Hip-hop is good for rumoring about potential collaboration albums, getting fans’ hopes up, and then said album never comes to fruition. Royce da 5’9″ and DJ Premier are two who have stayed true to their word – and to hip-hop – and formed PRhyme, a throwback MC/producer tag-team.
“When artists take that stand, no matter what their message is or what they’re doing, they’re usually successful,” Royce states. “It’s not forced or contrived, fans can always pick up on that shit. Generally, people want to follow something that’s genuine. They want to be led by somebody who is true to themselves first. That’s the stance that we’re taking with the album.
Nine tracks deep, the album samples exclusively from soulful producer Adrian Younge, with star-studded features from Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Killer Mike, Common, Jay Electronica, Dwele and Slaughterhouse. It’s one of hip-hop’s purest projects of the year. Here, Life+Times raps with Royce da 5’9″ and DJ Premier about PRyhme and their self-titled album.
Life+Times: You all have collaborated before. Talk about the decision to come together and make an entire album and not just a few songs.
DJ Premier: What happened was Mike Heron – who works at Shady – pitched the idea to make an EP with Slaughterhouse – a five-song EP in which I would produce it, but they wanted me to sample one artist, Adrian Younge. Adrian Younge gave us all of his catalogs, all the instrumentals of projects he’s done in the past, even including the Ghostface one. That was the project that I omitted, I didn’t want to tamper with that one since he and Ghostface [did it]. The scheduling was really clashing because Crooked I is in LA, Joe Budden was always busy with other functions, Joell Ortiz putting out House Slippers and getting that together, Royce was working on his solo album and I was doing projects. So, time-wise, it just wasn’t coming together. Then Royce asked me about him and I doing it, still with the same approach of just using Adrian Younge’s music. After some pushing and shoving, I was convinced by the great Royce da 5’9” to do it. I’m very much into samples that people can’t find out where I got it from – that’s what I’m known for – so taking one artist and using just his music for a whole body of work, I’ve never done that in my entire career. That’s where Royce convinced me. Once I started to dive into some of the music that [Adrian] had, the first record that I sent to [Royce] happened to be the title track, “PRhyme.” That’s what he named it. When I heard it, I was like, “Wow, this sounds good.” So, then we worked on the next which happened to be, “U Looz,” an interlude. It started to build from there with another and another one, then once we got to five, Royce felt like it still wasn’t complete, so we added four more songs. On top of that, he started to send tracks with other artists on it that I didn’t even know were going to appear. So, it went from an EP to an album, and the name PRhyme just happened to stick. I was like, “Why you gonna call it PRhyme?”, and he said, “Well, the P and the R represents Premier and Royce, and then the hyme represents rhymes and everything else in hip-hop, rhyming, DJ’ing, MC’ing, grafity, the b-boy and b-girl aspect.” It fits the whole project. So, instead of calling it Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier, PRhyme is the name of the album and the group.
L+T: Common, JAY Z, Ghostface, Bilal, and others have been on songs sampling Adrian Younge. What is it about his sound that people have gravitated to? For you all, how did the soul samples influence the way you approached the records?
Royce da 5’9”: For me and Preme, we both wanted to do something that was really cohesive. When you get guys together that provide a certain element, it gives you more of a sound bed as far as a lyricist. So, Adrian has the soul, that’s very inspiring. I was a fan of his and didn’t even know who I was a fan of. Black Dynamite is actually one of my favorite movies of all time. Before I even knew he scored the entire movie and did the soundtrack, I used to watch the movie and just listen to the music. That element is inspiring in itself. All of my favorite albums have a particular theme or sound dating all the way back to Illmatic, Chronic, The Blueprint. That soul sample element that JAY Z was able to channel with Kanye, Just Blaze and those guys on The Blueprint was genius, I thought. I’ve always wanted to do a cohesive body of work and I always told myself that if I ever got the opportunity to work with Preme on an entire project that we would stick to a sound.
L+T: You all mention “wanting to remind listeners what hip-hop is supposed to sound like.” Was that the mission? What is that hip-hop is missing or not sounding like that you all wanted to bring back?
Royce da 5’9”: It’s the element of finding a balance in hip-hop, first of all. Second of all, it’s artists being passionate about something, doing the kind of music they wanna do, not trying to conform, not trying to do what you think will fit in to try to get a quick check. For me personally – not even speaking for Preme – I felt like I needed to get back to my roots, back to the little smoky clubs I used to go to every Tuesday. It was an open mic. I would go in there and not even look at the bar, I wasn’t drinking or nothing, I would just go in there and prepare a rap every Wednesday, memorize by the following Tuesday and spit a new rap every week. I was just performing for my peers. It was about telling a particular story, it was just about being a technician and a lyricist. I wanted to take it back to that, to beats and rhymes, all of the elements that you think about before you go in and make albums. As an artist, the music industry is designed to break your confidence. It’s designed to build and tear you down, it’s not really designed for you to think on your own. It’s designed for you to find your place based on the type of lane all these people who don’t know shit are supposed to be creating for you. I didn’t go in and say let me do a club record, let me do a record for the bitches, etc. Right now, there’s a certain message that I want to get out there: I want to touch on my sobriety a little bit, I want to be brutally honest and I want to do what I want to do. That’s basically what this is and that’s one element that’s missing from a lot of artists.
L+T: How was the recording and creative process for PRhyme different from other records you all have done throughout your careers?
DJ Premier: For me, since I only had to focus on Adrian Younge’s music, I took the Sometimes In April album, I took the Delfonics album that he did, and I took the Black Dynamite soundtrack, the rest of it I said I won’t even pay attention to. Since it’s coming from one artist, I still want to be known for having an approach that sounds like Primo did it. In order to do that, I had to listen from intro to outro because, sonically, some of the stuff has similar instrumentation. My thing was, I gotta really dissect parts of it and make you go, “Damn, that don’t nothing like the other Adrian Younge stuff. That’s the same guy?” That’s the challenging part that I always put myself under in anything I sample. That’s what made me famous as far as my style. I had to really dig deep to not sounds similar to another songs that Royce was going to spit to. The most important thing that I had to do was make sure he was open to wanting to spit to it. Whoever I’m working with, whether it’s Jay Z, Nas, it’s totally their world and the same thing applies to this project
Royce da 5’9″: It was way more seamless. There weren’t any moving parts at all, it was me in Detroit or me in New York, one or the other. We didn’t have to have conversations about location – we didn’t really have to have a lot of conversation. We didn’t have to deal management, we didn’t have to deal with A&R, we didn’t have to deal with CEOs. It was me and Preme having phone conversations, me saying, “Yo, have you heard this part of the Adrian album on track nine? You think you can do something with that?” Everything was just creative conversations about how we’re going to approach the next song. It was Preme sending me a beat, me laying vocals to it, sending it back to him and getting his feedback for basically nine songs in a row. We didn’t have any tracks left over, we didn’t do 20 songs and pick the best ones, we did nine. That was the same way we did the Bad Meets Evil album, not over-thinking it, just going in and knocking out this body of work then presenting it to the world. I’ve worked in a lot of different setting. With this, it was just me and Preme. Organic is the word we’ve been using.
L+T: Dwele is the lone vocalist featured, then you’ve got Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Common, Jay Electronica, Killer Mike, Schoolboy Q and Slaughterhouse. It’s like a who’s who of who can really rap right now. How did you select those people?
Royce da 5’9”: Well, Slaughterhouse was a given. I didn’t think it made sense for me to do anything without including them on there. That was all about getting a beat and figuring out which one they would sound best on and what vibe we wanted to go for. I knew that one would be easy. As far as everyone else, I kind of had in my mind the guys that I wanted to work with. Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul – there’s this connection between TDE and Slaughterhouse. Ever since those guys came around, we were kind of the only two crews that have that same dynamic where you have solo artists joining together as a crew. Just because of that, every time we see each other we talk about making music. I think they’re all cool as shit, Kendrick and Jay Rock included, too. I knew I wanted to put Soul and Mac Miller on the same song. Killer Mike was last minute. I had a couple of other ideas of people to put on “Underground Kings.” I felt like I really needed to get somebody who truly embodies that title. Schoolboy wasn’t underground that long. Vocally, he fit the beat, but his story didn’t match the concept as much as Killer Mike. I thought, “If I’m not going to get somebody like Bun B who’s known for being the Underground King, I’m gonna get somebody who’s underground right now who’s a king in his own right and preaches that.” That’s what Killer Mike does, I follow the whole Run The Jewels movement. Dwele: we pretty much came into the game at the same time but never got a chance to work with each other. We’ve always seen each other in passing in Detroit, so I felt like I needed to tie him down for this one. Jay Electronica, same thing. I put him in the bucket list category with Common. “I gotta work with them at some point.” When I thought about Jay, he was actually staying in Detroit. That’s what he does. He’ll get an apartment in some city for like three months and be recording. One day you call, he’s in London, then the next time he’s in Chicago. Common was a similar story. I met him back in the day at Dilla’s house one time and we kicked it for a second. He was giving me some cool advice. It’s crazy because the advice he was giving me was similar to the mind-frame of this project: staying true to you and keeping it hip-hop, doing what you want to do, letting everything you’ve absorbed shine through the music.
PRhyme drops December 9th.