Y’all know Royce, right? Even novice hip hop heads know him as the guy who rapped with Eminem before Eminem got famous, but those who go deeper know he’s ghostwritten for top 40 rappers like Puff Daddy and legends like Dr. Dre, and his Slaughterhouse supergroup–including Em, Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I–is one of the best. And regular readers know I gave his most recent album with DJ Premier, under the name PRhyme, a rave review.

Well, this album is even better. Than all that. It’s his best album ever, and destined to be legendary.

Why? Well, first of all, it’s a proper album–but there’s tons of singles as well. By now, you’ve probably heard Caterpillar because it features Eminem. But there’s a second mix, in which Logic replaces Em, and his bars are all about how everyone calls him a white emcee–which is kind of brilliant.

But let’s not focus on the guest stars here. There’s lots of them, and they’re all great (J Cole, Boogie, Pusha T, T Pain, Jadakiss, Fabolous, etc.).

But the star is Royce. This album proves he should be in your top ten. Verse after verse, bar after bar, and it’s all smart. There’s no stupid thug shit. There’s plenty of thug content–but this is about a man who has been in the game a long time, and is ready to “show you what a winner do.” It’s pure autobiography: How he lived when he was young, being little Ryan in the neighborhood who “bought all the mystery mix now and laters/waiting for God to come down and answering my prayers,” bouncing a basketball everywhere he went. What it was like to grow up in a house with a wife-beating daddy who, nevertheless, Royce looked up to and still loves. How he was coming up, and the industry wanted him to act like a stereotype, and then how he became an alcoholic and eventually got sober. His “strong fried” who “nobody ever checked up on,” and who eventually commit suicide. And through it all, he interlaces racial politics and plenty of humor. The bars go by with blinding speed, making repeat listens a must.

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