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

Nickel Nine talks about ghostwriting for Dr. Dre and Diddy, forming Slaughterhouse, and working with everyone from Eminem to DJ Premier and J Dilla.

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Royce Da 5’9” is living proof that sometimes, there are second acts in life. After a promising start in the late ‘90s where he was heralded as the next big thing coming out of Detroit, Royce’s career took a wrong turn. Through most of the aughts—as his buddy Eminem shot to super stardom—Nickel Nine flirted with obscurity, alcohol abuse, and complete self-destruction.

Yet here is he today in a better position then ever before. His group Slaughterhouse is signed to Shady. Although their album is awhile away, he just dropped Hell: The Sequel alongside his partner-in-rhyme Eminem this week. And in many ways (and he’s the first to admit this) he’s a better rapper than he was before. What happened to Royce Da 5’9”? To find out, we got on the horn with Royce to ask about why he loves rapping about his dick, how he didn’t like Joe Budden initially, and whether or not that was a real bazooka he threatened Benzino with...

As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)

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

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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.”

Shes The One

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Royce Da 5’9” f/ Tre Little & Eminem “She’s The One’” (2000)

Producer: The Neptunes

Album: N/A

Label: Game Recordings, Columbia

Royce Da 5’9”: “At that time I was working with Pharrell a lot. I liked their sound, I thought it was cutting edge. I thought they were onto something and I was correct. Me and Pharrell must have done five songs.

“Em had already carved out a lane for himself. So I wanted to bring him to my world and try to fuse both of our worlds together. That’s basically what we do. When we record with each other, it’s always a parallel thing. I was like, ‘I’m gonna go hood with it, you go trailer park with it.’

“I’m not even sure he was really feeling the beat like that. But he went in and just did it for me. I can’t even remember what happened with that one. Did that song come out? I don’t even know if we were feeling the song like that. I’m going to have to go back and listen to it. I’m almost sure that we felt like, well we probably can come up with something better. That’s probably why it didn’t end up on anything.

“I saw Pharrell a few months back. It was a show Em had somewhere in Europe. I ran into him and I think he was performing too. We spoke about doing some work. Every time we bump into each other—which is every blue moon—we speak about working together. But we haven’t worked since back then.”


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Eminem f/ Royce Da 5’9” “Renegade” (2001)

Producer: Eminem

Album: N/A

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “We needed something for the album for both of us to be on. We had ‘Rock City’ done already, but I didn’t have an Em verse and he was executive producing the project. So he went to his house—that’s when he was recording at his crib, in his home studio. When I got there he was already making the beat.

“As soon as he was done making the beat, I took it home. I wrote some stuff to it, then took it back to his house the next day. When I got there he already had his first verse and the first half of the hook done. I went in and did the second half of the hook, laid my verse, and then we finished it from there. I did that after Em did ‘Dead Wrong,’ so I [used the same flow he used] because I was on a song with him. It was a pretty easy breezy session.

“Jay-Z was at a deadline and he had been asking Em to get on something. Em didn’t want to miss Jay’s deadline because obviously he respects him. I don’t think he had time to go in and do a whole new joint, so he called me and asked if I was cool with just giving Jay that one and we’ll just do something else. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’

“Why would I feel regret if that’s one of Em’s signature songs? That’s a great thing for him and I don’t think the song would’ve reached the potential it reached with him and Jay-Z if it was me and him because Interscope wouldn’t even clear him for that song anyways.

“I think it was something where they were willing to give us video rights for ‘Rock City,’ but if they cleared ‘Renegade’ we wouldn’t get single rights. It was a long time ago so I can’t really remember, but I do remember there was a little bit of politics involved to where I’m glad that he gave it to Jay because the song would never have reached the potential it was supposed to reach. It’s a good thing.”

Im The King

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Royce Da 5’9” “I’m The King” (2001)

Producer: Alchemist

Album: “Nuthin’ To Do” / “Scary Movies” Maxi Single

Label: Game Recordings

Royce Da 5’9”: “That one’s from a long time ago. That might be the first joint me and Alchemist did together. I did that way back in the day when I didn’t even know how to write records. I was still unsigned when I did that song. I don’t even remember too much of that process. All I can say is I wrote it and laid it down and I think I was doing it for a piece of vinyl that Game Records was trying to do.

“I remember saying ‘Signed with hype’ on there. First I said, ‘I’m unsigned hype,’ because I was about to be in the ‘Unsigned Hype’ column in The Source. But I got my deal before that could come out, so they didn’t put that out. I had to change the line to, ‘Now I’m signed with hype.’ I had called myself unsigned hype and I was signed to a deal literally a week later before anything could come out.”

Rock City

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Royce da 5’9” f/ Eminem “Rock City” (2002)

Producer: Red Spyda

Album: Rock City (Version 2.0)

Label: Game Recordings, Koch Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “At that time I was signed with Game Records/Sony and there was a studio we used to work at in SoHo in New York. My man Red Spyda brought the beat to the studio. There were two rooms in the studio. One of the rooms was Stretch Armstrong’s room and the other room was the one we used to work in. So there used to be a lot of traffic through there, like a lot of different artists [coming through].

“I laid verses to it and I thought it would be dope to get Em to come up with a hook idea. I actually went in and laid a reference for the, ‘Chika chika, Rock City.’ I laid the reference for that, so I could have him do that. And then he came with the, ‘Come on and rock with me.’

“[Paul Rosenberg actually] came up with the melodic part. Em was doing a show in the Hamptons and I came out on his set with him. We were sitting in the car, it was my first time playing it for him. I played it for him when Paul was in the car and Paul just started doing it when the hook part came on. And Em was like, ‘Yo, that’s dope! I should do that.’ So that was kinda funny.”


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Royce Da 5’9” “Boom” (2002)

Producer: DJ Premier

Album: Rock City (Version 2.0)

Label: Game Recordings, Koch Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “Well that was a different process. I went to the studio to see Premier for something, I can’t remember what. He told me he had a beat for Capone-N-Noreaga, which was that beat. So he played it for me and I think I begged him for it. He was like, ‘You know what, I’ll just make them something else and I’ll let you take this one.’

“I was staying in Harlem. So I went to his crib that night and wrote it and went back the next day and laid it. And then I had the idea to put the ticking in there because obviously that’s what the concept is. So I asked him if I could add a clock ticking. That particular tick that he used wasn’t the one I was thinking in my head. The tick that he used reminded me of a [60 Minutes kind of tick].

“Premier played me beats all the time when I went up there. He’s always working on something. It was just something about that ‘Boom’ beat that just stuck out to me. Plus, I was under time restraints. I was trying to get stuff turned in so I would’ve took anything from him at that point. That beat was just retarded to me. Thank God he gave it to me!”


My Friend

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Royce Da 5’9” “My Friend” (2002)

Producer: DJ Premier

Album: Rock City (Version 2.0)

Label: Game Recordings, Koch Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “I don’t know how I came up with it, but that was one of the rare instances where I had a concept before I even had music. I got on the phone with Premier and told him about the concept. I told him I wanted the beat to be a little more quirky than his usual self. Nothing dark, just try to make something around this concept.

I told him what I wanted to rap about and he was like, ‘Man, you a fucking fool.’ He went in with the concept, made that beat, and I think it fit. Once I got to the studio and heard the beat, I wrote it relatively fast and laid it down up at D&D studios.

“I don’t know why [I love rapping about my dick]. I get so many jokes cracked on me by my friends—mainly Slaughterhouse—that I don’t even do it no more. I definitely went through a phase where I did a lot of rapping about my guns and my dick. But that’s kinda like an ongoing joke within my crew now.

“Joey and Joell man, those dudes are really funny. They didn’t say it like it was a bad thing, they just joked on me. I’m not usually the butt of the jokes, I’m usually the one joking on people. So whenever someone’s got a good joke on me that people are laughing at, I usually try to fix it.

“I think the first time that came up was when we were in Phoenix shooting the ‘Microphone’ video. We went to the studio and we were listening to a beat Sha Money gave us. We did the song and I think [my manager] Kino might’ve been like, ‘I ain’t heard the song yet, but I’m guessing Joey made a sports reference, Joell said something about some food, and Royce said something either about a gun or his dick.’ Everybody just cracked up laughing so it was like, ‘Alright, maybe I’m doing this a little bit too much.’

“I’m the kind of person that I won’t know that I’m driving something to the ground, I just do it. Someone will have to pull my coattail and let me know that I’m overdoing it, then I’ll stop. I think I unconsciously do it, but now I’m more conscious to not do it. I [rapped about my dick] on the Bad Meets Evil EP, but I was kinda poking fun at myself when I did it. I didn’t do it seriously, like I used to do before.”

You Cant Touch Me

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Royce Da 5’9” “You Can’t Touch Me” (2002)

Producer: The Trackmasters

Album: Rock City (Version 2.0)

Label: Koch Records, Game Recordings

Royce Da 5’9”: “I knew I wanted to get in the lab with Trackmasters because when I first went to Sony, my first meeting with them was with Tone from Trackmasters. Tone had some sort of position over there and he was the one that originally wanted to sign me. Before we could close the deal, something happened where he might have left or something like that. But I still wanted to work with Tone and Poke as producers.

“We set up a session and we went to a crib in Jersey where their studio was. I heard the beat and they were saying that Jadakiss had the beat too. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, I have to hurry up and record this before Jadakiss gets to it. If Jadakiss gets to it, he can probably get a record out a little sooner than me. So I’m going to hurry up and get this done.’ I went and did the verses in Detroit.

“I think I had a hook on there, but Tone ended up changing the hook. He had the girl come in and sing the hook, which was better than what I had originally came up with. That was pretty much it. We mixed it and he let Kiss know I had it. I actually talked to Kiss about that beat and he said, ‘Yo man, I had that beat too, but you killed it.’ He showed me a lot of love on that. That’s actually how I met Jadakiss.

“That song connected. It was my biggest radio song, it got the most spins of anything I ever put out. The only record that’s probably getting more spins on the radio than that is ‘Fast Lane.’ Things are different today anyway. That record it really connected with radio, even though I don’t perform it no more.

“That’s what happens when you’re young and you sign with a label that’s known for radio. If you sign to Sony, that was like the radio machine at the time so you had to give them a radio record in order to get a release. That was just me being young and conforming.

“I don’t go to the studio with that mind frame anymore. I don’t even know the fucking lyrics to that song. If you asked me to spit 12 of those bars right now, I would not be able to do it for you.”

Lets Grow

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Royce Da 5’9” “Let’s Grow” (2003)

Producer: J. Dilla

Album: Build And Destroy: Lost Sessions Part 1

Label: Trouble Records, Groove Attack Productions

Royce Da 5’9”: “That was a time where me and Dilla were working a lot at his house. I was going over there every day and he was giving me beat CDs with like 20 beats on every CD. I remember just being swamped with a bunch of beats that I liked. I remember thinking to myself, ‘You have to just focus on one of these beats.’

“‘Let’s Grow’ was an easy one to write to. I took it and I wrote it out in the car, sitting in his driveway and I went back in. When I was working in Dilla’s house, I would go in the house and Common would be sitting right there in the living room. So I went in there and I said, ‘I’m ready.’ He was like, ‘Alright. Shit, that was fast!’ He cut the vocals and I just got it done.

“Me and Dilla are both from Detroit so we would just see each other just in passing. We weren’t really hanging out, but I would go somewhere and bump into him. Like, I would see him at the strip club. It was just one of those things that every time we see each other it would be like, ‘Yo man, we gotta get some stuff done.’ We both just acted on it at the right time.

“In the studio, I’m all work no play. But then there’s a lot of jokes, that just comes with the territory. Especially if there’s someone in the studio we can crack jokes on. My little brother Kid Vishis, he’s notorious for that. So there’s never a moment too serious, but it’s all work. I can record two or three songs in one night and be on Twitter at the same time.

“I don’t kill a lot of time in the studio, that’s one thing that I pride myself on. If I’m in the lab and something ain’t connecting, I bounce. When I’m in there, I’m trying to get as much done as I can.”


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Royce Da 5’9” “Heartbeat” (2003)

Producer: Kanye West

Album: Build And Destroy: Lost Sessions Part 1

Label: Trouble Records, Groove Attack Productions

Royce Da 5’9”: “I met Kanye in Miami when I was at a club. This was before he blew up. I don’t remember what year exactly, but it had to be a long time ago. Definitely before The Blueprint came out. I was in the VIP and the security guard didn’t know who he was. He sees me and was like, ‘Royce, it’s Kanye.’ I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ [I knew him because] I was a fan of him even from like the Da Brat album. The [albums] he kept popping up on [with beats], he was giving people monsters.

“So we were both in the VIP talking. We ended up hanging out the whole time I was in Miami for that full weekend. Once we both went back to the crib, we got on the phone a couple times and he mailed me a beat CD. That ‘Heartbeat’ beat got to me so I I laid the vocals in Detroit and that was pretty much it.

“I remember talking to him about pricing for the beats and he said it was $15,000 [for the beat]. So that was like definitely about 85 zillion years ago. If Kanye was talking $15,000 anything, then it had to be a long time ago.

“The song ended up getting leaked. This was before I was Internet-savvy, back then I didn’t even know how to operate a computer. I had the song and I don’t know who leaked it, I’m thinking it was someone over at Game Records that had a copy of it.

“Once it leaked out, I think at that moment I was on Sony and my budget wasn’t active anymore so I couldn’t pay him for it. I think he had given the beat to Jin who was gonna buy it. But when it leaked, Jin didn’t want to buy anymore. So it was like, ‘Oh man, Royce leaked the beat.’

“People were asking me questions about it but it’s stuff we all look back and laugh at. I’m pretty sure no one is tripping over that no more. I haven’t spoken to Kanye since then, but I’m sure we’ll bump into each other. Everything that he’s accomplished from then to now, I’m pretty sure he knows I didn’t leak it. I didn’t even know how to leak a song back then.”

The Way I Be Pimpin

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Royce Da 5’9” f/ Dr. Dre “The Way I Be Pimpin’” (2003)

Producer: Dr. Dre

Album: Build And Destroy: Lost Sessions Part 1

Label: Trouble Records, Groove Attack Productions

Royce Da 5’9”: “I wrote that song for Dr. Dre. And it was just an idea. I was just being a little kid trying to figure out what direction Dre should go. I wasn’t much of a visionary back then so that’s what I came up with. It was me, Em, and Dre sitting in the studio one day, going through beats. Dre was told me and Em to pick some shit, go back to the hotel room with it, and write so we could come back the next day.

“So I picked that beat and the ‘Throne Is Mine’ beat. I wrote both songs that same night. When we got back to the studio the next morning, I laid both of those down. They were just reference vocals. I don’t know how those leaked out. ‘The Throne Is Mine’ leaked recently. It popped up online and people thought it was a solo song of mine, like it was new.

“[Working on 2001] was surreal. I hadn’t been rapping that long and here I am, around Dr. Dre and Eminem. And it was kinda crazy because I’d sent my demo when Em was out in Cali. Em had just got his deal and he was spending a lot of time out there. I had sent him my demo and he played it for Dr. Dre. Next thing I know, I’m on the phone with Dre and he’s telling me he liked my shit and he wanted me to come out there and help out.

“It was just like, ‘Wow!’ I was still living with my parents. I tell my father, ‘I’m going out to California to work with Dr. Dre!’ He’s like, ‘What?’ I think that was the moment where it was like, ‘Maybe he’s not just chasing some rap shit no more. Maybe he might make something happen with this.’ I got out there and just did whatever Dre needed me to do and it felt great.

“I felt a little bit accomplished because people found out that I was around Dre and Em. I had taken a meeting with Tommy Boy before, and they had passed. They said they liked the music, but they’d pass. When they found out that I was around Dre and Em after that, I went back and had another meeting with them. I played the same music and got a deal. I didn’t have one new song, it was the exact same demo.

“I didn’t even ask [why my ‘The Way I Be Pimpin’’ didn’t make the final cut] because ‘Xxplosive’ is a way better song. Once I heard it I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, they did that.’ I never asked no questions. That’s how the recording process goes, sometimes things get rewritten, I know I do it all the time.

“Dre always has a vision, he knows how to make albums. I trust his judgment 100%. When I heard it was a whole new song, I was like, ‘I’m pretty sure it’s something better. Whatever he decided to change it to, was better than what I did.’ And it was.”

Hip Hop

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Royce Da 5’9” f/ DJ Premier “Hip Hop” (2004)

Producer: DJ Premier

Album: Death Is Certain

Label: Koch Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “Preem sent me the beat. I was in Detroit. That’s when I was recording Death Is Certain, which is the darkest period in my life. I was going through a lot of shit back then and Preem was one of the only producers that still was messing with me. I didn’t have access to a lot of producers on that level. He sent me that beat, and it was real simple. I just did it, sent it back to him, and he laid the scratches and put it out.

“I was going through all kinds of stuff [around that time]. I was in Detroit, getting into beef with all these different people. It was a period where I just felt like it was popular to not like me in Detroit. Once I fell out with Em, Em was really taking off.

“I feel like people were trying to get his attention and trying to get in good with him, so I had people purposefully going against me. I had beef with D12, I had beef with a whole bunch of people in the city.

“All I rapped about was beef, having problems, losing, failure…I couldn’t snap out of it. If you were to ask me to make a club record at that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s just not the zone that I was in. I wasn’t ‘hanging out.’ I just wanted to kill everybody. I was fighting all the time, getting drunk all the time, it was bad. I’m happy to say that I’ve turned that around. My life is the absolute opposite now.

“Premier is a good friend of mine. Sometimes you meet people and work with them and y’all click and you’re like, ‘Yo, I fuck with this dude.’ We talk on the phone a lot, did a lot of music together, and just got close. No matter what I went through, he always managed to come through in the clutch for me.’”


Tell Me

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Diddy f/ Christina Aguilera “Tell Me” (2006)

Producer: Just Blaze

Album: Press Play

Label: Bad Boy, Atlantic

Royce Da 5’9”: “I went in there and wrote at least 40 verses. Diddy is really a huge perfectionist. He’s one of those guys that knows what he wants to hear, but he’s not the best at explaining what he wants. So he doesn’t really know it until he hears it. He had me write verse after verse and he picked different pieces. It was an interesting process and I’m thankful for that because it actually made me be a little more nit-picky and start rewriting my own stuff. I learned a lot from that process.

“I think Diddy wants to be lyrical. I think that he wants to fuse those two worlds together. He knows he’s capable of making big hits—he’s done that in the past—and then I think he feels like he wants to maintain lyricism too. A lot of times people separate hits from lyrics. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that, I mean, look at Eminem. I think he just comes to the table in the same mind-frame. It can be lyrical and a huge hit.

“I would lay references down. Every time I wrote a verse I laid down a reference vocal. So what he would take it, live with it, memorize it, and then go do it. I was working in his studios, but some of them I would write and lay in Detroit. He would tell me over the phone what to change, what he likes, what he doesn’t like. He would lay his vocals later, but I wasn’t there when he laid the vocals.

“There could be people out there that live strictly off ghostwriting, based off of the amount of people that actually need a ghostwriter. I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of it, but that’s not to say that someone isn’t getting approached left and right couldn’t.”

Losing Out

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Black Milk f/ Royce Da 5’9” “Losing Out” (2008)

Producer: Black Milk

Album: Tronic

Label: Fat Beats

Royce Da 5’9”: “When we did ‘Losing Out,’ things were cool for me in the city at that point. That whole dark period was only a two or three-year period. That definitely was a good moment in Detroit.

“I remember when he first sent it to me he was like, ‘I got this joint I need you to get on.’ He emailed it to me and I heard it and was like, ‘Yeah, this is definitely going to be one.’ I went and did my vocals immediately.

“Black Milk was making a lot of noise in Detroit and his buzz was really moving fast. But his manager’s actually a real good friend of mine, Hex Murda. Hex actually hit me up like, ‘Yo Black’s got this record,’ and that was the first record we did together. I don’t remember what it’s called. But that’s when me and Black developed our own relationship. So when it came to ‘Losing Out’ he was already calling me direct to do songs.”


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Joe Budden f/ Royce Da 5’9”, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, & Nino Bless “Slaughterhouse” (2008)

Producer: Scram Jones

Album: Halfway House

Label: Amalgam Digital

Royce Da 5’9”: “[At the time] there was something in the air, where [me and Joe Budden] were taking shots at each other. So it was kind of like a point where we came to like, ‘Okay, either we’re going to beef or we’re going to get together so we can do something.’ Like every day things were getting said in interviews and we were like, ‘What are we going to do here?’

“One day I get a call, saying, ‘Joey wants you to get on the phone.’ I was like, ‘Nah.’ But my manager Kino was like, ‘I think you should do it. Y’all would be better together than you would be beefing with each other.’ But I was like, ‘Man, I just don’t like the nigga.’ Kino talked me into it, saying it would be good for the Internet and about putting Crooked, Joell, and Nino Blessed on there. I was like, ‘Okay, if he’s gonna put them on there then fuck it, I’m going to do it.’

“This was around the time that my daughter was being born. In fact, I was in the hospital when I was talking to Kino. I left the hospital real quick and did the song because of course his deadline was that day. That’s how every MC does me, they hit me like, ‘Yo, I need a verse but I need it yesterday.’ I had to shoot to the studio, lay a verse down, and send it. He put it out and it kind of exploded on the Internet.

“After that, I got on the phone with Budden. We didn’t talk nothing about the beef, we didn’t even address it. It was just, ‘Yo, did you see the response to this record?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m just seeing it.’ He was like, ‘Yo man, we gotta do more shit.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m with it!’ And from there, talks of forming a group started happening because a lot of comments on the Internet were saying, ‘They should be a group.’ One thing led to another and…here comes Slaughterhouse.”


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Slaughterhouse “Onslaught” (2009)

Producer: Red Spyda

Album: N/A

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “By that time, we were having meetings about being a group. We had to coordinate a time when we were all going to be in New York at the same time. I flew out there and we all met at Joey’s house. Then we went to my man Red Spyda’s crib in Jersey and just knocked that joint out.

“It seems like we connect a little bit better [because we were all in the studio together], but one good thing about us is we’re pretty good with emailing and still being on the same page because we’ve been around each other so much in the studio.

“We kinda know how each other works. It’s funnier to work together in the studio rather than emailing, but other than that we still make the songs come out like they supposed to come out even when they’re emailed. Creatively, it’s not that different of a process.

“[When Slaughterhouse is in the studio] it’s a whole lot of jokes. Me, Crooked, and Joell all having some drinks. Normally it’s Joey and Joell cracking jokes on each other. When we’re writing it’s really quiet, the beat is up loud. A lot of times, someone might want to stab a different beat than someone else is writing on. Normally we’ll have two rooms going at the same time. It’s like an assembly line and the booth is like a revolving door. By the time somebody’s done laying vocals somebody else is ready to go right after them. And everybody’s laughing off each other’s verse.”

Fight Club

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Slaughterhouse “Fight Club” (2009)

Producer: Frequency

Album: N/A

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “For ‘Fight Club’ we were all together in New York. And we just felt like we needed to do some new music, something we could leak out. We got together and went to a studio in Queens where Joell be recording at. Joell might have gone, ‘You know what man? Let’s not do the usual, let’s not even have this shit structured out. Like, you might go four bars, you might go eight bars, just jumping in and out. Just pandemonium.’ I was like, ‘Shit, I’m with it!’

“Somebody would actually have to go in and lay the bars down in order for the next person to even start writing. Everybody was feeding off the last work of each line. It was real fun to do. There’s definitely a chemistry. I like to write like that. That’s something that me and Em do all the time. That’s the fun part of us recording with each other.

“We’re focusing on doing that a lot more because it’s not what people expect. People expect us to go in and just rap long verses with maybe a hook in-between or just long verses with no hook. Before we did the first Slaughterhouse album people used to ask me, ‘The album got hooks on it?’ People really thought we were gonna backpack the album down, like we couldn’t actually make records as a four-man group.

“I understand because there’s so many people you wonder, how can you make a song at a certain length with four people on a song? So we gotta do different shit like two people can split an eight bar verse, they don’t have to do a sixteen.”

The One

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Slaughterhouse “The One” (2009)

Producer: DJ Khalil

Album: Slaughterhouse

Label: E1

Royce Da 5’9”: “Crooked actually got the beat from DJ Khalil. He sent the beat to me and said, ‘I’ve got this beat. I think it can be something.’ He sent it to me and of course I agreed with him. I laid my verse, moved some things around in the beat and then added the KRS-One shit, and all of the stuff you hear on the hook. Then I sent it back to Crooked and he laid his verse. Once we got out to New York, Joell and Joey heard it and they laid both their verses.

“After Crooked laid his verse I remember thinking that this could be a single. I remember Joey saying, ‘I don’t think this could be a single.’ But I played it for him again like, ‘Listen to it again.’ He was like, ‘You know what, you’re right. This could be a single.’ He said that if it was going to be a single, it couldn’t be four verses like that. He said, ‘Me and Joell should go back and forth.’ They decided to split a verse and it came together.”


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Slaughterhouse “Microphone” (2009)

Producer: Alchemist

Album: Slaughterhouse

Label: E1

Royce Da 5’9”: “Alchemist sent me the beat and that was another one I thought could be a single. I laid my verse in Detroit. sent it to Crooked who sent his verse back the same night. It was another one of the songs that Joey and Joell did once we got to New York to bring the album home. And once they heard it, they wrote their verses right there on the spot. Laid them down and we just put it in the can.”

Shake This

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Royce Da 5’9” “Shake This” (2009)

Producer: DJ Premier

Album: Street Hop

Label: M.I.C. Records, One Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “I was in New York with Preem. I actually took it in the other room in Preem’s studio, trying to come up with something to it. And I had like eight bars, but I wasn’t sure about the bars that I had or the direction it was going. So I was like, I’m going to take this back to Detroit and live with it for a minute.

“As soon as I got back, I had to go to court for these DUIs for driving drunk and shit. The judge gave me a year in jail. So I had to go to jail for three or four months and then I got out on work release. I did the rest of my time on work release and when I got out on work release, that was the first beat that I got to.

“I pulled that beat back up, after not hearing it for four months and I went a whole other direction. It ended up being conceptual instead of just a regular spitting bomb. That’s how I felt when I was on work release, that I’ve gotta shake all of this shit off. This is getting out of hand.

“Somebody was speaking to [my manager] Kino on the phone when I was locked up and they made a comment like, ‘Yeah, your man ain’t coming back from this one.’ And I actually thought this person was a friend of mine. When he referred to me as Kino’s man—like I’m not his man—and said I’m not going to come back from it...

“He was basically saying I fell off and, ‘Nobody’s going to want to hear what he has to say when he gets out.’ A lot of those type of comments were getting made. When I have people against me and hurdles to leap over, that’s when I’m at my best. My main thing was just to prove those people wrong. It started with that record and I’ve been pushing ever since.

“[At the time of my arrest] I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t really happy at the house because my girl wasn’t happy. When I got to the house that environment wasn’t cool, so I just wanted to be out with my people. And if I wasn’t looking for somebody I was beefing with, then we would sit in a studio somewhere, drinking. The studio was the only happy place. We could sit in there and drink, crack jokes, and I felt safe.

“I was [in an] abusive period. I pulverized bottles, I was abusive towards that. I was abusive towards my girl—not physically, but mentally and verbally. Abusive to my enemies and they were abusive back.

“I might’ve drank so much just to keep my mind off of what was going on and to let my inhibitions go. If I’m drunk and see somebody, I’ma just shoot them. That’s how I felt. It was a terrible way for me to be living my life but it was just...what it was. I felt that it was all brought on by music because I didn’t’ have these problems before I was in the music industry.

“I think I grew out of a lot of it. You start to grow up and do less hollering. It goes from [yelling], ‘I’ll kill you!’ to ‘You know I’ll kill you, right?’ You calm down a little bit and that’s basically what happened. A lot of that shit fizzled out. I think I gained a lot of respect out of people that were against me. I squashed a lot of the beefs and I started to grow up.

“As time went by, I went through a phase where I was kind of quiet. People didn’t see me, I wasn’t putting out a lot of music. I started developing more as an artist. I started getting involved in production, started putting out random stuff. I just started connecting. I became Internet-savvy, started to see what was going on online, and getting up on other artists that had an underground buzz.

“I saw a little bit of a trend. I saw what Joe Budden was doing, what Crooked I was doing, what Ortiz was doing, and I just started building that way. And then after a while it kinda connected. I started building relationships again. I just had to turn everything around, it was a real long process but it had to happen.”



Move On

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Joell Ortiz f/ Joe Budden, Crooked I, & Royce Da 5’9” “Move On (Slaughterhouse Remix)” (2009)

Producer: KickDrums

Album: N/A

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “I basically rap about what I’m feeling at the time. When I did Street Hop I felt like, ‘Yo, I just want to do some shit with beats and rhymes.’ I didn’t want to take it in any particular direction. That’s what I’m going to do on [this new album]. On Death Is Certain, I was just talking about what was going on in my life. Rock City, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I was just a kid.

“Around the time we had to do ‘Move On,’ that’s really all I had to talk about. What else in my life would I be telling people to move on from? I’m basically telling people to move on from asking me about Em and saying, ‘Em, I’m sorry.’ Because that’s how I felt. I was able to look back at our relationship and see the shit that I did wrong and was willing to admit that as a man. I wasn’t looking for him to call me or anything afterwards. I thought it would be cool to let everybody know how I felt.

“Actually, me and Em did talk. We had a couple conversations. I think I did do that verse after me and him spoke. I can’t really remember. I know me and him had a conversation, but I can’t remember if it was before or after that. My memory’s terrible.”

Gun Harmonizing

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Royce Da 5’9” f/ Crooked I “Gun Harmonizing” (2009)

Producer: Emile

Album: The Revival EP

Label: M.I.C. Records

Royce Da 5’9”: “My man Emile gave me a beat CD and that beat was one of them. It stuck out to me. I remember being in my brother’s house playing the beat on the radio and I just start thinking of this shit with the gun noises, ‘Brah Brah Brah.’

“I was walking around the house making these noises to the beat and I remember thinking that I could actually make it into a hook. Who’s to say that I can’t? I know it’s not your ordinary shit, but I can do whatever the fuck I want to do. I didn’t want every hook to be the same. I wanted to make them real random. It was just an idea. I have a lot of ideas and I lay them down, sometimes they work sometimes they don’t.

“I had an idea to put a choir on the hook up under the gun noises. I started listening to it as I started assembling the choir noises and I got too used to it without a choir. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to leave it raw like that.’

“[The time I pulled a bazooka out on the Internet] that was about Benzino. I wasn’t beefing with him. Man, ‘beefing,’ that’s a word right there. A lot of the things I’ve been through since I’ve been in the public eye, most of them were ‘beef.’ Beef is what I was going through at the Death Is Certain time. No real nigga out here looks to get into that. Nobody looks forward to living their life like that.

“When people have words on record and somebody says something about somebody in an interview, that’s not enough for me to want to kill you. It’s not beef. It’s a disagreement, maybe. Or you don’t see eye to eye. But I was never beefing with Benzino.

“He said a few things that I didn’t like, I said some things that he didn’t like. That was pretty much it. He pulled out a gun on the Internet. I decided to pull out a bazooka on the Internet. It wasn’t ‘beef’ though. Yeah, it was a real [bazooka]. Where did I get it? I mean, are you really going to put this in the magazine?”


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Royce Da 5’9” “Vagina” (2010)

Producer: Royce Da 5’9”

Album: The Bar Exam III

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “My little brother put me up on the Internet video of that Jon LaJoie dude from Comedy Central. He’s got this funny video, ‘Vagina’ that’s got a bunch of views. That’s pretty much how I was trying to spin The Bar Exam 3. For a lot of it, I wanted to take very popular Internet videos and make songs out of them. ‘Vagina’ was one of them, ‘Chocolate Rain’ and that was kind of a twist. I even had a Mr. Turner song that I started from a clip on YouTube, but never finished.

“We were just going to the studio every day and being silly. I did the beat. I took the video, looped a part of the beat, and added some percussion. I went and found the DMX sample, threw that in there. Jon Lajoie’s parts are hilarious. You’ve got to check it out!

“Sometime in the future [I want to produce more]. I sit and watch Em a lot when he’s making beats. I think I’ll probably follow that same stencil. Like the production method and have people come in and play instruments. But right now I’m just trying to really perfect rapping.”

Skinny Jeans

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Royce Da 5’9” “Skinny Jeans (I Hate Your Pants)” (2010)

Producer: Royce Da 5’9”

Album: The Bar Exam III

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “You will see a pig fly through hell with gasoline drawers on before you see me in skinny jeans. I was sitting around in my house one day and I thought to myself, ‘I have to write a song about skinny jeans because they’ve become quite the epidemic.’ And this is another one of my ‘super buzzed in the studio with the Patron’ silly ideas, ‘What if I just sing the whole song?’

“Me and my engineer got together, put the beat together, and I just went in there and started thinking of melodies. It’s one of those hit or miss things. I’ll have these ideas in my head and then I can’t get them to come across like they were in my head. But ‘Skinny Jeans’ was just one of those songs that came out exactly as I was hearing it in my head. I was able to bring that across. It just happened, it connected, and ended up being funny.”

Airplanes Freestyle

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Royce Da 5’9” “Airplanes Freestyle” (2010)

Producer: Alex Da Kid, DJ Frank E

Album: The Bar Exam III

Label: N/A

Royce Da 5’9”: “‘Airplanes’ is a little more introspective. It was a just a point in the project where I felt I needed some, at least a little, content. Bar Exam 3 was definitely my gun and my dick phase so it was just, ‘Let me put a little bit of content on here so people won’t think that I can’t.’ ‘Airplanes’ is one of those beats where you don’t want to get on there and just spit regular raps. You want to be on there saying something. The beat has a lot of emotion in it.”

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