The career of Royce 5’9” does not fit neatly into any archetypal storyline. For better or worse, it’s one of a kind. Who else can claim to be an artist who lives in the creative company of giants, and at the same time, accessible to the underground movement that birthed his career? Between Slaughterhouse, PRhyme, and Bad Meets Evil, the Detroit, Michigan MC has three dominant, differingly successful groups he co-founded, all pulling from different parts of his skill and personality. That’s before Nickel’s extensive solo catalog is even mentioned. As he tells it, “ When it’s come to my music, I think I’ve been able to grow because I've never let the industry define who I am as a artist.”

Since 2002, Nickel Nine has released six celebrated solo albums. Each with a different tone and representation of Royce’s life and artistry, these works have stood the test of time on wax, CD and digitally. Meanwhile, he constantly engaged the masses through mixtapes and standout features. At the top of his career, Royce was an artist signed to Tommy Boy Records then Sony. In both instances, he felt his skills and personality traits were being conformed to the conventions of the status quo. As a result, Royce not only took his solo career back into his own hands for the next 15 years, he founded three groups that specifically honed in on the talent and artistry that the label system could not see. Whether sales, critical acclaim, or in fan reaction, Royce proved correct.

In 2016, after touring with PRhyme, writing and recording new music, Royce returns to his solo roots. Layers (Released April 15 via Bad Half Entertainment) Royce’s sixth studio album, embraces his uniqueness. “With this album I spent a lot of time putting it together as a complete thought. Most of my albums reflect my feelings at that time. Death Is Certain was dark because of everything I was going through; Layers reflects my emotion but also my thoughts,” explains Royce. “The same technique I use to tell a story when writing a song is the same technique I used to put together this album.”

An independent mainstay, Nickel Nine aims to show the rest of the world why his art and journey have been so inspirational to the emerging class of lyricists. Whether a #1 album, stand out feature or a Bar Exam mixtape, Ryan’s quality has never dipped. Instead, the artist who admits that he was his own worst enemy, was also his biggest life-line. “My career is a true testament that hard work, dedication, determination and a belief in self can overcome any obstacles.” Executive produced by Royce and Mr. Porter, the LP is a hallmark moment in an already decorated career. “Denaun is a genius and super underrated,” Royce says of the D12 cofounder. “Working with him is a comfortable zone for me. I like everyone that I’ve worked with on this project but Denaun's super easy and a lot like myself in a lot of ways.”
Layers embraces the many makings of a man, and a great artist. Since the very beginning Ryan Montgomery has put his life between the bars of his verses. From addiction to self-conflict, family to flamboyance, it has all been there over the last 17 years. However, unlike equally prolific peers, Nickel Nine can embrace the steps in his journey as his own today. Whether stealing an award show, writing a platinum album, or collaborating with a steadfast of MC peers, Royce has never portrayed his art as anything other than a certain side of himself.

Throughout his career, legacy has been a leading force in Royce 5’9”’ verses. Beyond the plaques, chart positions, or whether radio or video supported the movement is irrelevant in 2016. At a time when boutique and couture culture dominates commerce, should music not take notice? Without a bright neon sign, assembly line production, or hypebeast promo, Royce 5’9” produces tailored lyrics with brutally honest texture. Layers delves into the mind, creativity, and tireless prowess of one of Hip-Hop’s most captivating voices and compelling journeys.


AKino Childrey, The Initiative Group