Back in December, Black Thought, longtime voice of the Roots, popped up with a long freestyle for Funkmaster Flex and promptly set the internet on fire. Black Thought has always been a great rapper, but he’s also always been the type of great rapper whose unshowy, words-first style makes him easy to overlook. And after watching that freestyle, it was impossible to overlook him anymore. Black Thought rapped for 10 minutes straight and came up with more great lines than I hear on most rap albums. He just brought it. In doing so, he laid down a challenge. And now someone has come along to answer that challenge.
Royce Da 5’9″, the Detroit rap staple and Eminem associate, is now working as one half of the duo PRhyme with the legendary producer DJ Premier; PRhyme 2, their second album, is coming out next week. Royce and Premier were both in the studio for Royce freestyle, and he rapped over Premier’s beat for Nas’ “NY State Of Mind.” (It’s hard to pick a best DJ Premier beat, but that’s a strong candidate.)
Royce started out by explaining that Flex had called him up for a freestyle and that anything that happened was Flex’s fault. And rather than rapping straight through the way Black Thought did, he took pauses to sip water and to let Flex lose his mind. Still, it’s a hell of a performance. Royce is so casual and conversational, but his lines are so impeccably worded and faultlessly delivered; it’s like watching a great acrobat at work. Here’s the video:
The self-released PRhyme 2 is out 3/16, and it’s got contributions from 2 Chainz, Roc Marciano, Rapsody, and Big K.R.I.T., among others.