Royce Da 5’9 is a busy man. He’s one part PRhyme, one-fourth Slaughterhouse, and broke into the game by cementing his place as a steadfast wingman alongside Eminem. Layers, his first solo record since 2011, is an honest confessional. Highly personal minus any wallowing or emotional instability, the record takes a mighty swing for the fences.
Royce’s bread and butter is his knack for blending storytelling with unforgettable one-liners. He’s mastered the style, and it’s showcased all over Layers, a record that skillfully illuminates the path of his tumultuous career. Successes and failures litter the album, but this isn’t a pity party. It’s a marathon of rappity rap shit that will either leave you stunned or tire you out while trying to keep up.
Royce is lightyears ahead of his contemporaries (painfully obvious on “Pray” and “Starter Coat”), and he finds comfort carrying the record on the strength of his bravado. Sure, his skill set is tremendous, but Royce’s songwriting also comes off more like a challenge for today’s chart climbers. His fifteen years in the game leave listeners with the unmistakable vibe that Royce can rap better than your favorite rapper. That vibe is both a gift and a curse throughout Layers’ seventeen tracks.
On Layers, you’ll find everything you need from a big time hip hop record in 2016. Skits, tempo changes, high-profile features…it’s all here. Standouts include “Pray”, “Starter Coat”, “Misses”, and “Layers” which features a killer King Push verse and Rick Ross (who feels horribly outclassed alongside two giants). While Layers is a truly complete project by all standards, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that Royce is cruising on autopilot until someone comes for the crown.