‘Layers’ by Royce da 5’9″ Album Review: Confessional Storytelling And Exquisite Rap
In his first solo album since the 2011 Success Is Certain, Royce Da 5’9″ returns with a splendidly produced sixth solo record titled Layers. The Detroit rapper breaks out his most personal lyrics yet and reveals true life stories.
‘Layers’ by Royce da 5’9″ Album Review
Royce da 5’9″‘s raps are thought-provoking and often heartbreaking. He has a penchant for good storytelling as all songs on Layers offer a fully-developed narrative. Opener “Tabernacle,” for example, tells the story of the rapper losing his grandmother and meeting his newborn son at the same hospital just a few hours apart. The simplicity of the beats and piano chords enhance the sincerity of the lyrics.
After such a strong opening, the next few songs fail to reach the same level. Despite its catchy beat and intriguing samples, the Mr. Porter-produced “Pray” turns to a more generic tone: “Don’t pray for me, pray for Paris / Pray for Nigeria, pray for peace / Pray for your marriage.” Even if the rapper is aiming at universal appeal, his music is most valuable and at its best when he shares the details of his own life struggles without holding back.
On “Misses” Royce raps about his marriage and the turbulent tensions he has encountered between his career and personal life. “America” is the most politically charged even if somewhat crude and unsophisticated track on the album. After that the album finishes on a strong note with several collaborations and down-tempo closer “Off.” The title track, featuring Pusha T and Rick Ross, takes a darker turn. Royce’s confidence is exuberant on this ambitious endeavor. Low-key choir vocals complement the trio of rappers, whose bravado undoubtedly may raise a few brows but ultimately adds a great atmosphere to a well-crafted track.
His delivery style is unique and quite unlike any other hip-hop artist. On most tracks Royce continuously spits lines over simple relentless beats without needing any other musical stunts. His raps are at times overwhelmingly detailed, as he crams as much information and rhymes in a single musical bar. Even if he tends to obsessively mull over all memories and possibilities, this introspective quality of most tracks on Layers proves successful. There is still some want for cohesiveness and more clear-cut goals for this otherwise ambitious project, but ultimately Royce da 5’9″ delivers an impressive and powerful record.
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