Although NPR had the exclusive rights to preview DJ Premier and Royce Da 5'9"'s new album in its entirety a week early its actual release date is today (2018-03-16) and can now be bought on both 2xLP or CD. Preemo and Royce Da 5'9" is somehwat of a match made in heaven and has constantly killed shit since back in 2001 when the team let loose of the underground classic "Boom" and the not so intriguing album cut "My Friend" (where Royce mistreated a slamming Preem beat by talking about his Johnson for four minutes). Since then Premier has appeared on the majority of Royce projects, often being behind the LP:s best tracks. It wasn't until the excellent Freestyle tape "The Bar Exam Vol. 1" and later "Street Hop" that you truly saw the immense potential a full collaboration between the two promised. "Street Hop" was marketed as a modern East Coast classic featuring 6 Preemo productions out of the 18 tracks featured on the LP. For some reason when we finally got our hands on it, there were only 3 Preemo cuts left. And although they all were solidified it came off as a dissapointment. The reason we ended up with that trio is that one couldn't get past sample clearances and the other two had been lincensed to and issued on the Game Recordings label. The double-A side single featured the Preem/Royce bangers "Ding!" and "Hit' Em Up" which really would've worked wonders in making "Street Hop" (which was not a bad album at all anyway) even more street.
So in 2014 finally these two legends got together to release a full-length album under the group name of "PRhyme". With only 9 songs it was a front-to-back LP that both rhymewise and with itsproduction took it straight back to the essence and was undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. The idea was not to release any standard rap record but in challenging themeselves the entire project was created using samples from the extensive catalouge of Adrian Younge, kind of how Danger Mouse did it with The Beatles for "The White Album" - but with permission of course. Not to mention that they released a deluxe edition adding 4 additional songs once again killing Adrian Younge samples while inviting legends like Black Thought and Phonté. It certainly helped bring that East Coast boom bap back and was true to form one of the best New York albums of the year.
The question is if the duo can do it again - we know of course that when Premier and Royce get together they can make excellent Hip Hop music. But part of PRhyme is that it's a challenge; all beats and samples has to be chopped from a current artist. And since Arian Younge isn't super prolific compare to many of his peers, this time they have gone with Philly based Antman Wonder who shuns samples in his beat making process. What's cool about Antman Wonder is that he doesn't fuck with no fisherman price Casio type of beats but actually stay true to dusty boom bap type beats but completely without samples. Matter of fact, he even made an ode to "Reasonable Doubt" with Skyzooo that way a few years ago.
So just like for the first PRhyme, it's all about live instrumentation from the original sampled artist with Premier chopping it, adding his turntable work, his unmistakable drums and giving it that classic Gang Starr vibe, Still, Antman and Younge are two very different artists so the projects are really quite different and might be a question of taste. Personally I like both a lot but I'm a sucker for Younge's lush soulful soundscapes that volume 1 had to offer. But I was also much more familiar with the original samples there so it could very well be that I need some time to adjust. Save for Rapsody, Roc Marciano (and occassionally) Cee-Lo Green) the guests aren't really my cup of tea. Fucking Yelawolf? 2Chainz? Big K.R.I.T. (i know a lot of people dig him, but I just can't get into him).
Still, it's almost a 60 minutes project and Royce is killing it, Preemo is mostly killing it and I applaud the brothers for trying something different. I have a feeling this will stay in rotation a while and will mostly gets better on each spin so I'm positive on this release. While its no "Daily Operation", "Livin' Proof", "The Sun Rises in the East" or even "Tha Blaqprint" it's a must hear for any serious Hip Hop head so my rating is a somewhat weak 4/5. Don't sleep!
P.S. - A fun tidbit is that this is not the first time DJ Premier and Antman Wonder have worked together, back in 2013 when Skyzoo and Torae dropped their "Barrell Brothers" project, the best song ont the album ("The Aura") was actually produced by DJ Premier and Antman Wonder and it sounded marvellous.
You can pick up the album @ UGHH, HHV, iTunes or Amazon.com.