ARTIST: ROYCE 5’9
TITLE: THE ALLEGORY
LABEL: EONE/HEAVEN STUDIOS
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
Detroit heavyweight Royce 5’9 might just be one of the most underrated rappers in hip hop. A true MC’s MC, anyone who appreciates great lyricism and fire bars will already know that Royce is one of the GOATs. And if they don’t already know it then boy you gon’learn, and ‘The Allegory’ will help you learn it. Over the course of 22 tracks and 1 hour 8 minutes (which is about standard for a hip hop record, fyi), Royce explores the issues of race, politics, the current state of hip hop and so much more.
Whereas his previous 2018 release ‘Book Of Ryan’ was a self-reflecting, deeply personal and mostly autobiographical journey, ‘The Allegory’ finds him looking outward and examining the world we live in. From the very first haunting bars of ‘Mr Grace’ – with its damning take on corporal America robbing innocence and youth from its own kids now brought up cynical and clued up on how to make a fast buck – Royce is clearly out to try and make the listener think. This intro track lays the stage, building on those first thoughts as Royce’s softly spoken wordplay rolls more concepts and questions into the forefront of the listeners mind, all ready to be explored and addressed throughout the rest of the album. “A rich man wrote this with a poor man’s focus…” Even the cover art is a political statement – a singed dollar sign with the word ‘united’ crossed out of ‘The United States Of America’ and as it further explained on interlude track ‘Ice Cream’ – “an allegory is a story with a subliminal meaning that has a political message based off the writer’s mind.”
“Royce’s softly spoken wordplay rolls more concepts and questions into the forefront of the listeners mind, all ready to be explored and addressed throughout the rest of the album”
Sonically, the record has a lot of soulful type hooks and offers some real throwback classic boom bap style throughout, such as ‘I Play Forever’ with its laid back vibe and chilled horn sections. Clean, modern production values mixed with some unusual experimentation and unique sounds, the slick bars and smooth delivery on ‘The Allegory’ are a constant delight to the ears with Royce riding the beat with the ease and joy of a kid on a fairground ride, beats that this time around, he made himself. His first entirely self-produced album, Royce only recently got into experimenting with making beats but seems to have the knack for it already. ‘I Don’t Age’ has the perfect balance of evil sounding, tension building bass and haunting minor key piano tinkling and ‘Pendulum’ has a similar weird, slightly off kilter vibe to the beat, creating an uncomfortable yet hypnotic backdrop for Royce to flow over. Simple but effective.
In terms of the overall serious subject matters addressed on the album, we got the first hint of this when Royce dropped single ‘Overcomer’ opening with the bluntness of Westside Gunn discussing gun violence in his neighborhood before Royce comes in with his verse and some harsh home truths. Then there’s skits ‘A Black Man’s Favorite Shoes’ with some uncomfortable racist sound bytes and ‘Perspective’, featuring Royce’s buddy and overall legend Eminem discussing the controversial race issue in hip hop. Other main single ‘Black Savage’ has lines like “I don’t believe in your white Jesus and Last Suppers, I place value on brothers who never had justice,” ‘Upside Down’ calls out the mixed up, crazy state of the world and final song ‘My Hero’ is another serious number but this is actually one of the more personal tracks on the album with Royce harkening back to his ‘Book Of Ryan’ vibe and talking about his upbringing and teenage years.
“a slick, modern album for the woke generation from a smooth, authentic OG of the game who’s on top of his own.”
Like all great rap tracks, all of these songs demand replay to pick up the finer nuances and double and triple entendres hidden amongst the rhyme schemes. There’s certainly some great lyricism here overall and plenty of amusing lines thrown in with the thought-provoking ones too – “they say you are what you eat but I never ate goat” (‘I Don’t Age’) and look out for the Ms Jackson reference in ‘I Play Forever’. ‘Thou Shall’, featuring Royce’s brother and fellow rapper Kid Vishis is more of a fun ‘don’t fuck with us’ standard brag rap type track which definitely breaks up some of the more heavier topics being dealt with on the record and assures us Royce is still very much enjoying himself here and isn’t just trying to push views down people’s throats.
‘The Allegory’ is a slick, modern album for the woke generation from a smooth, authentic OG of the game who’s on top of his own, still has so much left to say and is here to put the so called mumble rappers to shame. Hip hop – similar to its rock cousin punk – has always had a close connection with politics, and ‘The Allegory’ comes at an important and crucial time in the world stage, when music fans are calling out for their idols to take some kind of stand and not just be a passive participant. Of course, not everyone is going to agree with some of Royce’s opinions or his blunt, on the nose statements but at least he is unashamedly unafraid to speak out and be himself. Perhaps it will encourage others to do the same and have constructive discussion about some of these important issues affecting our society.