Royce & J. Cole Prove Hip-Hop Has Never Been Better On Their 1st Collabo (Audio)
Royce 5’9 shares the first single from the upcoming album he is proclaiming to be his “greatest piece of work.” In a career filled with memorable and celebrated releases, those words begin validation with the unveiling of “Boblo Boat,” featuring J. Cole. Arriving just one week after PRhyme 2, this power-house collaboration sets an exciting course for an LP—that fans will receive in two weeks (April 6).
Two springs ago, Royce 5’9 released the highest-charting solo album of his career in the form of Layers. That LP was a balance of dazzling lyricism, personal revelation, and an over-arching display of growth and depth from the member of PRhyme, Slaughterhouse, and Bad Meets Evil. On the 2016 LP’s “Startercoat” track, the Detroit, Michigan MC spits “I lost my virginity aboard the f*cking Boblo boat,” shouting out a regional attraction which few outside the Detroit River area may be familiar with.
The Boblo Island Amusement Park was an Ontario, Canada family attraction for nearly 100 years which operated fewer than 20 miles from Detroit. Visitors could get there by what became colloquially known as the boblo boat, a ferry which took them to Ontario’s Bois Blanc Island (from whence the shortened “boblo” comes). The park closed in the early 1990s, and with it a locale about which generations of Detroiters wax nostalgic. “It was a big deal to go to Boblo. Then, in about 1986 or 1987, they had a riot on the boat,” longtime friend and Royce 5’9’s longtime friend Ironside Hex tells Ambrosia For Heads. “If you were in Detroit in the 1990s, you took a trip on the boblo boat. It’s just a part of being from there,” Illa J adds. “If you are 30 or older, and you don’t have at least one story about Boblo, you can’t really claim Detroit.”
The boat ride to the amusement park would, for many, become more of an attraction than the amusement park itself. It was an important site for amusement-seekers to forge relationships, spend quality family time away from the stresses of daily life and get in a little trouble free from adult supervision to establish memories that proved to be integral, in retrospect. That is the perspective Nickel Nine raps from.
As Royce says about the “Black amusement park” in the track’s opening verse, “I came across my identity on the boblo boat.” His opener is comprised of family snapshots underscoring the importance of trips on the ferry. He recalls relationships with grandparents, his mother, father and others and mentions the wooden roller-coasters. But it wasn’t all family friendly: “Smokin’ grass at the vintage food court / Broken glass waitin’ on you on the swimming pool floor / I came across my identity on the boblo boat / That’s where I lost my virginity, no condom though / That’s when paranoia hit me like when superstition does / Left my inhibitions, I guess, where my supervision was / Parties on the way to the Island would be the livest, though / First time big bro hit the bottle was on the boblo boat.”
Despite the Motor City-specific context to the song’s title, it’s arguably J. Cole—hailing from North Carolina, 700 miles away—who puts “Boblo Boat” on the map:
“Twist the cap, lift the bottle back, swig it / Dig it, 10-inch rims on my mama’s Civic / Ten-inch ‘woofers in the trunk / To be specific, they bump, rattle the license plate / Plus, the window’s tinted / Don’t even give a f*ck that it’s dented, b*tch I’m the man now / I’m rollin’, drivin’ it slow as if it’s stolen,” he begins, imbuing his verse with his own nostalgic take. But Cole uses his time on “Boblo Boat” to reflect on his current state of mind, too.
“This was my main concern back when concerns were lesser / Nowadays I often yearn to press the backspace button or hit return / But life is not no word processor / Most folks would burn the sess’ to burn the stress up / My real life drama plus fickle ni**as thinkin’ they done heard the best of Jermaine Lamar / But that’s insane and couldn’t be further left of / The truth is my new sh*t slap, you never heard it better / Give me a sec, I murder sectors / Prefer to let ya’ see it rather than say it / But it spill out, I gotta chill out / Say ‘f*ck the world and never pull out / We had no boblo boat but I could note those times just like a Bible quote.”
“Boblo Boat” is the latest song on our AFH Spotify playlist, which features Kendrick Lamar, Phonte, PRhyme, Elzhi, Rapsody, CyHi The Prynce, Black Milk, Sean Price, Wu-Tang Clan and many more (subscribe if you like what you hear):
This first single is included on Royce 5’9’s upcoming Book Of Ryan album, releasing April 6. Royce recently told The Rap Radar Podcast that this collaboration was organic, after a happenstance meeting with Cole in the studio. A video is expected Monday (March 26).
Yesterday (March 22), Royce confirmed the tracklist (Cole is the lone guest) and proclaimed the LP his “greatest work” to Complex and posted the artwork.