If any MC can testify to the concept of paying dues, it’s Royce Da 5’9″. From earning an underground reputation trading vicious punchlines with Eminem to losing pop crowds with misled singles, Royce has seen the pros and cons of the industry. Still, whether it was street classics like “Boom” to commercial failures like “U Can’t Touch Me,” Nickel-Nine has refused to bow out.

Now, after releasing an early candidate for independent album of the year with “Death is Certain,” the self-proclaimed King of Detroit has plans of releasing a mixtape and a new album to expound on his legacy. In an interview with RapReviews.com, Royce talks about arrogance, making mistakes, and upcoming projects.

WK3: First of all, tell me about the new mixtape, M.I.C.

Royce: The M.I.C. Vol. 2, it’s basically a lot of songs I’ve been working on a day-to-day basis to bridge the gap from my last album to the album that I’ve got coming out next year. It’s my way of keeping my name out in the streets instead of depending on mixtape DJs to do it; I’m just putting my own mixtape out. I’ma try and get this one out and another one out before I put out my next album.

WK3: How did you approach making it, as opposed to how you approached “Death is Certain?”

“I approached it like, ‘You know what? We’re sitting on a lot of songs, let’s put them on a CD and put them out.'”

Royce: I didn’t approach it like I was going to do a mixtape, I approached it like, “You know what? We’re sitting on a lot of songs, let’s put them on a CD and put them out.” It’s not really a particular theme, it’s just a lot of songs I’ve been working with.

WK3: How do you feel about the Midwest blowing up this year, with the emergence of Chicago?

Royce: I’m ecstatic about it. There was Detroit, then Chicago just came out and they’re doing their thing. I’m loving it, everybody’s sticking to what they do. The Midwest has always put out a real diverse sound, so I’m glad to be a part of it.

WK3: Who do you think has potential to blow up from the D?

Royce: Street Lordz, Chedda Boys, Rock Bottom, my man E-Dub. My man Tone Tone, I think he just signed with Jazze Pha. There are a lot of people getting radio play here, that I think if their records can break nationwide, they can do well.

WK3: What about your group, D-Elite? What’s going on with them?

Royce: Right now, my man June is working on a solo mixtape. They’re doing their own thing right now; I don’t want the success or failure of my career to depend on theirs, so everybody is really doing their own thing. When it’s time to really come together, and I’ve the resources to have something definite or do an album, we’re definitely going to do it; but in the meantime, everybody’s sort of just walking their own dog.

WK3: A lot of people in Detroit say that you’re arrogant. Do you think that the process of people thinking you’re arrogant can cause them to overlook you as an MC?

“If you don’t have a record that’s hot right now, people are going to list the negative things..”

Royce: I think that when people say that I’m arrogant, especially the ones that are from (Detroit), it’s not people who have dealt with me or know me. Once you say something about somebody, and it starts to spread, it becomes the “in” thing to say (laughs). It’s kind of a trend here in Detroit. I’m going to always get looked over till I come with it; I’ve been in situations where everyone swears they love me, and I’ve been in situations where everyone swears they hate me. I’ve had a chance to witness and it all comes down to if you have a record that’s hot right now, or if you don’t have a record that’s hot right now. If you don’t have a record that’s hot right now, people are going to list the negative things, especially if they haven’t seen you around.

And another thing, I don’t kiss nobody’s ass. People can criticize me and say I’m arrogant, but at least I’m always going to be one way (laughs). I’m not going to flip up and be five different kinds of people. If I don’t like you, and I say I don’t like you, it’s just that; I’m not going to be in your face acting one way, and acting another way behind your back. There’s a lot of that going on in Detroit, so I’ve been trying to grow away from that and disassociate myself with a lot of negative stuff. A lot of people aren’t even passing judgment on me right now, because I’ve just been working and doing positive stuff.

WK3: A lot of people respect you as one of the best lyricists in the game. Who do you respect on that level?

Royce: I respect Jay-Z, Eminem, Kiss. I like T.I., I like Lil Wayne, I like people who’s stepping they game up and who don’t sound like their last record. It’s a wide range of people who I respect.

WK3: On the “Death is Certain” track “I & Me” you say, “How can I go from rockin wit Dre, to fallin out with Shady, and poppin my glock on the block to droppin on Koch?” If you could go back to when you were first coming into the game, would you have done anything differently? If so, what would you have done?

Royce: I wouldn’t have done nothing differently, and this is the reason that I say this. I’m not going to retract statements—this is another thing that goes into how I feel—I’m real. A lot of things that happened, I’ve made mistakes, but that’s one of the ways I learned to do things in the game. Some people are taught things, but sometimes you’ve just got to make the mistake in order to learn what not to do, and how to carry yourself. I think I did a lot of my growing as a person in this game, I got started real early. If I made a decision to say a certain thing to somebody, or to make a certain decision with my career as far as what label to go to, that means that’s how I was feeling at the time. I got positives out of everything, and I got negatives out of everything. I feel like the path that I’m on was meant to go how it went, and I wouldn’t change a thing, because I think I might mess up something. I like going through things that’s hard, because that’s how you grow up. I’d just do exactly what I’m doing, because I’m comfortable with where I’m at. I’m on the independent road, I’m doing things myself. The situations I’ve been in have forced me to be more of a businessperson, and have more input of what’s going on in my own career. I definitely wouldn’t change a thing; I’d just stay on the path I’m on, and hope for the best.

WK3: Do you ever listen to tracks like “Nuttin to Do,” or the original “Renegades,” and just think “what if?”

“That ‘what if’ is always going to be there. That just comes from how much respect I’ve got for Em.”

Royce: I don’t even have to listen to the records to think that. That “what if” is always going to be there. That just comes from how much respect I’ve got for Em. And that respect, no matter what he’s done to me, or what happened, it’s not gon’ go, because that’s just a creative thing. I really feel like we could really reach our creative peaks if we got together and did an album or something, so there’s always going to be that “what if” in my head. But some things aren’t meant to happen, and some things can’t happen due to previous decisions and things that took place.

WK3: What do you think about D12’s song “How Come?” Do you think that the references were referring to you?

Royce: I didn’t think they were talking about me, because I don’t have any history with them or nothing like that. Some of the things Em said maybe could have pertained to me, but I don’t have no feelings about it.

WK3: Now, to the future. Tell me about your upcoming collaboration with Nottz. What’s it called? What made you decide to collaborate with him? What can listeners expect?

Royce: Nottz is doing the whole album, we’re putting that out next year. That album is basically going to be the middle point between how dark “Death is Certain” was and how bright Rock City was. I’m coming with a lot of concepts, and I’m just doing a lot more than I’ve ever done. I’m predicting that it’s definitely going to be a classic album.

WK3: So what made you decide to collaborate with Nottz, as opposed to other producers? A lot of people would want to hear a whole album with you and Premo.

“Nottz is somebody who I will put my money on to say he is that next deal, and I want to be a part of that.”

Royce: Primo is a pioneer, and he has a permanent spot and dent in the game, period. People have heard me do that—I’ve went from working with people like Pharrell and Wyclef. Nottz is somebody who I will put my money on to say he is that next deal, and I want to be a part of that. I feel like I’m up and coming, and he feels like he’s up and coming, so we felt like why don’t we put all our resources together. That’s pretty much how that whole situation came about.

WK3: The last album was under Koch, and this mixtape is under Sure Shot. Do you have any idea about a label situation for your next album, or even the collaboration with Nottz?

Royce: Right now, I’m putting together the M.I.C., that’s my label. As far as the Nottz album, we’re definitely going to be doing some major shopping, trying to find a home for it. We’re going to put a lot into that album. We’ll either come out under the M.I.C., or we’ll find a big label to do it. 2005 is definitely going to be a shopping year for us.

WK3: You’ve been in the game for a minute, and like you’ve said, you’ve been able to see some of its ups and downs. What’s your evaluation of the state of hip-hop right now?

Royce: I think the music is cool. It’s definitely wide open for something new. One thing I like about hip-hop in general, is that it’s a lot more brothers actually owning their own labels, and taking the whole artist thing to the next level, investing in basketball teams and shit like that. It’s a throw-up every year, so I definitely appreciate the growth. But it is wide open, there’s definitely a void in the marketplace where someone needs to step in and take over. Jay-Z retired, and I’m sure Em’s not too far behind him.

WK3: A lot of people outside the industry are criticizing hip-hop, they never say anything positive about it. That’s cool that you touched on both sides.

“People have been doing that ever since I got in the game, which leads me to believe that there’s always going to be some criticism.”

Royce: People have been doing that ever since I got in the game, which leads me to believe that there’s always going to be some criticism. There’s always going to be division in rap, period.

WK3: All right, here’s the deal. I say a name, you tell me what comes to mind.

Royce: All right.

WK3: Jay-Z.

Royce: The best.

WK3: George Bush.

Royce: Terrorist (laughs).

WK3: Kobe Bryant

Royce: The next Jordan.

WK3: Charles Rogers.

Royce: Ill receiver.

WK3: Yeah, he got injured, the pissed me off. The Source.

Royce: Hip-hop magazine pioneer.

WK3: Detroit.

Royce: Rock City, Royce’s home.

WK3: That’s about it. I know you get asked all the same questions all the time in these interviews, so is there anything you’d like to address that I didn’t cover?

Royce: The mixtape comes out in October, and be on the lookout for any more M.I.C. projects coming out, we’re definitely doing the damn thing.