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The Immersion: Royce Da 5’9” Shakes Off His DemonsPosted by Dharmic X on 10/25/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion, Royce Da 5 9
That said, nobody in my high school was listening to the Detroit lyricist, and I only happened to stumble upon his work around the time he released "The Bar Exam 2" mixtape in the summer of 2008. While the music was dope, I didn’t really start checking for him until the Slaughterhouse record.
In hindsight, the first time I listened to “Slaughterhouse” was a very life-altering moment.
I gravitated to the song for Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, having become fans of both of them in the months prior to the song’s release. But it was the previous material of Royce and Joe Budden that changed my life time after time after time. That said, at sixteen I was unaware of the power their words and their music would eventually come to have over me, and I didn’t go back to their older work until later.
However, I did make sure to keep updated with their latest releases, giving "Halfway House" a solid listen when it dropped. And then it came time for Royce to put out his lead single off of the album "Street Hop" (which would come out one year later):
“Shake This” is a powerful record on many levels. The beat, produced by the legendary DJ Premier, is the perfect complement to the concept of the song--easy to nod your head to but at the same time not overpowering and too aggressive. At the same time, it’s an evolving sound that rises and falls to match Royce’s cadence and delivery.
Meanwhile, the content itself is mesmerizing. “Shake This” is the story of Royce’s life from start to the present day, and his battles with an alcohol addiction that has led him to make several mistakes in his life. It is a story of adversity, but more importantly, overcoming adversity. The story itself is set up brilliantly by Royce’s ability to paint a setting with vivid detail. On the second verse, Royce introduces the judge handing him a one-year jail sentence for a DUI charge by describing his attire and demeanor entering the courtroom, down to the “thousand dollar Cartier Scripps” he was wearing.
The song’s punch is emphasized by the metaphorical language Royce employs throughout. On the first verse, he laments, “Somebody come help me find my strength to stop drinking this poison before I drown my gift.” Later, in the second verse, the Detroit emcee says, “I witnessed my world tumble down like bricks,” emphasizing the heaviness of the crushing verdict and sentence that would alter his plans and change his mindstate.
And yet, Royce refuses to simply lament about his wasted talent. In the last verse, he emphasizes the change he has undergone, refusing a drink from his cousin and pointing out that he “would have chugged it before.” The final line of the song is a triumphant rallying cry: “Unsigned to signed... the city is mine!” This is a claim that Royce has more than backed up since then in terms of sheer amount of material he has put out, with the quality of lyricism being raised at each level.
Having taught myself how to extricate myself from my own vices and avoid the drama that had led to my friends falling down paths of summer school and suspension, I knew exactly where Royce was coming from, on a more juvenile level. I appreciated the clarity he possessed for being able to look back and identify how he had squandered the potential he was given from birth and recommit himself to establishing himself as a force in the industry. It is a testament to his resilience and faith that Slaughterhouse and "Bad Meets Evil" have elevated him into mainstream status, allowing for him to eventually boast, “This is what 2 million singles sold and an album that’s gold look like without having to sell your soul.”
As great as “Shake This” is, there was another song with Royce on it that served as my anthem for the cold, harsh winter months in Boston...
(DJ Dharmic X is the host of This Culture Never Dies, 11PM-1AM Saturday on wnyu.org. Fans and haters, can follow him on Twitter and check him out on Facebook.)
See Also: The Immersion: How Hip-Hop & Hasan Salamm Delivered My Soul