Royce da 5'9"

Street Hop

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In pre-release interviews, Royce da 5'9" laid out a perfect description of his style; a Detroit kid brought up on Nas whose head was sent spinning once Eminem came around. Three years in the making -- 12 months in prison for a DUI being part of the problem -- Street Hop often has a solid foundation that's absolutely classic in feel, but it also features those quirky, sick-o rhymes that are distinctly post-Shady. "I mix a between Chris Brown and Chris Jericho/Where's your daughter?" is an unsettling bit from the freaky track "Street Hop 2010" which goes on to reference Marlon Brando's Apache friend picking up his Oscar right before rattling off some psycho-babble about "syphilis nun chucks" and other bizarre whatnot. Hard to believe the convincing R&B stunner, "Thing for Your Girlfriend," could follow with all its radio-friendly polish, while elsewhere, "New Money" brings reminders of Roc-A-Fella's heyday with its bright and grand Streetrunner production. The minimal "Soldier" features an innovative Frequency beat with a bit of Rick Rubin-styled crunch which Royce takes in another direction, going the Kool Keith route and hurling insults like "Your mama got a glass eye/With a fish in it." "The Warriors" takes the album down a dark alley with some help from Royce's group Slaughterhouse, and when Trick Trick shows up for the terrorizing "Gangsta" it's as cold and unforgiving as the gangsta albums of yore. If there's a complaint to be made it is that Street Hop's long road to completion is felt in that this diverse set of songs just barely hangs together. Still, its one highlight after another, and executive producer DJ Premier has done a decent job with the flow, since any shuffling results in an experience that's much less sane. Think of Street Hop as an album full of surprises and Royce as the talented, unpredictable rapper at the center of it all.

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