Music

Royce da 5'9"'s 'Book of Ryan' Crackles with Boom Bap Energy

Royce da 5'9"'s Book of Ryan offers vulnerability on family and addiction, but never sacrifices its energy to deliver the message.

Book of Ryan
Royce da 5'9"

Heaven Studios / eOne

4 May 2018

Last year, Jay-Z proved on 4:44 that 40-plus-year-old rappers still have something to say, and still have something to learn. Vulnerability is not always something that becomes easier with age, but what Jay did on that album was focus on his family and his own missteps, and he delivered a masterpiece. It's in that same vein that Detroit rapper Royce da 5'9" delivers his seventh studio album, Book of Ryan.

Having already put out a solid set of bangers this year on his collaboration with DJ Premier, PRhyme 2, Royce turns to his own solo release to open-heartedly discusses family, addiction, and his childhood in a semi-concept album format. The main premise of the concept centers around Royce's son James asking his dad questions about his life for a school assignment "to go in depth about a figure in our lives that you find inspiring." However, that idea doesn't come into play until track seven of the lengthy 20 songs on Book of Ryan. What's found in the tracks prior to this storyline though is an excellent display of East Coast energy. After the intro, Royce dives in on "Woke" over booming 808s and a sample of The Sopranos theme song which set the tone for the hard-hitting, bare production heard throughout the album.

"Caterpillar" is the highlight of these opening tracks. Featuring Eminem, the Bad Meets Evil duo trade verses demanding respect from the young generation of rappers, as Royce condescends, "All you niggas my little rapper babies / Y'all my children, y'all bit my shit and contracted rabies." Eminem continues the young vs. old beef, declaring, "The boom bap is back with an axe to mumble rap." Whatever you think of the debate between rap generations, there's no denying the lyrical power of a Royce or an Eminem.

For Royce, that lyrical power most often comes in the form of vivid storytelling, which here is truly film-like. His voice quivers as he questions, "How did I inherit so much pain / I drink a lot of alcohol, problems with the law / Would I have done better or the same / If Daddy never tried cocaine?" Royce is unconditionally thankful to his father despite the drug abuse since he went to rehab and cleaned up "because he didn't want to lose us / Whew, strong man." Royce continues the discussion of his relationship with his father on the outro of "Power" when his son asks if his father was a good father to him.

In hindsight, he answers, "Absolutely. All my friend's daddies was walking out on them left and right. Y'know he never left us…I understand and appreciate him so much more now as a man 'cause he taught me respect and discipline and consequences for your acts." It takes a lot to look at someone who has a drug history and is prone to domestic violence as is laid out honestly on "Power" and pull out the good, respectable lessons learned from that person in our lives. But here, Royce shows the maturity to acknowledge the good impact people can have in our lives despite the wrong. The wrongs aren't excused by any means, but there must always be room for forgiveness and reconciliation.

This type of wisdom is why the older generation of rappers must still have a place in the game. While the tracklist drags on a bit on Book of Ryan, the discussions of dysfunctional family life ("Power") and mental illness ("Strong Friend") are heavy and worthwhile topics. Royce doesn't sacrifice energy for message either. "Summer on Lock", "Caterpillar", "Legendary", and others are fiery bursts of boom bap and trap which show that at nearly 41, Royce is not slowing down.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.