Royce da 5’9
The Allegory (released February 21, 2020)
It’s pretty fitting that the first track on The Allegory is a conversation between father and son regarding the truths of black America.
When pops asks “What is the goal to be?” the young man quickly replies with one word: “Independent.”
When we last left Royce in 2018, he dropped off Book of Ryan, a poignant look at family life. That narrative has expanded with The Allegory – taking those familial lessons into the black community to achieve, well, independence.
Right out of the gate, Royce sets the stage on the second half of the intro:
But this is America, where credit is for the privileged and profit is not my amenity
I’m just here to get popped by the cops, get popular so I can discredited in a documentary by the enemy
While in a homicidal, fratricidal cycle of wild, constant hostile energy
Lookin’ down the barrel of a rifle while tryna find some inner peace
As God as my witness, through teary-eyed tyranny
Knowledge itself is the caveat and the dollar itself is the demigod
Listen, n****, this is The Iliad
And, oh yeah, in case you forgot, this IS a Royce album, so get ready for lyricism that is downright unearthly.
“They say you are what you eat, but I never ate G.O.A.T,” Nickel defiantly yells on “I Don’t Age” – a line that would sound ridiculous from a lesser MC but is delivered with every ounce of sincerity possible here. If he says it, he means it. The Allegory is a constant barrage of one-liners and brain-rattling bars.
Like the lyrical warfare of “I Play Forever”:
Knock off your whole tribe with the chopper like Shaka Zulu
Chef the impossible, opposite pyrex pots are voodoo
Block magician, I chop a brick to a pasta noodle
F*** the charts, I roll out, I swapped the old out and copped the new-new
This is my possible Moment of Truth, shouts to Guru
Or the instant quotables of “Young World”
Took my first drink at Dr. Dre home cuz I was homeless
But nowadays wildin’ Roman roamin’ should do as I do
I ain’t here for the prize or medals
Knowledge of God, or lies of devils
Knowledge of I, or the eyes of several
Death from the gun at the drummers expense
Tell Trump don’t send a tweet, send a plumber to Flint
Or this scorcher from “Thou Shall,” which made me INSTANTLY stop the track so I could share it with the Soul In Stereo Cypher:
I don’t care if you rap n****s is trendin’ topic, your s*** is garbage
You couldn’t make a classic out of that trash if you had Brenda drop it
After that bar I was sitting here staring at my phone screen like
The Allegory is stacked with guests aplenty, with the three-headed dragon of Griselda stealing the show on three separate tracks. Conway finds great chemistry with Royce on “FUBU.” Westside Gunn’s off-kilter flow might be an acquired taste but his off-the-charts charisma suits him well on “Overcomer,” as Royce goes on a rampage against the killers of MLK and Malcolm, while lobbing several salvos at former partner Yelawolf as well.
But it’s Royce’s collabo with Benny the Butcher on “Upside Down” that really is the heart of The Allegory. It’s a blistering takedown of race relations – from lashing out at cowardly white celebrities who throw around the N-word to comparing butt injections to Sara “Saartjie” Baartman.
You’re gonna have to Google that one. Trust me, it’s worth it.
From the stroll down memory lane on “Pendulum” (“I remember sprayin’ Cris’, hanging, playin’ Hurricane Chris, “Ayy, Bay, Bay”) to shedding light on the myths that bind us on “Tricked” to Wakandan-level displays of black excellence on “Black Savage,” The Allegory plays out like a Black History Month masterclass.
And, as a callback to Book of Ryan, Royce ties it all together with the triumphant “Hero,” admitting that some of the blunt truths he shared about his relationship with his father was TMI:
I talked about his past, I thought I did it with respect
But I’m just dragging all these bags, and all these feelings is suppressed
I’m just a artist, and anytime I write, I put the art first
In retrospect, I feel like you’re right, we should’ve talked first
That’s growth. And more importantly, that’s manhood at its finest.
Some fans have already christened The Allegory as Royce’s greatest album to date. While it’s an incredible body of work, that designation might a bit premature. I’ve been pretty vocal lately about albums running much too long and wearing out their welcome and The Allegory is no exception. Now don’t misunderstand me, it isn’t weighed down with filler like Eminem’s last project or cluttered with repetitive tracks like Lil Wayne’s Funeral but it’s such a dense, weighty listen that it’s not always easy to digest.
As you can tell by the length of this review, it’ll take more than skimming snippets to uncover all the jewels within. Royce makes you work for his wisdom.
Regardless, The Allegory is easily one of the first must-listen albums of 2020, a incredibly deep offering from an MC who constantly works to raise the bar with every outing.
He’s just here to help you find independence.
Best tracks: “Pendulum,” “Overcomer,” “Thou Shall”
4 stars out of 5