Album Review: Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier Embrace the Next Generation on PRhyme 2

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The Lowdown: Four years after the self-titled debut of their PRhyme venture, Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier reprise the project driven by the compositions of analog revivalist Adrian Younge, with their appropriately titled 2018 sophomore album, PRhyme 2, co-produced by criminally underrated, sample-shy Philadelphia native AntMan Wonder. The 17-track project is a booming treatise in line with Premier’s aesthetic that finds Nickel and Primo extending an olive branch to the mumble rap kings and other rising rap acts, who’ve been openly vilified by a large swath of rap’s old guard.

The Good: PRhyme 2 is about building bridges between hip-hop’s veterans and rising icons, who will predict the size and shape of the next wave. Where Royce’s peers have angrily demanded to be respected by the young guns, he and Premier invite them to coexist. In doing so, they create room for themselves in a new era and do a solid job of showing their classmates how it’s done. PRhyme 2 is a clinic in adapting to a changing climate to retain the freedom necessary to do what you love.

The Bad: Going out of his way to be the change with respect to inclusivity in rap, Royce takes on a noble mission to unify rap’s ranks in an era marked by contentious generational beef and cooks the message until the meat is just a bit too tough. A lingering appetite for glory also makes room for ego and showmanship to muddy the final mix. The beats are unnecessarily busy at points and surprisingly minimal at others. Given Premo’s historic rate of success behind the boards, his decision to lean on other producers for the sound of the 2014 PRhyme debut (Adrian Younge) and the 2018 follow-up (AntMan Wonder) is a curious and arguably unnecessary one.

The Verdict: Royce da 5’9” is at his most poignant in the role of ambassador. He and Premier have created an intersectional platform to amplify the talents of contemporaries and lesser known talents making their way up the industry ladder. PRhyme’s progressive approach to the evolution of “real hip-hop” suggests that somewhere beneath the growing pile of impassioned, but largely semantic internal arguments plaguing rap might lie the reconciliation and unity necessary to elevate the art form in a manner that allows all parties to avoid a messy, public divorce where the kids are forced to pick sides.

Essential Tracks: “Streets at Night”, “Rock It”, and “Everyday Struggle”

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