“PRhyme. The “P” stands for Premier. The “R” stands for Royce da 5’9″. The “H”, “Y”, “M”, “E” — you know the rest. Hip-hop shit.” The gritty voice of DJ Premier kicks off the highly anticipated second installment of the collaboration between Preemo and Royce da 5’9”, PRhyme 2. It’s a project where, like the first, Preemo samples from a single artist (in this installment, AntMan Wonder), puts his twist on the production then steps aside for Royce to tear it apart with his lyricism.
It’s hard not to compare PRhyme 2 to its predecessor. The original was loaded with some of the heaviest names in the game: Black Thought, Joey Bada$$, Killer Mike and MF DOOM to name a few. The rhymes were packed with cultural references, double entendres and limitless swagger all floating over some of the hardest beats of the year. On PRhyme 2, Royce’s lyrics are still sharp as ever, and DJ Premier’s beats are smooth as butter. But where the original was a nonstop assault, the sequel switches up between the lyrical attacks and slower, more focused songs.
Equal parts braggadocios, seductive and introspective, Royce’s lyrics only stop to briefly step aside to give one of the all-star guests a chance to out-rap him. The jury is still out on who comes close, but with verses from Rapsody, Big K.R.I.T, 2 Chainz and Yelawolf, PRhyme 2 is filled to the brim with charisma and raw talent. Even among these hard-hitters, Royce still delivers each line like it is his last.
The first PRhyme seemed more like a collection of songs simply there to show off Royce’s lyrical dexterity and Preemo’s skill on the boards. PRhyme 2 has moments of cohesion that seem more purposeful. “Flirt” with 2 Chainz brings up their grievances with relationships. Rapsody and Royce take on loyalty — or the lack thereof — on “Loved Ones.” As a whole, PRhyme 2 follows a similar pattern of progression, but the intermingled and focused tracks are a breath of fresh air — a welcoming change of pace from the aimless mind-twisting rhyme, regardless of how entertaining they may be.
On “1 of the Hardest,” Royce raps “I got the chart remains of the dead in my cellar spoof / I got celery chart, Romaine in my lettuce juice / I got 2 pistols, I let ’em loose called Betty Boop and Petty Sue / I leave venom in every booth, I’m reinvented.” If there’s a single track on PRhyme 2 that captures Royce’s energy, it’s this one.
Later, in an assessment of hip-hop culture, Royce breaks down the feud between old heads and up-and-comers on “Everyday Struggle.” He raps, “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.” Royce takes a step back to address the shifts in hip-hop. Instead of condemnation, he moves aside to encourage the youth to move and evolve just as hip-hop always has.
PRhyme 2 benefits from its mixup of styles. DJ Premier sets the stage for Royce, giving him perfect opportunities to try new approaches with his delivery, flows and rhyme schemes. By mixing up their styles, the duo came through with a worthy successor to the original without being redundant. The good from the original is still here, and the new elements build upon the old. Royce and Preemo are at the top of their fields. Together, they’re almost unstoppable.