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Royce Da 5' 9" Death Is Certain

Royce Da 5' 9" would rather be reviewed in The Source than in XLR8R, but the Detroit-based MC has-after a dalliance with the majors-been reassigned to the underground. For all his battle credentials, the MC freezes up in the booth, stricken by an inelastic delivery and clich»d subject matter-see "Gangsta" and "Beef" for proof. Still, "Hip Hop" finds DJ Premier in fine symphonic form while "T.O.D.A.Y." sparkles, buttressed by producer Carlos Broady's piano-dappled backing and Royce's commendably self-questioning lyrics. More honesty along these lines would have been welcome, for the rest of Royce's raps-no matter how gruffly delivered-rise no higher than those of his generic contemporaries.

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