Royce Da 5'9" Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Dr. Dre f/ Mary J. Blige & Rell “The Message” (1999)

Producer: Lord Finesse
Album: 2001
Label: Aftermath, Interscope

Royce Da 5’9”: “I wrote the verses, but I didn’t even know about [how Dr. Dre’s brother was killed]. I was rapping about an experience that I had. I just felt like, ‘Okay, maybe it would be dope if Dre can paint a picture that people can relate to.’ I wrote the song and when I went in the booth and laid it, Dre was quiet. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘Damn, why is he so quiet?’

“That’s when the whole thing about his brother came up. It was just God’s work. That was the only thing that I did for him that felt like something. You cut random joints when you’re doing an album—like ‘The Way I Be Pimpin’’ and ‘Throne Is Mine’—you don’t know what’s going to make it. But that song just felt like something that needed to be on there. It fell into place. He didn’t sit me down or say, ‘Yo, I wanna rap about my brother.’ It just happened.

“I was rapping about a friend of mine who got shot in the neck. He was standing on the corner with some people, somebody rolled up and shot him. Nobody knew what it was for. He wasn’t beefing with nobody or nothing. So when I found out about it, I was hitting his pager and everything. Everything I said on that song, I absolutely went through. That’s why I felt like people were going to be able to relate to that.

“Rell originally referenced it. I didn’t know Dre was gonna get Mary on there. I heard it right before the album came out. That was dope. He actually upped the ante [by getting Mary]. She went in there and killed it.”

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