July 28, 2010

Reader Review: Royce da 5'9" - Street Hop (October 20, 2009)

(For today's post, Rex tackles the most recent album from Royce da 5'9”, Street Hop. This was one of those discs that I had been meaning to get to, but shit kept getting in the way, so at least someone was able to write it up. Leave some messages for Rex below.)

Royce da 5'9” was on the verge of being forgotten. During the late 1990s and the early millennium, Ryan Montgomery was poised to emerge as one of the best newcomers in hip hop, especially after making a guest appearance on Eminem's quadruple-platinum debut The Slim Shady LP and writing several tracks for Dr. Dre's 2001. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way: Dre fired him after his manager began talking recklessly about Royce's contributions, and by the time his own debut album, Rock City, leaked to the Interweb, confidence in the man was at an all-time low, leading to a (now-squashed) beef with Em and his D-12 crew and severs bouts with depression and alcoholism. These demons all merged together to help him craft a terrific sophomore album, Death Is Certain, but he even squandered that goodwill with Independent's Day, an overly awful album that should have ended his career.

However, after taking control of his own life, things started changing for the better. He dropped two volumes in his critically acclaimed The Bar Exam mixtape series (the third chapter hit blogs earlier this year), and he aligned himself with the like-minded Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, and Joe Budden to form the supergroup Slaughterhouse. He followed this with Street Hop, his fourth full-length album (released shortly after The Revival EP previewed some of the tracks) Executive produced by the one and only DJ Premier, Street Hop features cameos from his Slaughterhouse brethren (although Joey only makes one appearance while the other two have twice as much – that just makes me laugh, like when Joey was left off of the Eminem collaboration) and other big names such as Busta Rhymes, Phonte, Bun B, and, um, Trick-Trick; production was handled by the likes of Emile, Nottz, Mr. Porter, Carlos “6 July” Brody, StreetRunner, and Primo himself.

Royce seemingly pulled out all the stops to make Street Hop his best album, as he wanted to be held in such high regard as bigger names such as Eminem and Nas (who was once rumored to have signed Ryan to a Def Jam contract at one point). Without further ado, here's the review.

This track originally appeared on The Revival EP, although this time around it includes an assist from Crooked I. While Emile provides a good beat and both artists come through with decent verses, the chorus, which features Ryan imitating the sound of gunshots, is sooooooo annoying. The hook ruins what is otherwise a good song.

Also from The Revival EP, but this time around, Royce simply reuses the original song. Although that seems pretty dumb from a business point of view, this shit still knocks. Producer Nottz brings a heater for Royce to shit all over, and the way he uses the vocal sample of Public Enemy's Chuck D counting from one to nine (not unlike how DJ Premier used the same sample on Biggie's “Ten Crack Commandments”) to kick off his bars was pretty great.

Frequency's beat is too poppy for me, and the hook isn't all that great, but Royce's playful threats and fucked up insults lift this track above mediocrity. Royce's brother Kid Vishis is alright too, I suppose.

My first reaction to reading the album credits went along the lines of this: “Phonte! OMG!!!!!” Then I realized that the emcee (formerly of Little Brother) only provides a part of the chorus. Oh well. The beat isn't that good, but it serves its purpose. (You'll be especially disappointed to find that DJ Premier provided the instrumental.) Royce doesn't do anything special, either. Skip.

Quincey Tones (Yeah, I don't know who he is either) supplies exactly the right type of beat for Royce to tear the fuck apart with some great lyrics that he delivers as only he can. Busta Rhymes plays the role of hypeman before supplying a decent verse of his own. Easily the best track on Street Hop so far.

This beat from Emile is highly commercial, but it somehow works regardless. The hook is garbage, though. Ryan manages to save the track with some goofy bars and his typical gangsta shit-talking. However, this won't be to everyone's tastes.

Another addition from The Revival EP, the best one thus far. StreetRunner brings the heat with some cinematic horns and opera vocals crooning in the background. Each Slaughterhouse member gets two verses, and all four of them straight up rip shit. Appropriately enough, Royce truly bodies the beat, with Crooked not far behind.

Funny the first time around, but you won't ever need to hear it again. (I'm more intrigued by the fact that the Interweb seems to believe that this skit was produced by David Cross, of Mr. Show and Arrested Development fame. Any truth to this rumor? Let me know.)

And StreetRunner does it again. This beat is the perfect foil to Royce's shit talking, and the Beastie Boys sample gives the track a nice charm. Also, the chorus isn't awful. This was pretty great.

“Shake This” was released almost a full year before Street Hop, but it still sounds pretty good. Over a much better Primo beat than “Something 2 Ride 2”, Ryan dives deep into his personal problems. The flow and pace of this song reminded me of “One Mic” from Nas.

A very generic rap song title obscures a track that is much better than you would imagine. A good instrumental (provided by Raf Moses) allows Royce to discuss his life as a Detroit gangsta, while fellow Motown rapper Trick-Trick simply closes out the track with a brief monologue about how gangsta he is. Yes, it sounds redundant, but it works, although it would have been better without the guest star.

A sex rap with a dirty ass club beat (from guest star Mr. Porter, who also helps on the hook). Royce uses this time to get buck nasty with the beat. Not the best song in the world, but a guilty pleasure nonetheless.

13. STREET HOP 2010
The fourth and final track lifted directly from The Revival EP features some Middle East-ish sound effects (courtesy of producer Nottz). It's truly a mediocre beat, but what's worse is Royce's performance, which is easily the worst on the entire album. He speaks with no clear direction, mistaking pop culture references for depth. This wasn't interesting at all, and it should have been left behind on the EP.

This track kicks off with a funny skit that you'll only have to listen to once. When the actual song starts, though, we get a nice soulful beat from Mr. Porter and some pleasant vocals K-Young. Royce channels his inner Isacc Hayes and spits a couple of nice verses about the pleasures of having sex with fine women (what else would he rap about?) Not bad.

As indirectly as it may be, this track might as well be a continuation of the Kool G. Rap classic. Royce spits about being on the run over an epic, cinematic beat from Emile, complete with some great vocals worked in. A true highlight of Street Hop.

It's strange that Ryan would sequence two storytelling tracks right next to each other. It features a beat similar to “On The Run” (although Frequency's work is still pretty good) and another vital performance from our host, but the song's strength is impaired due to the proximity to the previous track.

A reggae tinged beat featuring Royce spitting with a fake Jamaican accent? Far too annoying to enjoy.

Now this is more like it. A fantastic instrumental from (frequent collaborator) 6 July and some great attention to detail from Royce. This was really good.

While “Shake This” was Primo's best beat on Street Hop (and “Something 2 Ride 2” was just bad), “Hood Love” is merely good. The concept of each artist saluting the hood meshes well with the instrumental, making this a very organic way to cap off the evening.

Street Hop was later reworked into a “deluxe” format with three additional tracks.

Mr. Porter, who actually produced all three bonus tracks (so where's that D-12 collaboration at, Royce?), supplies Royce with a interesting vehicle for his lyrics. This track absolutely should have made the final cut of Street Hop.

While the instrumental sounded nice, our host only remembers to bring his generic gangsta shit notepad; his guest Grafh fares much better. The hook would have probably been terrible regardless.


FINAL THOUGHTS: My, how high the phoenix has risen from the ashes. Royce da 5'9” has rigged Street Hop with several standout tracks that inserted him back into hip hop's conscience, perhaps this time permanently. However, it's far from perfect: some of this is pure garbage. I was also highly disappointed by the combination of DJ Premier's first contribution and Phonte being reduced to hook duties. The reggae offering was also pretty terrible, and the skits were fairly useless. However, when it comes down to it, Street Hop is Royce's best album, although far from his most consistent. (I would probably give that award to Death Is Certain.) In the end, Royce shows listeners that he still possesses tremendous talent, pissing me off even more that the Bad Meets Evil joint album never happened. Oh well.

BUY OR BURN? I recommend a purchase, as several of the songs one here are more than worth your money. You don't need to hunt down the deluxe version, though

BEST TRACKS: “It's All About”; “Hood Love”; “On the Run”; “Warriors”; “Count for Nothing”; “Shake This”; “New Money”; “Part Of Me”; “Dinner Time”; “Thing for Your Girlfriend”; “Mine In Thiz”

B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “Gimme Money”: this track was the original incarnation of what ended up becoming “New Money”, which couldn't get past the sample clearance stage. Although it does have completely different lyrics and an entirely different beat, so maybe they should be looked at as separate entities. Either way, it's a good track worth hunting down.


(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave some notes for Rex below.)


  1. this reader review every 3 days business is not gangsta

  2. A.R. MarksJuly 28, 2010

    Street Hop did have a lot of filler. But "Murder" didn't even make the best tracks!? Come the fuck ON! That song is crack laced with ecstasy. And if you listen to the intro's/outro's and lyrics of both "On the Run" and "Murder" you will understand fully why they're back-to-back.

  3. This album was pretty good, great review.

  4. Shake this is fucking genius, part of me is pretty clever. The rest of this is pretty meh and forgettable.

  5. Oh i forgot warriors is really good too, but still..

  6. AnonymousJuly 28, 2010

    Ok let me just say I'm not trying to insult your whole review, but that comment on "Murder" was just fucking stupid. "On the Run" is part 2 of the story & at the end he says he'll take you back to how it all started which leads into "Murder" which is part 1. If you pay attention the little intro to "On the Run" is the outro to "Murder".

    About the album I have to say I've been waiting for Max to review it because I wanted to know what he thinks, but I wasn't super impressed. That being said I had already heard most of the best songs before it came out. As you pointed out "Part of Me" & "Shake This" came out like a year ago & I already had the Revival EP songs so the album only featured a few songs which were new to me & I wasn't very impressed with most of those songs. "Death is Certain" is definitely still his best album in my eyes.

    By the way i'm curious to know what people thought of BE3. I didn't really think it was anything special

  7. AnonymousJuly 29, 2010

    Awesome album!

  8. I understood that murder and on the run were meant to be sequenced backwards into a story but they sounded too similar for their own good and it dumbed down the entire experience because in reality it was a novel concept that merited inclusion. I like On the Run more also.

  9. @ rex
    you didnt understand it, you said it was strange AND you complained about the beat being too similar, which just backs up the thought that you didnt get it even more

  10. can we get a teflon don review plz?

  11. AnonymousJuly 31, 2010

    Just want to say, pretty new to hip hop but this blog has already turned me on to alot of stuff. Always well written and current. Thanks

  12. LMAO @ you calling "Something 2 Ride To" a skip, and just plain bad(with italics on bad to emphasize). there is not one bad song on this album at all, this shit knocks front to back.

    and you not even getting why "Murder" & "On the Run" further cements that you're a little off touch on this album. i went out and shelled out $13 for it, and the only bad thing about it was how the label mastered the album. it literally sounds terrible. sounds like he's rapping through a straw...they fucked that up. but other than that, album of '10, IMO.

  13. Per usual, Royce's delivery is never backed up by the beats he deserves. It's a shame. He can spit so well, and even do storytelling (all too rare these days), but he needs to start listening to these beats before throwing them on his album. I mean, there's some okay stuff here, but the majority of these beats are forgettable. Also, this album was too long. 18 songs? No need to put every studio cut you do onto the finished work. My opinion of this might be totally different if it was edited down to exclude the shitty pseudo joke songs.

  14. You Bi-Polar brat, against that ugly and fat homo sapien bastard, low profile master of metallurgy; named Mike.