By Jared Graf
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
Hip-hop supergroup Slaughterhouse officially disbanded in 2018 and since then, one quarter of the posse, Royce da 5’9”, has dropped two career-defining projects and solidified himself as one of rap’s most prominent lyricists.
Now, Royce returns with “The Allegory,” adding another page to his introspective collection and further advancing his rebrand.
The Detroit MC does not disappoint, as the lyrically dense, enlightening offering makes for an impeccable main course to hold over his ever growing, rabid fanbase.
Every release finds Royce more mature, focused, and driven than the last time we heard him – and “The Allegory” is no exception. Throughout the course of 22 tracks, six of which are skits, 5’9” explores intricate concepts and perspectives, while critiquing our country at the same time.
“Mr. Grace (Intro)” serves as a summary to some of the album’s most prominent themes: the American dream, police brutality, gun violence, and slavery. The first minute of the song features a conversation between youth mentor Derrick Grace II and his socially aware daughter.
After the 6-year-old flexes her extensive knowledge, the music drops and angry sounding horns gain control of the speakers. This hard-hitting beat lasts all of eight bars before progressively fading, to the point where Royce is nearly spitting a spoken-word a capella by the end of the track.
It’s here the album’s concept of differing perspectives is introduced. Royce’s notion is heavily influenced by Plato’s allegory of the cave theory – which is meant to compare the effect of education and lack thereof on a person’s perception, as well as how certain things don’t become reality until we accept them as such.
On “I Don’t Age,” Royce even has a hard time coming to terms with the reality that he’s 42 years old, but he can’t be the only one in disbelief. Without letting the beat breathe, 5’9” asserts his dominance upon the rap game and credits his sobriety and humble beginnings as the reason he’s hungrier than ever.
We’re reminded the wordsmith doesn’t age, and with a choppy flow, he declares, “They say ‘You are what you eat,’ but I never ate goat!” With a never-ending slew of bars, Royce raps until abruptly trailing off after almost three minutes.
His eighth studio album is informative and ahead of its time, but with so much to address comes a lot to digest.
Songs like “Pendulum” draws parallels between slavery and artists being bound to record deals, while “Tricked” finds 5’9” and fellow Slaughterhouse member KXNG Crooked discussing ways rappers are fooled by the common misconceptions of society, record labels, and higher-ups in the industry.
“Incriminate myself on records speaking on my life / Expect to receive blessings out here cheating on my wife,” Nickel says over the bounce heavy, unconventional instrumental.
On “Rhinestone Doo Rag,” Royce pokes fun at his very first album cover, which depicts him in said rhinestone doo rag. He speaks to the youth, telling them the importance of never selling out, remaining independent, and owning their masters.
“Pac and Biggie died for you rappers so you don’t have to / Martin and Malcolm died for your blackness, pursue your masters / I wore that rhinestone doo rag so you don’t have to,” Royce rhymes, highlighting how the younger generation of rappers should learn a thing or two from their older peers.
Although the lyricism is immaculate, the production may be the most impressive aspect of the entire project.
Coming fresh off his first two production credits ever just last month on Eminem’s “Music To Be Murdered By,” it’s both wizardly and unfathomable how Royce created an entire album with beats so complex, unique, and polished he could be mistaken for a seasoned producer.
Yes, Royce da 5’9”, who has never made a beat until now, produced every single song on “The Allegory.”
With an undying obsession to master everything he touches, Royce achieves on one album what some producers don’t achieve over the span of their entire career – creating versatile, diverse beats that sound nothing like each other.
In addition to stellar production, the features and skits feel necessary – as each guest and aside contributes something essential to furthering the album’s plot.
All three members of the tough-talking Buffalo rap crew Griselda stop by and steal the show on their respective tracks.
“Upside Down,” featuring a fiery verse from Benny the Butcher and haunting vocals from rising Detroit R&B singer Ashley Sorrell, is easily the highlight of the crew’s features – and the album.
It’s apparent some of Benny’s abrasiveness rubbed off on Royce, as he seemed challenged by his peer’s don’t-give-a-f*** attitude. “Whoever think I’m here to make some corny ass radio / Viacom jingle got my whole diatribe tangled,” Royce menacingly spits, clearly stating his intentions from the jump, while effortlessly weaving syllables together.
Remaining true to his word, Nickel doesn’t hold back speaking his mind as he touches on the harsh reality between black and white. “White kids graduate to relationships, a ton of perks / Black kids, just aggravated and have to take a ton of Perc’s,” while Benny also takes a similar approach, “Young heathens clap tools over VVS jewels / White kids pull heaters at school, wanna CBS News.” Royce also drops gems about the importance of making timeless music over his own grim production.
The Westside Gunn assisted track “Overcomer” is full of slick rhymes, brutal honesty, life lessons – and of course plenty of Gunn’s signature gritty “boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!” ad-libs.
Royce also airs out beef with former Shady Records labelmate Yelawolf regarding alleged racism. “The energy never lies when you a overcomer / The energy never dies when you a overcomer,” Royce unapologetically recites immediately after calling Yelawolf washed, a vulture, and threatening to leave him “face down on the ground outside of Kid Rock’s house.”
Although Royce takes on an intimidating, to-the-point demeanor, the beat is soulful and laid back, perfectly accenting Gunn’s nasally tone and Royce’s eloquent flow.
Griselda features aside, “On the Block” is a lite lyrical exercise for Royce, who easily runs the track with multiple flows that transition so seamlessly, it causes you to disregard the fact he’s making words rhyme that shouldn’t.
It’s refreshing to see true lyricists become once again accepted and praised by the culture, as hip-hop progresses and evolves into its many different subgenres. The love and devotion Royce has for his craft is evident – so to see him receiving the same love from fans in return is admirable.
Hearing the raw emotions Royce displayed while touching on prevalent issues in society makes it obvious he feels strongly about every word rapped on the album.
Everyone has their own views or beliefs they regard as the truth, and “The Allegory” finds Royce successfully contextualizing this idea.
Royce returns to make real rap relevant.