Dime Q&A: Royce Da 5’9″ Reflects On Michael Jordan & The Bad Boy Pistons

Royce Da 5’9″ is a lyrical marksman. After more than a decade of servicing his fans with memorable quips and witty metaphors, Royce is still a force to be reckoned with. After just having a Gold album with Eminem in their collaborative Bad Meets Evil a year ago and after just landing a No. 1 record on the Top R&B and Hip-Hop charts with his four-headed monster of a group in Slaughterhouse with Welcome to: Our House, we decided to ask Royce to step out of his element a little bit and walk into ours.

Of course we spoke on basketball, but more specifically, we discussed him inheriting the Bad Bad mantra laid out by Isiah Thomas and the Pistons back in the day, Shaq and Kobe rapping, old school versus new school, and more.

*** *** ***

Dime: A lot of people like to correlate basketball and hip-hop as being synonymous. What similarities do you think there are between the two?
Royce da 5’9″: The competitive nature definitely sticks out in my mind. Everybody out there is trying to win. Each individual is trying to put up more points. Each individual is trying to put each other on while playing in a team atmosphere. Hip-hop culture itself has completely consumed everything involved in entertainment. When you think about basketball like the way those guys dress; I don’t know if you notice but people care about how you dress these days.

Dime: Yeah I know. The whole swag thing is out here. (Laughs)
Royce: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody is worried about how much swag Dwyane Wade has. Hip-Hop itself, the culture, the way that it’s going you could always see the effect that it has on basketball.

Dime: I know you were saying before that you were an avid fan of old school basketball. Back in the day you had Jordan, Magic and Bird. What would you say is the biggest contrast from back then to today’s game?
Royce: Wow. That’s a good question. It obviously has developed in one way that I haven’t been able to figure out yet. The pace is different. Everything is different. But, in my personal opinion, there still isn’t a player that could compare to Jordan. The reason why I say that is that you have Kobe. You have LeBron. It’s kind of branch off Jordan’s style. You ever watched that kid Adrien Broner. The kid fights just like Floyd Mayweather. Exactly like him, but he’s the most exciting new fighter. It’s like Drake. Drake is a phenomenon. He took pieces of different people’s styles and he kind of enhanced it to what people wanna hear today. That doesn’t necessarily make him better than a Kanye, or better than a Jay-Z. It’s kind of like the same thing with basketball. Jordan had such an impact on the culture. Kobe, I feel like he might be Jordan’s illegitimate son or something. (Laughs) He’s basically, to me, is Jordan reincarnated. He’s great. I mean he’s great. He’s not in Jordan’s shadow in my eyes. He’s accomplished enough to stand on his own two. But Jordan is still the greatest.

Dime: Obviously you’re from Detroit, and I could definitely say you inherited the 80’s Detroit Pistons Bad Boy mentality that featured Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars. How much of an effect did their game have on you coming up?
Royce: Man I used to watch Zeke and how fearless he was. I used to look at the way Mahorn used to be dogging niggas. I used to look at that man and go to the park after that and want to pick fights. (Laughs) I would be like “I ain’t foul you!” They would be like, “You fouled me. Shot.” I would be like “That ain’t no shot man.” I used to be on that bullshit. I used to be pumped on that level. They won with heart. Don’t get me wrong. Jordan came and kicked our asses. But still a lot of people forgot how Joe D locked him up. Like, if you could hold Jordan to 24 points, you locked him up. If you could get him to shoot under 50 or 40 percent, that’s locking him up. You could only hope to contain him because you couldn’t stop him. It was just a good contrast between all of the players. Nobody stepped out of their role or character. My man Rodman did what he had to do. I mean, there were a couple times he shot some threes, and I would be like, “Is this dude on drugs or something.” (Laughs) But everybody pretty much played their roles. That’s why I think it worked back then.

Dime: One thing I love is how rappers incorporate their punch lines within the game of basketball. What would you say is your favorite basketball punchline and why?
Royce: Well I could almost guarantee that it probably came from Jay-Z or Joe Budden because they constantly come up with the sports punchlines. There’s not one that sticks out in my head. I’m not really good at remembering things. I’m just slowly getting my memory back. (Laughs) My memory is fucking terrible. But, Joey has whole lot of sports references and it’s not even just basketball. Even like the Pujols line when he said, “A lot of us are Angels with Pujols bread.” Like, I don’t follow baseball like that. I was like, “What the fuck is he talking about.” I had to ask him, “What the fuck are you saying?” When he explained it to me I was like, “Oh. That motherfucker.” (Laughs)

Dime: Now, my biggest gripe is when I see basketball players pick up the mic. I need you to be honest with me and tell me if you had to pick between Shaq and Kobe as being the fifth member of Slaughterhouse, who would you choose and why?
Royce: Well you know what? It’s sort of hard for me to answer that because I never really heard Kobe like that. You know I didn’t really hear him.

Dime: I mean he had a little flow. When you’re free one day with the guys, watch Kobe and Tyra Banks because they hadae live performance before. I mean, Shaq did have a song with Biggie though.
Royce: Yeah Shaq could actually rhyme to me when he was doing the rap thing. He actually sold some records didn’t he?

Dime: Yeah he went platinum a couple times. (Laughs)
Royce: Yeah it’s definitely hard for me to answer that question in fairness because I never really heard Kobe like that. But Shaq was nice. If I had to choose based off my own personal knowledge, I’d have to say Shaq. You know because Shaq was able to flow a little bit. I mean, he had the punchlines. He sold a couple records. I would have to go with Shaq on experience. He probably got a little bit more experience in the studio and live performances.

Dime: Overall, as a rapper, how do you feel when you have ballplayers that decide to jump into your lane and pursue the game seriously like a Stephen Jackson, Metta World Peace or Juwan Howard?
Royce: Well, I mean shit. God blesses people with multiple talents. I personally don’t mind. Like basketball players could decide if they wanna rap. They don’t get in my way. I personally feel like there’s enough room for everybody trying to get money. A lot of people wanna rap because they think it’s easy. They listen to it and say “Oh. They ain’t doing nothing but putting words together. I can do that. I can do what Rick Ross does.” But I welcome everyone to try it, so they can realize it’s not as easy as they thought it was. And then they could go back to what God had blessed them to do. But in the meantime, it doesn’t bother me at all.

Dime: We’ve delved into basketball but I do want to talk music shortly with you. Besides Slaughterhouse and Eminem, who would you say was your biggest competitor in the booth?
Royce: That would probably be Elzhi from Slum Village. Also, my little brother Kid Vicious. He caught me a couple times in the studio. I had to sober up and re-attack those tracks. Uhhhhh who else?
Dime: I would definitely say I loved the track that you were featured on recently with Big Sean and Kendrick called “100.”
Royce: That song was like Sean calling me like, “I need the verse this morning. You have to go to the studio right now. Drop what you’re doing.” He typed me out the concept via text. I didn’t have a hook. I didn’t have anything. So with that record, I didn’t feel like it was the type of record people would compare verses or it was a track where I had to go and tear somebody’s head off. I didn’t feel like it was that kind of song. I just kind of went in there and spit out a couple things that were on my mind. But yeah, I could see getting on a song with Sean and Kendrick and really having to come with my “A” game. I definitely feel like I would have to come with my “A” game because they’re like the young lions coming up. These are the guys we’re gonna have to pass the game to and feel comfortable with them leading. And I am. But if I had to pick somebody not in my crew, I’d definitely had to go with Elzhi. He’s a lyrical genius. I lean back a little back when I hear him. He always comes for your head on a song.

Dime: Before I let you go, I know you were a big rap battler back in the day. With “Summer Madness 2” drawing a lot of attention, were you able to see the Loaded Lux and Calicoe battle?
Royce: Did I? (Laughs)

Dime: How do you feel that battle came out?
Royce: I gave it to Lux. I feel like Lux came back real sharp. He came back from his hiatus real sharp. He came back a little better than he was before. He bought a whole new element onto the battle circuit. He was utilizing the scene, bringing the coffin and just having the theme itself. It made me feel like at that moment that they didn’t need to make records. It made me feel like they could make a living off that. That was a proud moment for me for like the whole battle shit, especially from back in the day how me and Em came up on the scene. Everything was in a club and all niggas had was a microphone. Now it’s like you have props and people trying to take it to the next level. Calicoe, he keeps getting better and better. I called him after the battle and told him to keep his head up, and to never lose his temper. Battling is like boxing. It’s a cerebral sport. You can’t lose your head. Lux just outclassed him. The last round to me in my opinion, in terms of Lux’s performance, that was one of the best rounds in battle history to me. Rounds one and two, it was cool. He was sharp. But round three, he really went there.

Would the Bad Boys be more successful today with their style of play? Or would they be worse?

Follow Carl on Twitter at @TheRealCL24.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.