Royce da 5'9"

Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions, Pt. 1

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Royce da 5'9" went through a lot of drama during the early 2000s, much of it to the detriment of his career and to the dismay of his fan base. His excellent debut album, Rock City, was continually delayed -- and finally released with barely any marketing push at all, courtesy of rap-industry discount wholesaler Koch Records -- and a beef with the fellow Detroit-based Shady Records posse led to an attempted character assassination. Despite all the drama, however, Royce soldiered on and cleaned out his closet with Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions, Pt. 1, a mixtape-style odds and ends collection with a remarkable number of excellent tracks. In fact, there's enough excellence here for a brief full-length if Royce would have trimmed away some of the superfluousness and gave the album a greater sense of continuity (by, say, adding some interludes or a couple more new productions). Regardless, Build & Destroy is treasure trove as it stands, housing a wealth of Royce's fiery rhymes (including the album-closing "Malcom X," his fearless shot at the Shady camp -- and yes, he even takes aim at 50 Cent) and productions by some of the industry's top beatmakers circa 2003: Just Blaze ("King of Detroit"), Kanye West ("Heartbeat"), the Alchemist ("I Won't Be," "Danger"), and the Neptunes ("Feels Good," "Make This Run"). It's really too bad Royce didn't have better affiliations -- he's incredibly talented and deserves twice the recognition he'd gotten to date, yet in the ultracompetitive commercial-rap industry, it's essential to have strong label backing if you want to break through the clutter. Then again, he seems to relish his rebellious, almost-kamikaze underdog persona. He's a rapper in an unfortunate predicament, for sure, and thus someone you have to accept on whatever terms he's presented. In the case of Build & Destroy, Royce is presented in somewhat of a hodgepodge nature, yet if you don't mind parsing the album, there are delights aplenty to be had.

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