If there’s one thing you can depend on in the music industry, it’s that every album will get pushed back. Nothing ever gets released when the labels first say, but there’s a specific type of album that’s so delayed, so “long-awaited,” that it takes on a life of its own, becoming almost mythological, like Bigfoot or a top-ten Fat Joe record. These albums are, as I like to call them, historically delayed. And not just any album gets to call itself historically delayed. Sure we’ve been waiting for the Clipse’s Till the Casket Drops for …
DJBooth Album Review
Seven years since the release of his first album and four years since his last, Royce is finally back in full force with the release of Street Hop, a project fans of the concrete hard Detroit MC have been waiting for anxiously. Street Hop is the work of a man who, when he finally gets in front of the mic, deserves to be one of the most feared MCs in the game. Unless Street Hop suddenly morphs into Salma Hayek and starts giving me a backrub, it’s hard for me to say the four years was worth the wait, but I can say that no one will walk away from Street Hop disappointed. And after all this time, that’s really more than enough.
If we’re going to start at the beginning we really need to start with Shake This, an ill track that has to be considered the album’s lead single even though it dropped almost a year ago. Regardless, Shake This is a perfect track to set the stage for Street Hop. Over a beautifully constructed beat from DJ Premier, Royce addresses his inner demons head on, laying out his battle with alcoholism and his recent incarceration. Now Royce may be the only rapper in history to make a track titled Shake This that wasn’t about booty, but more importantly, Shake This shows that while Royce rightfully deserves to be called a battle rapper, he’s got some legit story telling skill as well. Shake This isn’t the album’s only moment of vulnerability, but it’s close. On The Run is a deeply cinematic tale that’s captivating, and Part of Me might just be the closest thing he’s ever done to a serious love song, a topic he frankly doesn’t do particularly well. The moments on Street Hop where we get to see the man behind the rapper are rare, but they’re easily the album’s most fascinating. If only there were more of them.
Tracks like Shake This and On the Run are much more the exception than the rule on Street Hop. The rule? Outright aggression. Just take Gun Harmonizing, a track that’s been tearing up the internet thanks to Royce’s automatic weapon vocal effects and equally high caliber rhymes. Actually, come to think of it Gun Harmonizing isn’t nearly the album’s hardest track (it does have a piano and flute on the beat). Dinner Time is probably a much better example of Royce’s verbal aggression; just check his sharply precise flow driven by the kinetic energy of Quincey Tones’ production. Still, Dinner Time is only a hint at how hard Street Hop can get. You know what? Let’s stop messing around and just get to The Warriors, a banger that brings on his Slaughterhouse fam for a unrelenting but still lyrically deep track that’s an absolute monster. Royce da 5’9” has repeatedly said he is not to be f**ked with, and Street Hop is his proof that such boasts aren’t threats, they’re promises.
Given how long Street Hop took to put together it’s not surprising that the album lacks a sense of cohesion (I’m still cringing after the painful Thing For Your Girlfriend and the forced Bad Boy), but on the whole hip-hop should welcome Street Hop with open arms. Let’s just hope the next time around we don’t have to wait so long. The game needs Royce da 5’9” now, not later. One historically delayed album was enough.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 10/19/09
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