Royce Da 5'9" :: Independent's Day :: Make it Count Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Independent" is absolutely right. To the many people who have requested this record review, I personally apologize for the delay. Quite simply put, "Independent's Day" just wasn't that easy to find. I hit every major retailer from Omaha to Dallas and wasn't able to find this CD. I did get a nice selection of independent records at major retailers in Dallas - Boss Hogg Outlawz, Chamillionaire, DJ Screw, E.S.G., et cetera etc. - but no Royce Da 5'9". Unless you have an incredible music specific warehouse record store, like Tower or Virgin, odds are you just won't find this one at the chains. Even the normally reliable Best Buy had no copies of this album in stock at any store I visited.

Regardless of all that you want to know whether or not "Independent's Day" stands up to the likes of other Royce Da 5'9" classics like "Rock City" and "Death Is Certain." In fact other than Shawn Carter and Reggie Noble, Royce Da 5'9" might be one of the most consistantly high-rated artists on this website, despite not having any of his albums break into The Nines. That's aight though - when you're damn good for a long period of time, that means a lot more than making one great album and a bunch of lousy ones. Royce has built his entire career on being that cat you should either already know about, or be ashamed for not knowing about. Even Eminem, a man who he was once so thick with they considered releasing an album as the duo "Bad Meets Evil," ultimately slept on his fellow Detroit MC and left him kicking rocks on the curb while he moved millions of units. For a time Royce was pretty bitter about it, but he has since moved on to bigger and better things. Ultimately that's the double entendre behind the album's title: a day for those on independent labels to shine, and an Independence Day to liberate those left behind - no help required from Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum required.

Things start off on the right note thanks to the production of Carlos '6 July' Broady, whom you may recall did work for Biggie as well as on the aforementioned "Death is Certain." Royce is suprisingly humble on this opening track; in fact his message to the fans is "I Owe You":

"Five-Nine is back! About to launch the attack
Fast forward to action, you not allowed to chat
The gag order is active, grab all of your plaques
figurines and trophies, and throw 'em all in a coffin
Get in and close it
Expose all the nonsense, they don't hear the lines then
they gonn' see the fine print for they don't really compre-
-hend niggaz pens been doin none of what I've been
doin the last seven years lookin for profit
I O-W-E you people
More than just a video where bitches wearin see-through
Clothin with the G-string, rollin with the bling bling
Posin for the press with the Roley and the vest"

With that being said, Royce is not opposed to making songs that are a little more commercially accessible either. His "Wet My Whistle" featuring Sara Stokes sounds just as jiggy as anything you'd hear on the radio, except perhaps for having a much better rapper on the track. "Looking at My Dog" featuring Yo Gotti sounds like the kind of track you'd hear slowed up in a Screw mix. "Blow Dat" has a Nottz beat which sounds like a throwback to the 80's, while "Chips on Pistons" has a modern day West coast DJ Quik sound, even though K.I.D.D. laces the beat. Royce shares billing with some other indie MC's here, but he still shines the brightest:

"We get a whole lot of scrilla, fo'-fives is wit us
Whole flight can fill us, Globetrotter nigga
When you see a plus sign in front of like twelve numbers
on your cell that's me callin to tell you
that I ain't at home (yeah)
I'm witnessin the midnight sun in Finland with the big row bone
With six different funds
Kronas, pesos, zeroes, the list goes on
We send henchmen to wet ya
In between trips to the Philippines with strippers wit us
Bet chips on Pistons, gassed off 'Sheed
Yellin pass the ball to Rip then Billups"

Royce has impeccable timing and breath control, and as a result is not afraid to flip up his style to fit a beat or vice versa. You'll hear him pick up the tempo on "Fuck My Brains Out," slow it WAY down on "Meeting of Bosses," and go on and off beat at will on the Wu-esque "Paranoia" featuring La the Darkman. For better and for worse though, the guests on the album make a difference. At first glance it may not seem like they're on a lot of the tracks, but when you look close to see that 3 of the 18 are skits, Royce is sharing billing on 9 of the remaining 15. Some of these collaborations are natural and powerful, like Cee-Lo and Royce getting down together to kick it about "Politics." In other cases like "Lay it Down" the beat is awkward and the newcomers Juan and K-Doe just aren't that interesting. The album does close on a strong note though with Broady throwing Royce a pounding horny horn track to solo on titled "Yeah":

"+Phantom of the Opera+, sittin in the Phantom
in the parkin lot, examinin how I keep my name out y'all mouth
I drop names like Game, but I don't mean say 'em
I mean spray 'em, they drop {*brrrap*} ha
I have a nigga blisterin quicker then chicken pox
In a box in the river sittin stiffer then six o'clock
Knock, you can't see me, labels you can't sign me
You can either Jay-Z me or JV me, get it? Yeah
Nickel ain't goin nowhere"

True indeed, Royce Da 5'9" ain't going nowhere, in more ways that one. Although he's securely entrenched himself in the indies with this record and his label Make it Count, he's not showing progression here as an artist and may be rolling with a crew who aren't really up to his standards. That's not to say Royce is not relevant since he dropped "M.I.C.," because clearly he's still one of the top lyricists in the game and can drop albums every six to seven months if he chooses to. Still in the end you're left wondering what the one breakout song on "Independent's Day" is, and while it's a good experience top to bottom nothing screams "next to blow" like many of the songs on his other records to date do. He doesn't have to make "Boom!" every time, but it would help to feel he's going SOMEWHERE as opposed to nowhere - this album just treads water. Still highly recommended for Five-Nine fans.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: September 13, 2005