiral back into his depression, so that his musical output can stop sucking so goddamn much? All of these "happy" songs are causing Ryan's fanbase to defect. And what the hell kind of rap name is 'Blade Icewood', anyway? Did you grab a dictionary and select the first three words you selected at random?

11. SKIT
...

12. FUCK MY BRAINS OUT (FEAT JUAN &INGRID SMALLS )
This is such a godawful mess that I almost feel the need to dispose of all my Royce da 5'9" CDs by throwing them out of a fucking window, but then someone may be injured by the falling debris, and I don't want anybody else hurt as a byproduct of this grade-Z bullshit.

13. INDEPENDENT'S DAY
"'Round here, they call me Indy Pendy, 'cause of how independent my pen be"? That's what passes for a hook these days. I'm prone to give up and start reviewing New Wave albums soon: at least those guys knew that their lyrics left a lot to be desired.

14. MEETING OF THE BOSSES
That title just cries out for a collaboration with a hip hop heavyweight or two, right? Maybe a feature by both Jay-Z and Nas? Yeah, but that would actually make sense. Instead, Royce wastes a halfway decent beat rhyming by his damn self about absolutely nothing in particular. Fuck, I'd even accept a chorus by Marshall Mathers at this point, and those two weren't even on speaking terms in 2005.

15. SKIT
...

16. PARANOIA (FEAT LA THE DARKMAN)
This isn't the most natural pairing, but considering the fact that Ryan and La utilize the same producer (Six July again), it was bound to happen eventually. The end result is decent, but nothing makes this song stand out in the crowd, except for possibly the strange-sounding chorus, which only attracts the wrong sort of attention to it.

17. LAY IT DOWN (FEAT JUAN & K-DOE)
Great Scott's beat (not a bad producer moniker, by the way) is decent for an obvious attempt at a club banger, and Royce certainly sounds good (finally!), but once Ryan's first verse is over, the sonic vacations trends downward at an alarming pace.

18. YEAH
Uh, no. This song isn't completely bad, but it's the last goddamn song on the album: why even bother?

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is from the same guy that brought us Death Is Certain? Seriously? In his feeble attempt to sell records, Royce inadvertently alienates his remaining fans: even a supporter like myself couldn't really look him in the eye after the release of Independent's Day, let alone attempt to give a fuck about his later output. (I eventually came around, but it took a long while.) This shit is a failure on almost every possible level, and makes for a disappointing and aggravating listen. Now I'm just fucking depressed, because I just can't stand to hear artists with such great potential and obvious talent fuck up so badly.

BUY OR BURN? Neither. In fact, I think you should steal this shit from your local record shop, and draw a crowd outside while you make a big show about ripping through the plastic and breaking the fucking disc in half. That way, nobody will be able to listen to this shit.

BEST TRACKS: "Politics"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read through the other Royce da 5'9" write-ups by clicking here.

3 comments:

  1. Always happy to see a Royce review.

    This is not a good album, true. But I disagree with you in that I think there are three great tracks:

    I Owe You
    Politics
    Yeah

    In particular, Yeah is just ridiculous. But after an album with abominations about Whistles and Piston Chips and Indy Pendy Bosses, I can't blame you for being fatigued.

    Looking forward The Bar Exam review. Though it's a mixtape, it has some of Royce's best work.

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  2. Unfortunately the first Royce album that I actually bought after all the hype that Death Is Certain created.

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  3. Mr. AquariusSeptember 08, 2008

    i love his work on the gtaIII radio station. fit the city feel well.

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