Royce da 5'9" and DJ Incognito at Funhaus (526 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, March 25), 8 pm. $20. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Witty, unpredictable detroit mc Royce da 5'9" has tasted the sweet life of a rap star: holding his ground with then-cohort Eminem on classic tracks like Bad Meets Evil, ghostwriting for Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001, signing with Columbia and providing a hiphop anthem in the DJ Premier-assisted Boom. But everything eventually turns to shit, and now the harsh tokes of life have seeped into his metaphorical enclosed space.
When his Rock City debut was leaked, Columbia decided against releasing it. Then a perceived dis of D12 led to a falling-out with member Eminem and major animosity with the rest of the group.
As we parlayed, Royce explained the difference in mindset between his first and second album, the recently released Death Is Certain.
"On the first album I didn't have a lot on my mind, I was just living in New York and partying. For this one, I wanted to show my skills, diversity, and I wanted the listener to come off with a good idea of who I am as a person.
"All I was doing was being in the studio. I wasn't hanging out, and my career was at a low point, coming off the Columbia situation, the whole Eminem situation. I just dug a little deeper."
The phrase "Eminem situation" is not exactly accurate. It was a confrontation with D12 member Proof that triggered things, the upshot of which was that both he and Proof got booked and spent some time together in a supervised environment.
"In jail we had a lot of time to talk about the directions it could have gone. Things are better now, but it indirectly affected my relationship with Eminem to the point where there's really not one any more."
Royce doesn't mind talking about the beef, but he thinks the media - and stories like this - help perpetuate it.
"If it's better for a magazine to pit rappers against each other, they'll do it, but if something happens, do they want that on their shoulders? I think everybody should just mind their business, really."
Royce is happy with Death Is Certain and glad that the content concentrates more on his life than on coming up with hilarious one-liners.
"I got to the point where I got tired of trying to come up with punchlines. They eventually play out anyway. Pac and Big get so much respect - they're looked at as the greatest of all time - not just because of their lines but because of their influence, and you can't be influential if every kid can't relate to what you're doing because it's just a bunch of clever punchlines."