Royce 5’9 Explains How He’s Taking Control Of His Own Music Destiny
Over the last 25 years, Royce 5’9 has had a decorated career that spans solo albums, mixtapes, feature work, and three super-groups. While he has been respected from the entrance, many could argue that Nickel Nine has only improved at his craft during that time.
Since 2016, Royce has released albums Layers, The Book Of Ryan, and The Allegory—benchmark projects in his prolific discography. This art puts Royce in a class with other MC greats who are writing histories once thought impossible. “We’re all aging gracefully. I believe we’ll be the first genre of music to be on those big stages like the Rolling Stones and all of those guys are on, but still not be lookin’ like we gave our whole self to [it],” he told Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast. Royce has been devoted to his family and his health, along with great at making music. He sees a distinction. “Like, those guys are halfway standing up. I don’t want to look like Ozzy Osborne—I don’t care how great he is. I think we’re the first genre of music to push mental health, advocate for health, [and] sobriety. We get a bad rap as Hip-Hop because we’re so vocal and raw, and we’re so influential, and a lot of times, we don’t always use that super-power for positivity. But those of us who last long enough to realize that there’s a greater calling to utilize your platform for, if you last long enough to realize that, then that evolution is just part of it for me.”
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Royce 5’9 continues to evolve—personally and thus, artistically. He just released The Heaven Experience, a six-song EP that features Redman, as well as emerging voices Courtney Bell and Traxx Sanders. This is my first time having my own studio; I always paid for studio time.” Now, Royce can take him building his music. He has emerged as a producer after over 20 years as an elite MC. “We’d be getting like $8,000 invoices, just from engineers and studios. I started getting comfortable with [being] patient up here.” Royce built studio rooms, including the one he spends a bulk of his time. Heaven also includes a live stage, where MCs can perform and rehearse. “I built everything that my mind told me would not only be beneficial to myself and the cultivation of just everything that I’m thinking mentally, and everything that I want to do musically. Then a lot of artists started coming around.” J. Cole landed in the Detroit, Michigan space to record 2018’s “Boblo Boat.” That spirit of learning, wisdom, and perfecting one’s craft is coming to life in a metaverse experience—coming soon. Last year, Royce forayed into the virtual space with a Caterpillar NFT—named after another Book Of Ryan highlight. Royce tells AFH that he wants to build an experience pass that holds value, should its buyers ever decide to sell.
The studio and NFT coincide with Royce acquiring his masters. The artist who has worked with major labels and independent companies, said the ownership was important. “For the most part, people that I’ve done business with on an independent level have been pretty considerate of my desire to outright stuff that they’ve had pretty much full control of, in terms of the masters since we did the deal.” Royce praised partners on their willingness to transfer ownership. “We definitely weren’t sitting down from a place of grief or complaining or anything like that. I never got to that spot mentally with the business.” Royce, who is joined by his longtime manager and business partner Akino “Kini” Childrey, says that he signed many contracts where ownership was always in play. “[In many cases] after seven years, it just reopens the conversation of me taking over the ownership and moving forward.”
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Royce opened up about why independence and ownership are core values. “After I built up my own audience, I started realizing that I don’t always have to rely on big labels to do things that I kinda learned to do myself.” he says. “If you can’t articulate who you are as an artist to the label, then what they’ll do is they’ll try to articulate who they think you are to the world. A lot of times there’s a disconnect there. And it takes a minute for us to become self-aware. It took me until Book Of Ryan to have a full understanding of who I am as a person to project that. Once I was able to do that, I was pretty much off the races.” Royce and Kino successfully built brands and revenue streams.
The emphasis on ownership is part of a bigger play. “[In my career], at first it was just about money, money, money to me; I never thought about the revenue streams that were associated with just owning the master until I started to see how much money was being made as opposed to how much money I was making in the process.” Royce has evolved from an MC who used label resources (including studio time and producers) to become a multi-hyphenate who owns a studio, produces, and controls his destiny. And as the two-hour interview suggests, that, destiny is promising.
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In the conversation (with time-codes available), Royce also discusses the 2022 tensions with Slaughterhouse, his brotherhood with Kino, and his lifestyle changes.