Rapper Royce da 5'9" became known outside his native Detroit first for his work with Eminem and Dr. Dre, then through unexpected pop success, prolific solo output, and his roles in the groups Slaughterhouse and PRhyme. His raw persona and talent for intricate lyrical design were on display in nonstop output that included frequent mixtapes, collaborations, and solo albums like his 2002 debut, Rock City.
Born Ryan Montgomery, Royce spent his earliest years in the Motor City and moved to neighboring Oak Park at the age of ten. He absorbed hip-hop through his older brother and radio and television. During his late teenage years, he attended open-mike sessions, eventually battled, and quickly established himself in Detroit's burgeoning underground. His first major recorded appearance was on "Bad Meets Evil," a track off The Slim Shady LP, Eminem's multi-platinum commercial breakthrough released in 1999. Later in the year, Royce and Eminem released "Nuttin' to Do" as Bad Meets Evil, and Royce debuted as a solo artist with the Alchemist-produced "I'm the King." Additionally, Royce co-wrote "The Message," the closing track of Dr. Dre's 2001. Dre had previously offered an Aftermath label deal to Royce, who briefly went with Tommy Boy prior to landing with Game Recordings.
Early the next decade, Royce scored the first in a string of charting solo singles with "Boom," a collaboration with DJ Premier that began a long-term affiliation. The following year, the rapper was featured on Willa Ford's "I Wanna Be Bad," a number 22 pop hit. Rock City, his full-length debut, was released in 2002, but bootlegging of its contents prompted the rapper to decamp to Koch, where he issued Rock City (Version 2.0) and followed up in 2004 with Death Is Certain. Shortly after the 2005 set Independent's Day was self-released through Trouble, the same outlet for some of his many supplemental mixtapes, Royce co-wrote "Tell Me" for Diddy's Press Play. Among the tracks on which he appeared during the next couple years was on Joe Budden's "Slaughterhouse," which led to group recordings of the same name. Royce, Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I released a self-titled album that debuted at number 25 on the Billboard 200. Within a matter of weeks, through another independent label deal, Royce's fourth solo album, Street Hop, was on shelves.
Royce enjoyed even greater commercial success during the 2010s, a period during which his high critical stature as a sharp lyricist likewise escalated. In 2011, he and Eminem reconvened for Hell: The Sequel. The EP topped the Billboard 200 and was trailed shortly thereafter by the release of solo album five, Success Is Certain, a Top 30 hit itself. The year 2012 was especially significant for Royce, not only for the warm reception to Slaughterhouse's Welcome To: Our House, but also for his sobriety date that September. Alcoholism had plagued his life for several years, notably related on "Shake This," and had led to a handful of drunken driving offenses, a prison sentence, and the deterioration of his family life.
Royce went through a protracted period of writer's block, but his career resumed in full force in 2014, when he appeared on benefactor Eminem's posse cut "Detroit vs. Everybody" and released his first album with DJ Premier as PRhyme. Another solo album, Layers, was out by the end of 2016. PRhyme 2, along with seventh solo full-length Book of Ryan, materialized in 2018. He continued his long history of Eminem collaborations with both the song "Caterpillar" on Book of Ryan and a spot on Eminem's 2018 surprise-released Kamikaze album. Eighth album The Allegory was slated for a January 2020 release but was pushed back until February. The 22-track album included cameos from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and many others. ~ Andy Kellman