PRhyme 2 (to be released March 16, 2018)
A couple of days ago, one of my readers hit me with this truth: “It’s been a big year for ‘old man rap.’”
I love and hate that term.
On one hand, I love that rap’s elder statesmen have created their own lane. And the homie’s right, they’ve given us some great projects this year – the sonic beauty of Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins’s August Greene, the maturity of Phonte’s No News Is Good News and Elzhi once again proving that he deserves as a place on your top 10 list by teaming with Khrysis for their Jericho Jackson collaboration.
But on the other hand, Old Man Rap feels condescending in a genre that typically celebrates youth over experience. At worst, it often boxes veteran artists into roles they may not deserve.
So when Royce 5’9 and DJ Premier emerged to drop the sequel to 2014’s masterful album PRhyme, I was licking my chops to hear more of that gritty, scratch-laden sound that defined my formative years of hip-hop. But I also didn’t want my boys to get slapped with a label that would ostracize them from younger listeners.
It’s the gift and the curse of Old Man Rap.
I think Preem and Nickel realize that too, which is why PRhyme 2 is a surprising bridge across two rap generations.
Once again revisiting the concept of the original PRhyme album, PRhyme 2’s production is solely based on Premier sampling a single artist – in this case, Philly producer Antman Wonder gets the nod. While there’s plenty of classic boom bap to be found, Preem branches out his sound, letting Royce’s imagination run wild on a diverse sonic canvas.
The album starts off with “Black History,” which really should be called Rap History, in which Royce salutes the pioneers of the game while giving props to the Day Ones who help build the genre – “This is for the real Gang Starr fans, not the ones who call us P-Rhyme.”
But as I said earlier, PRhyme 2 wisely doesn’t ostracize new fans, not in production nor content. On “Everyday Struggle,” Royce tries to ease tensions:
I had nightmares of Joe Budden arguin’ with Lil’ Yachty
Division between artists, party until we sorry that we partin’
That young man the same age my son is
He just on fire right now, same way that my gun is
When Royce says “This hip-hop, all of the purists be too opinionated” it sounds like he’s talking DIRECTLY to me.
I feel you, big homie.
But don’t worry, Royce’s not just pandering to the kids, he puts frustrations of older fans out front as well:
All they argue ’bout now is who is the hottest Migo
Pac and Biggie wasn’t just artists, they were our heroes
It’s a great commentary on an evolving genre and how PRhyme is “about the youth movin, not about ‘Them against us.’”
Don’t misunderstand me, just because PRhyme cosigns the young’ns doesn’t mean Royce is suddenly mimicking the Migos’ flow or swiping that overplayed tropical-tinged production from your local urban radio station. Premier and Royce might tinker with their sound slightly but it’s still the two rap titans you know and love.
Royce completely blacks out on “1 of the Hardest” proving that he’s peerless in the booth:
To be the best you gotta have the respect
I do the same to you that I do to the Alphabet
I put the A, the B, the C, D, E, and the F in the back of a EMS
Before I go back to doing anything in rap for a G unless
I black but n****s like DMX, don’t bark, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot like a furnace is
Current single “Rock It” is like nourishment to my 90s-deprived soul with “Streets At Night” serving up even more morsels: “Wonderin’ how am I not dead, lookin’ for righteousness/You wonderin’ how you gon’ get ahead, I’m on my ISIS s***.”
But spitting vibranium bars is light work for Royce. The album’s real strength is its wide range of sounds – from the elegant tinkering of “Made Man” to the addictive ping-ponging of “Era,” Preem wisely offers something new on every track.
And of course the pair also open the door for the next generation of hitmakers to make their voices heard. Royce gets called on the carpet for creepin’ by Rapsody on “Loved Ones,” Dave East and Big KRIT stop by for the aforementioned “Era” and “Made Man,” respectively, Cee-Lo Green adds his own psychedelic soul to “Gotta Love It” and Royce sounds surprisingly comfortable next to 2 Chainz on “Flirt.” It’s not the style clash you’d expect.
Seasoned rap fans going into PRhyme 2 expecting 60 minutes of 90s-era knockers are in for a surprise – it’s the sound you love from two greats, but slightly upgraded for a new era. While a couple of tracks get lost in the shuffle (“My Calling,” “Do Ya Thang”) overall the package is hard to beat.
It’s fitting that Royce shouts out his peers both old and new on the album closer “Gotta Love It” – PRhyme 2 is a fitting salute to hip-hop’s past and present.
It might be Old Man Rap to you, but it’s pretty timeless to me.
Best tracks: “Rock It,” “Streets at Night,” “Era,” “1 of the Hardest”
4 stars out of 5