Thursday, June 16, 2011

Royce da 5th Wheel

In 2004, Royce da 5'9" released a 12" - on Koch no less - produced by DJ Premier. It was the lead single off his Death Is Certain album, released that same year. The 12" was pretty loaded - it had the instrumental, tv mix, clean and dirty versions, and even clean and dirty versions of the acapella. But it was just that one track, no b-sides or remixes.

But in 2005, another 12" appeared... on a label called Major Threats with an exclusive remix. It was one a posse cut remix, a la "Flava In Ya Ear" or "I Got Five On It," with some high profile guests. I mean, really high profile guests. Would you believe Big Pun, Notorious B.I.G., Big L and 2Pac? And of course, if you're any kind of hip-hop fan, you've probably already noticed one other thing all those artists have in common.

You might think it's awfully presumptuous for Royce to retroactively put himself alongside hip-hop's most revered and honored legends, and I wouldn't disagree. But mostly I just find the endeavor kind of morbid. Of course, none of the guests' contributions are anything new to their fans... Even by 2005, pretty much everything they'd recorded while they were alive had already been released and sold to the public. So we get a bunch of recycled acapellas kind of sloppily slapped onto a new piano-heavy beat, this time produced by Statik Selektah (though Premier's scratching is still used at the finale).

Pun's verse comes from "Leather Face," L's verse comes from "Flamboyant," Biggie's verse comes from "Party & Bullshit" and 2Pac's verse comes from "Homeboyz." Royce's verses (one opening verse, and a mini-one in the middle) are at least all-new (which shows, by the way, he was 100% involved with this conceptual remix); and to be fair, Selektah's beat is pretty nice... But honestly, this song just makes me think how I'd rather be listening to "Leather Face," "Flamboyant" or "Party & Bullshit." There, the verses fit in better with the music, and having Royce on the record to introduce MCs like Biggie really isn't an improvement for me.

Now, I think Major Threats may've been Statik Selektah's label, because in addition to producing this and the B-side (we'll come back to that in a minute), the only other release I know of from this label was another 12" with more of his exclusive remixes. But what's interesting is it also featured another contemporary (for its time) song remixed to include recycled verses from Biggie and 'Pac. This was apparently Major Threats' "thing."

But anyway, getting back to this release, we flip it over to find another Statik Selektah remix, this time of Method Man's "What's Happening" featuring Busta Rhymes. It basically just lays that acapella down over the instrumental for "Know the Ledge." It feels a bit like a cheap mash-up, but I have to admit the combination of Meth's flow over that epic running bassline is pretty hot. The original version of "What's Happenin'" (as it was spelled there) was on Tical 0: The Prequel; and yes, Busta was on that version as well.

This record features Clean, Dirty and Instrumental versions for both tracks. This Royce remix was also featured on one of his mixCDs, The King Is Back, mixed by Statik Selektah. Now that CD just barely features any mixing really (yeah, it was another one of those), so you're not actually getting much extra with the complete version on this 12". But, still, if you think "Hip Hop (Inspiration Remix)" is worth owning on vinyl, this 12" is the ideal presentation. But, now that time's passed and we evaluate what does and doesn't warrant a place in our collections, I think whatever merit this record has basically just rests in its value as a curiosity piece.


  1. HEy Werner, I was looking for that Whats Happenin Remix on youtube and found this remix instead(which kind of has a bit of a "bring the pain" vibe in there):
    Made by some dude named Ivan, but honestly, I like this more than the og. Kind of a random unknown banger of a homegrown remix, imo, hope you enjoy.

  2. That's cool... both remixes remind me of this guy in college who used to do "mash-up" remixes, where he'd just take the most popular instrumentals and acapellas and play 'em over each other... Like Black Moon over Wu beats, and then vice versa. He didn't really mix 'em or adjust the pitch or anything, just sync up the lyrics to the downbeat at the beginning of the song, and sometimes they'd go steadily out of sync because they were different bpms. lol