There are very few people in the world better at rapping about being better than everyone else than Royce 5’9″. If it wasn’t obvious from the title, Success Is Certain finds Royce in a much better state of mind than on his 2004 opus, the dark, brooding Death Is Certain. Eschewing the anger and self-loathing that permeated the latter, Success Is Certain is a decent balance of the unbridled confidence the Detroit native unleashed on the Slaughterhouse project and the solemn self-reflection that was a trademark of his career prior to his reunion with his Shady, Detroit compatriot.
“Legendary,” a Detroit rock anthem with assistance from Travis Barker, starts things off out like a bat out of hell. Barker’s signature drums, along with distorted electric guitar riffs, punctuate four minutes and forty nine seconds of Royce talking that shit as only he can. On “Writer’s Block” the Motown muscle gets revved up even more with Eminem on the hook and Nickel Nine in one man Slaughterhouse mode with lines like “Niggas be quick to call me the new 50 Cent because of my relationship/with Marshall used to make me a little partial/but here’s the brain fuck/We the same/because I’m probably about to fall out with a young buck while I attempt to fuck the fuckin’ game up.”
The second half of the album, anchored by Alchemist, Mr. Porter and DJ Premier production forms the album’s core, and where much of the substance is located. “I Ain’t Coming Down” finds Royce trying to leave behind the temptation to engage in conflict, detractors and past mistakes. The album’s strongest effort is “Security,” a heartfelt retelling of the Slaughterhouse emcee’s relationship to the fallen Detroit great, Proof. The warm horns and unusually subdued vocal performance convey the numbness associated with losing a close friend with chilling accuracy.
Primo and 5’9” add another underground scorcher to their list of collaborations with the cocky boastfest, “Second Place.” Even “My Own Planet,” the only song on the album that seems to reach for commercial airplay, actually works. With a surprisingly upbeat feature from Slaughterhouse brethren Joe Budden, and Erotic City-esque Mr. Porter production, the song manages to not sound out of place in the midst of the hyper-aggressive highs, and sober lows.
The weaknesses are few, but glaring on the compact, 11-song offering which in turn, skew the overall win percentage. “ER” with its personification of Hip-Hop as a weakened patient in the hospital, was already a pretty good song when it was called “Dr. Carter.” Also, the well-worn theme of Nickel’s reunion with Eminem and D-12 pops up again and again on the album. As big an impact those relationships have obviously had on the artist’s life, between the Slaughterhouse project, Bad Vs. Evil, and various solo efforts, it starts to get a bit tiresome.
All said there are two things every Hip-Hop album needs to provide a satisfying experience: good beats and good rhymes. Both are present in morsels of Success Is Certain. Still, very little new ground is broken here. Royce is one of the best rappers breathing, and continues to show it, but as a whole, the project is not as interesting as most of his recent work. While not a disappointment, Success Is Certain won’t stay in memories very long, setting the bar of expectation a notch higher for Slaughterhouse.
Label: Gracie Productions | Producers: Eminem, DJ Premier, Mr. Porter, Alchemist, StreetRunner, Nottz, The Futuristiks, Sarom