Royce Da 5’9″ Breaks Down Songs From “Street Hop”

November 5, 2009

royce“It’s time for you to start comparing me to the greats now,” Royce Da 5’9″ said in his last interview with (click to read). “I  got a classic album on my hands, and I can do it on that level.” It’s been years since plans for the DJ Premier-executive produced Street Hop were announced, but after hold-ups from bootlegs, mixtape releases and supergroup formations, the disc finally hit stores on October 20.  Hailed as Royce’s best project to date, the album further certified Royce as one of the most formidable emcees in the industry. Under the cut, Nickel Nine gives insight to the creative process behind songs from his masterpiece.

MIHH: First, “Dinner Time”. How did Busta Rhymes get involved?

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Royce Da 5’9″: Oh yeah. I got the beat from my man Q. Tones over in the UK. And when I was hearing that stop and start beat, like the way it was starting and stopping, I was thinking about that flow. And I was like, “Man this nigga Busta would sound crazy on this.” And we had just did something together for Kay Slay’s mixtape. So it was like, “You know what? I just talked to him. Let me see if Busta would be down to do it.” So I just hit him up and he was like, “Hell yeah.” So he sent it right back. That was just like the normal way people get together and do shit. He got a recording studio on his tour bus, so he just knocked it right out and sent back to me. And I just spit everything around that. So you know, easy breezy.

MIHH: Next, ”Shake This.”
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Royce Da 5’9”: “Shake This” was a joint I did while I was on work release. I was on work release, and I was really just feeling like that at the time. I felt like, you know, that was my reflection joint. I had a year to really reflect on everything. I had a year of just totally being sober, and really just thinking real clear and deep. So you know, I had just looked at the path I was on, and the situation that I basically got myself in just based off my decisions that I was making. It kind of came out like that because I had been sitting on that beat for [a while]. I was going to go a whole other direction with that song, when [DJ Premier] gave me that beat. I was sitting right there when he made the beat, and I had it up on the big speakers trying to figure out which direction to go with it. I didn’t end up doing that to it when I was in New York, and then I went home for court. And when I went to court I was thinking it was just going to be another day in court, because every felony I had I beat. So I certainly wasn’t giving a fuck about no misdemeanor. So I went in there, and I didn’t even say goodbye to my family properly. It was like, “I’ll be right back.” And when I went there it was like, “One year, step up to the bailiff.” So that was like an eye opener for me. The beat was on my mind, so I had to go through the three or four months of work release, and once I got out of work release I revisited the beat and it just came out like that. It was what it was.

MIHH: One thing about that song that I think is sort of slept on is that you aren’t only talking about drinking and being in jail, but you’re also talking about the shit going on with your career. I don’t think a lot of people notice that because they know the other shit.
Royce Da 5’9”: Yeah, I mean like I said, it was just me reflecting. Me reflecting and not looking at other people, and blaming other people for the way shit is. It’s me looking inward. It’s like Michael Jackson. I’m staring at the man in the mirror. Look where you are. What is the reason for everything? The reason why everything is how it is. Like I said, “I lost my good friend and broke up soldiers.” We don’t have Proof no more. A few months before Proof died, it was like we were trying to kill each other. So we make up, and I lose him in a way that affected me. It makes me look at the way shit is, and how certain things can be so petty. And it is what it is, so all of that just kind of came out. And I was feeling a certain way. A lot of that shit was on my mind. I felt like I needed to get it off my chest. It was like therapy.

MIHH: Now what about “Something 2 Ride 2” featuring Phonte?
Royce Da 5’9”: “Something 2 Ride 2”, that’s real simple. I had the beat, I went in there, I laid the verses. When I heard the beat, the verses were just general shit talking, which I wanted to do a lot of on the Street Hop album. I didn’t want to do too many “Shake This” type songs. I really wanted to utilize this opportunity to make an album with just straight up beats and rhymes, because I feel like it’s a huge void in the marketplace. A lot of people aren’t doing that anymore. Everybody’s talking about selling drugs. You know, everybody’s telling the same fuckin’ story. You know, “I’m from the projects/my daddy not around…” That’s cool, but I just want to take it back to when it was beats and rhymes, what this shit started off with. Dope beats, ill rhymes, versatility. I wanted to give that element.

“Something 2 Ride 2” is just that. When I originally did it, I sang the hook. My version of the hook was a little more reckless. It was way more reckless. When Phonte did it, he smoothed it out in terms of the words. He felt like the actual words were more so me, than him. He was like, “Yo, I’ma do it. I’ma do my version of it.” I was like, “Do whatever you want. I respect you.” I was originally going to have Mr. Porter sing the hook, but I was listening to that Playaz Circle joint where Phonte sings the hook, and I was like, “Hey it would be ill if I had Phonte sing the hook.” And it was a huge mistake to have that nigga sing the hook and not put a verse on it because mufuckas are giving me the business right now. I’m working on that remix now. I got to have Phonte do that verse because these mufuckas got me on a dart board for that one.

MIHH: [Laughs] What made you decide to us the autotune on “Far Away?
Royce Da 5’9”: I don’t really remember. What the fuck made me use auto tune on that? I don’t know, man. I probably was just drunk or something, or in a silly mood. Because you know I catch different moods with the recording process. I had a whole sober period of doing that album. I had a whole drunk period of doing that album. I had an in-between period. I just never know what type of session I’ma have. Sometimes I go to the studio and niggas be like, “Yo, did you go to the store?” I’m like, “Naw, I’m chillin’ tonight”. Other nights it be like, “You haven’t been to the store yet?” It’s just up and down with me. “Far Away,” man, that had to be one of those drunk sessions. Whenever I want to use auto tune is when I’m drunk. I really like auto tune, but the problem is I only like it when I’m using it. When other people use it, I hate it.

MIHH: Now these two joints, “On the Run” and “Murder”, well I’ll let you break it down, but I had a few questions about them specifically.
Royce Da 5’9”: You know what? The “On the Run” portion of it was going to be another beat at first. Emile sent me that beat at the last minute. I started listening to the hook portion of it, and that kind of spawned the whole story idea. I knew I wanted another story, because we shot the video for “Part of Me” (CLICK HERE to watch) and it’s kind of out there so people already knew it existed. [“Part Of Me”] was going to be on the album, so it wasn’t going to catch anybody off guard or come as a surprise.

When I was in jail, I was reading all these hood books, and I noticed that all of them had this interesting twist at the end. You know, that’s what kept me reading because contrary to popular belief, I don’t read a lot of books. I definitely don’t read for education. I read for entertainment. So when I was in jail I was reading books, and I found myself captivated by the ones I could actually see while I’m reading it. It’s kind of like I’m reading it, but I’m watching a movie. So I always found myself tipping my hat to the actual author when reading it and being able to keep my attention. The ones I was captivated by were the ones with the twist in the end. In the end I’m thinking Biggie, you know, the Life After Death album. “Nigga’s parked by a fire hydrant. Nigga turns around holding his daughter.” Everything leads to something, and that’s kind of like a hip hop lesson to me. Same thing with Nas, “Now under God, we elope”(from Nas’ song “Undying Love”).  you know what I’m saying. That shit is genius to me. And then I’ll watch a movie like Pulp Fiction, and you know Quentin Tarantino; the movie is good but the thought behind this shit is crazy. To me it’s like capturing the same shit in my actual work. I want people to appreciate the actual work that went into it. You know, a story is a story. A muthafucka doing the shit he was doing in the story was cool, but the actual work that went into it is what I want people to appreciate.

MIHH: Now I actually had two questions about that song. For one, I didn’t know about it, but somebody told me you had a few issues with Tre Little a while back. And he thought it was interesting for you to have him on that song.
Royce Da 5’9”: Naw. The actual name is just a popular name, that’s all that is. No shot at Tre Little, if I’m going to take a shot at somebody, it’s going to be somebody that people know. And I don’t have any issues with Tre Little, no issues with dude to where I would put him on the album.

MIHH: That wasn’t him rapping on it? It sounded like his voice.
Royce Da 5’9”: No, that was me rapping on it, but it was an effect put on the vocals.

MIHH:Oh, okay. Also, a question about the story. Some people were confused about the motivation behind the set up. The visual of Trey luring you there and getting people to shoot at you was there, but that part sort of had me confused.
Royce Da 5’9”: Well think about it, man. If somebody do that to you, your first question is going to be what the motive is. Like, that’s the beauty of that type of shit: totally trusting somebody and they flip the script on you. You don’t know what the motive is, you’re the victim because the whole story is told from that person’s perspective. I’m the victim here, and the actual beauty of story is leaving the listener something to ponder, like something to put their own twist on it. You could say, “Damn. He set him because of blah, blah, blah.” Or, “I wonder if he fucked this nigga’s bitch.” It leaves room open for dialogue.

If I do a story, I don’t want everything to be so signed and sealed to the point. It’s got to be something else for the imagination, just like on “Part of Me”. Why would these bitches do this to this nigga? Who knows? They could be some crazy bitches, or he could be a fucked up nigga. Like, you don’t know. All you know is that shit is scandalous. And that’s Detroit. Shit like that is going on all the time. If you watch 40 minutes of the news, you’re wondering, “What the fuck is this nigga snitching for? Why is this nigga talking so much?” Why don’t this nigga say, “I need my attorney present”? Why is he letting these muthafuckin detectives manipulate him like this? It’s all the same shit, it’s just something that goes on. Trey could just be a fucked up nigga. He could be the police. Who knows? All we know is that it’s a fucked up situation. And that’s making the listener fall in love with the actual victim, because if you listen to the story I never shot a gun one time.

MIHH: Exactly, and you never shooting a gun is part of what made it so confusing.
Royce Da 5’9”: And that token is like watching a movie. Like, you was in love with Wesley Snipes as Nino Brown up until he got scandalous at the end. Like when he killed G Money and the whole community only to get Ice-T, you wanted him to get his ass whooped. But like a half hour into the movie before that, you was ridin’ with Nino Brown. The way that movie was shot, it made you fall in love with the villain. All of that depends on how well the shit is written, and how well it’s acted out. And all I wanted to do was paint a visual. That’s all that really was. The fact that you got questions afterward, I feel good about that because I feel like I did my job.

MIHH: Yeah because I was asked that question by at least two or three other people like, “What am I missing?”
Royce Da 5’9”: [Laughs] Yeah when that type of shit happens, nobody can answer those questions except the muthafucka that’s doing the shady shit. And maybe I could do a part two from Trey and the police’s perspective. It could be a conspiracy against hip hop. It could be anything. It’s just the actual perspective I’m rhyming from doesn’t give you those answers.

MIHH: Where did “Thing For Your Girlfriend” come from? I like it, but it didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the album.
Royce Da 5’9”: I do songs like that a lot, they just very rarely make the cut. It’s just something about that song that got me attached. Sonically it sounds real clean, but lyrically it’s just dirty to me. I think a lot of niggas think like that. And that shot at Nick Cannon, I just felt it was so necessary. [Laughs] I had to say something greasy on the album. And when I sent the beat to K-Young, he murdered it so badly that I felt I would be doing an injustice to not use it, because it’s a great song. I like that type of music. It’s one of those situations where I had the beat playing and I didn’t know what I was going to rhyme about it. I sent it to K-Young. I said, “Yo man, just do it on some Snoop Chronic shit. Say the wildest shit you can put on there. Put a verse on it. Go in, on some Nate Dogg shit.” And he went in, and did his verse on what he thought it was. When he sent it back to me, that shit was crazy. I loved the verse, and I did mine super quick. And that was it. That’s how that came about.

MIHH: Lasly, “Hood Love.”

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Royce Da 5’9”: Preme did that beat. He sent it to me as a skeleton. I was like, “Cool. I’ll do my verse real quick.” Me and Bun had did a couple of joints, and another couple of joints we had didn’t make the cut. I was like, “Bun this is the last thing I’m gonna ask from you.” At this point I was shaping the album. Like, I knew what type of joint would fit, and I needed Bun on the album. So I sent it to him, he did his verse and sent it back real quick like the way Bun do, the realest nigga in the game. And originally I wanted Jadakiss and Game on the album. I sent it to Jadakiss and Game, both those niggas said they would do it. They didn’t do it. [Laughs] They probably got busy or whatever, and I didn’t have a lot of time to sit and wait for them to actually do it.

So at the last minute Premo was like, “Why don’t you just throw Joell on it?” And I knew I didn’t have a song with Joell with just me and him, outside of Slaughterhouse. I knew I had a joint with Crooked, and I had a joint with Joey called “For You.” It’s just everything me and Joey do, he steals from me. So that’s why I didn’t end up with a song with me and Joey, because I gave him “For You.” So Premo was like, “Give it to him.” So Joell jumped on it real quick and murdered it. So once he did it, it was sealed. Signed, sealed and delivered, I didn’t need nothing else. So hopefully in the future I get to work with Game or Kiss, I just didn’t get a chance to get that shit done in time for my album. So it is what it is.


  1. Rakabash says:

    I totally enjoyed the interview. “Street Hop” is one of the best rap albums of 2009. “Blueprint 3”, “OBFCL2”, “Surivival SKills”, “Smoke N Mirrors”, “Relapse”, “BISD”, “Wiazrd of Poetry” and just a few of the albums that made me interested again in hardcore rap music in a long time, but “Street Hop” in my opinion outshined them all. “Dinner Time”-that is the best I have heard Royce spit in 2 years. Not since Bar Exam 1 have i heard Royce spit with that much intensity and WITTY lyricism and not just tough-guy-gangsta talk even though the song with Trick Trick left me pressing fast forward, there’s so many other songs to blast like “Far Away”, “Something 2 Ride 2” and “Count For Nothing”. Royce you make Detroit proud, my dude! Much respect to M.I.C., SV, Elzhi, Fat Killaz and others!

    November 6th, 2009 at 2:54 am

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