Born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9″ is a Detroit, MI-born and-based emcee, best known for his longtime association with Eminem, with whom he’s one half of duo, Bad Meets Evil, a critically applauded solo career, primarily collaborating with Carlos “6 July” Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. He’s also a member of Slaughterhouse, an All-Star hip-hop act that also features Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, and one half of PRhyme with the legendary (and aforementioned) DJ Premier.
As the story goes, Royce da 5’9″ signed his first deal with Tommy Boy Records, who offered him $1 million while Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment offered him $250,000 and unlimited beats, a decision that he described as one of his biggest regrets in a 2016 Complex interview. After Tommy Boy Records closed, the Detroit-based emcee signed a deal with Columbia and Game Recordings, with whom he began recording an album then titled Rock City, a title which referred to Detroit being the former (and best known) home of Motown Records. When the album wound up being heavily bootlegged, the Detroit-based emcee left that label for Koch to re-record the album, eventually releasing it 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). And although the album didn’t sell well, the DJ Premier-produced single “Boom” helped Royce achieve some underground recognition and lead to the two working more closely with PRhyme.
Their 2014 debut album together featured both artists going out of their comfort zones, and expanding upon their familiar sounds; in fact, Premier enlisted the compositional skills of Adrian Younge, whose work he sampled throughout the album’s production while Royce da 5’9″ traded bars with the likes of MF Doom and Little Brother‘s Phonte on the initial release, and with The Roots‘ Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Logic on the deluxe edition released the following year. 2014 also saw Royce da 5’9″ team up with Eminem on the posse cut “Detroit vs. Everybody.”
Since then, the Detroit-based emcee released 2016’s solo album Layers, 2018’s Book of Ryan, which featured another ongoing collaboration with Eminem “Caterpillar,” that year’s second PRhyme album Phyme 2 and a guest spot of Eminem’s surprise release Kamikaze. 2020 continues a recent period of incredible prolificacy with the release of his eighth album, the 22 track The Allegory, which features guest spots from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and a boatload of others.
Vevo’s Ctrl series highlights the work of hard-hitting, cutting-edge artists making an impact in today’s music scene with a focus on both emerging and established artists. The artists Vevo’s Ctrl series features are artists that the video platform believes demand attention, and the series is a way of shining a deserving spotlight on those artists. Recently, Vevo’s Ctrl invited the acclaimed Detroit-based emcee to their Brooklyn studios to perform two tracks off the album — “Overcomer” and “Thou Shall.” “Thou Shall” is centered around an eerie, RZA-like production: stuttering beats, a sinuous bass line and a looping string sample and eerie atmospherics while Royce da 5’9″ of bold and swaggering pronouncement of being doper than anyone else out there, full of pop cultural references with Kid Vishis slamming the door on anyone who may challenge them. “Overcomer” is centered around a looped and seemingly ancient soul sample and thumping beats while Royce da 5’9″ rhymes about blessings, the wisdom he’s earned, sociopolitical observations and more.
The performances that Vevo’s Ctrl captured are swaggering, passionate within an intimate yet minimalist setting.