Prhyme 2 has been in heavy rotation over the last week or so, for me. This is a true throwback to vintage hip hop, yet highly evolved and very relevant in today’s “mumble” rap era. It fills the Gangstarr void in my musical life, R.I.P. the late, great Guru, with the same kind of MC and producer chemistry found on those records. Royce has always been a criminally underrated MC and he sounds so effortless, yet inspired when working with the legendary hip hop producer, DJ Premier, aka Premo. In today’s hip hop scene, current, talented acts like Kendrick Lamar seem to have a lyrical style that lends itself to an abundance of words and rapid rhyming syllables crammed into ironically, sparsely produced beats. I always felt this lyrical style was at the expense of the verbal articulation, economy of words, inflection, and the musical cadence achieved by older, legendary MCs like Guru, B.I.G., and Rakim.
That said, Royce and Premo have evolved on this record. You get Royce in almost a tongue and cheek ode to this modern style, casually dancing over the Premo beats like on “1 of the Hardest”. You even get appearances by the more modern cryptic delivery mcs like Yelawolf on “W.O.W” with his “southern fried”, “Bama” references and psychobabble. The “5 9” even pays homage to the long lost art of story telling on “Sunflower Seeds” yet does it in a more modern and relevant scattered, delivery style. Despite this evolution, he still manages to flex his throwback MC ing prowess from time to time with a clear concise delivery like on “Rock It”.
Premo shows an incredible artistic evolution as well. For being such a legendary hip hop producer it would be easy for him to rest on his laurels and reproduce the same formula that help build his unrivaled body of work in this genre. This is especially considering that his trademark sound is very sparse instrumentation and samples, or minimalist production if you will. On “Prhyme 2” Premier manages to retain his patented minimalist sound, but his choice of samples and some of the breaks and changes he implements are truly genius, like on “Flirt” and bring the sound into the modern hip hop lexicon. He said it best on his own Gangstarr classic “You know My Steez” when he spoke of keeping up with the modern times while staying true to his roots, and he manages to do just that.
Together this duos chemistry can’t be denied. You get the feeling that this kind of prolific artistry between these two older legends (count it 17 tracks!) would not be possible in such a young man’s game unless they were inspired and having fun. I never had the chance to write about the first Prhyme album, which I feel was even stronger than this follow up, but this one is a solid effort on it’s own. As a matter of fact, if you were to listen to this album with no knowledge of who these guys are in hip hop history and you listen to in the context of the modern iteration of hip hop, you can truly appreciate what they were able to achieve.