The musical universe is about as vast and ever-growing today as the actual cosmological universe. That is obvious just by looking at the seemingly unending number of acts across that span. There are about as many acts across the musical universe as there are stars in the sky. That being the case it is sometimes difficult to find those rare musical stars that shine in their own fashion. In the case of rapper Royce da 5’9” he is one of those stars that has been there all along yet has never gotten full recognition. However with his most recent album Layers there is a good chance that this otherwise overlooked emcee will finally get the recognition that he deserves and shine just as bright as the other stars in the musical universe if not brighter. That can be said in considering both the musical and lyrical makeup of the album’s seventeen song body beginning with the album’s opener ‘Tabernacle.’ That will be discussed later. ‘America’ is another one of the offerings included in this record that makes both Royce and his new album shine. That will be discussed later. ‘Pray,’ the album’s second song is one more example of what makes Royce shine so bright along with his new album. Each song shows in its own way what makes Royce such a star. Together with the rest of the album’s offerings they show not only what makes him a star but his album, too. They come together to make his new album one of 2016’s brightest new rap records.
Royce da 5’9 is a rap star who has for far too long been overlooked by both audiences and the industry alike. This is the case even considering his musical connections to the likes of Slaughterhouse and Eminem. However with his latest full-length studio recording Layers he is certain to shine just as bright as his counterparts in the musical universe. That is evidenced right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Tabernacle.’ The song’s musical arrangement is just one part of what makes the song stand out. It is set up just like a scene from a Sunday church service complete with piano and choir serving as the arrangement’s foundation. The balance of that foundation to Royce’s (a.k.a. Ryan Daniel Montgomery) own testimonial style delivery makes the picture painted by the song’s musical arrangement even richer. The depth is increased even more with the song’s powerful lyrical content. Montgomery discusses some very powerful situations in this song; situations that will completely engage audiences. The timing in his delivery makes them even more powerful and gripping. He writes here about the impact of having to face his grandmother’s death and the birth of his child all in the same day all while having to perform at a show just in one verse. The emotion in his voice as he delivers these lines he even notes directly in said verse, “I’m trying to figure out/Why the lord chose us/Or maybe chose me/to ride this emotional roller coaster.” In having to walk away from his grandmother’s hospital room to check on his girlfriend and child he expresses just as deeply how torn he is, writing, “I walk away feeling like a good father/The same time as a terrible son.” Even with so much strife he still comes out with some real deep knowledge and appreciation for that knowledge as he writes, “I learned a lot this day/I learned that the universe has this way of balancing itself out/For me to lose such a beautiful soul in my granny/And gain such a beautiful soul with my first-born son little Royce/It showed me that God is real/And you know what they say/God giveth and God taketh away.” Such clarity of mind even with so much that had happened through this story exhibits Montgomery as someone who in himself obviously has a number of layers. Those layers are exhibited just as much throughout the remainder of the album, too, including another of the album’s key songs ‘America.’
‘Tabernacle’ is a clear example of what makes Montgomery one of the brightest of the musical universe’s stars. It isn’t the only song that exemplifies what makes him one of those surprising figures. There is another song in his new album that exhibits this just as much. It is the powerful, socially conscious song ‘America.’ The song’s musical arrangement gives the song a solid, modern rap sound with its beats and general arrangement. Montgomery’s lyrics lay overtop of those beats to increase its impact even more. Those lyrics address a number of topics, too. Those topics include the clear division among the haves and have-nots in America, The racism that is still so prevalent in this country, and (as is noted in the song’s chorus), the issue of value that people place on others in general. It’s a powerful statement, which is likely why he opened the song with its chorus. He writes in the chorus, “I said America the beautiful/Land of free/Home of brave/Everyone is born and raised to think like a dead man/When you alive you the lowest on the totem pole/And soon as you die then here goes this/Oh, now he heroic/Oh, now he the coldest/Oh, now it’s he had that talent and I didn’t know it/Man listen, being humble ain’t gon get you out your grave/You should treat your life the same way you thinking like/And go and whip it like a slave.” This is a very impacting statement to say the very least. He stays on this topic as he launches into the song’s lead verse, firing his verbal missiles as he writes, “What the **** is arrogant/That’s the **** they injecting into us Americans/How ‘bout I think I was put here to push European whips/And so what if you don’t like/I thought you’d be inspired/By the way I whip it/Right past the pretenders/The men with no passion/Who think it’s possible to be past your potential like life has just ended/The spirit broken so the wife and kids are born into only knowing the White Castle menu while the richest born into white castles/Attending Bar mitzvahs, the future of us ****** is in syringes/We meant for the NFL/Injure the NBA/Anyway I take popping shots at ****** over receiving posthumous props from ****** any day/Maybe y’all just scared/Lost in everybody saying not to floss so you go watching The Waking Dead/Yeah, you and America.” The verbal attack continues in the song’s second verse as Montgomery goes after America’s corporate machine, likening it to the slave owners of America’s past. The lyrical assault continues very much in similar fashion in the song’s closing verse as he goes after so many other controlling forces. Between that and the lyrical ammunition fired off in the song’s first two verses, the whole of this song becomes such that it would please Public Enemy front man Chuck D with its blatantly outspoken commentary. What’s more the depth in that commentary exhibits yet another “layer” from Montgomery, showing yet again why this rap star is one that audiences will soon see shining brighter than so many others. It is not the last example of what makes Royce shine so proudly and brightly either. ‘Pray,’ the album’s second song, exhibits this just as much as ‘America’ and ‘Tabernacle.’
‘Tabernacle’ and ‘America’ both clearly exhibit what makes Royce da 5’9” and his new album shine so brightly within the vast musical universe. That is due to the combination of the songs’ musical arrangements and their equally powerful lyrical content. They are not the only songs that serve to exhibit this either. ‘Pray’ does just as much to exhibit this as the aforementioned songs. The song’s musical arrangement plays its own part in that exhibition. It is a strong, confident statement with the punch that it delivers. The song’s lyrical content packs just as much of a punch with its commentary. Montgomery addresses the violence going on right here in America as he writes, “I’m seeing children being murdered by police/And then acquitted on all charges/It’s like they’re all targets/Pray for them/Pray for everybody.” He also addresses the violence going on all around the world, from the violence in Paris to the violence in Nigeria and other corners of the world. At the same time he goes on to compare that violence to the way that he is viewed by others, accenting it all by saying that people shouldn’t pray for him, rather they should pray for everybody else and the rest of the world. He is saying that he and those with whom he associates might not be the best element. But they are no threat in comparison to everything else going on in the world. That is a hugely powerful statement. And the song’s musical arrangement is a perfect compliment to that statement, too. The pairing of the two elements makes this song stand out even more and exhibit just as much as ‘Tabernacle’ and ‘America’ why Royce shines just as bright as any other rapper in the vast stretch of the musical universe. It shows just as much why his new album shines so brightly, too. That is because it shows yet another of the many layers that make up both the album and the man behind it. There are even more layers exhibited throughout the course of the album’s hour-plus run time. In unraveling those layers, the album’s depth and that of Royce himself is revealed increasingly in each song. It makes the album entirely engaging from beginning to end and in turn makes the album shine so brightly that it becomes one of the year’s top new rap records.
Layers is one of 2016’s top new rap records. That is proven in the layers that are revealed in every one of the album’s seventeen tracks. From the beginning to the end of the album’s sixty-three minute run time those varied layers also present so much depth both within the album itself and within Montgomery. That depth makes the album wholly engaging as much as Montgomery in his performance of each song. That depth and engagement makes the album in whole a bright, shining offering that is one of 2016’s top new rap records and its performer one of the year’s top emcees. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Layers is available online now along with all of Royce da 5’9”’s news and more at:
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