Man, talk about determination! Who the fuck does this Royce guy think he is dropping two albums in the same year like this? The only other name that immediately comes to mind is the dog himself, DMX, who hit us over the head with It's Dark and Hell is Hot in May of '98, then again with Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood in December of that same year. The thing is, X was generous enough to let the first album breathe a little bit before jumping onto the next one. Royce da 5'9", on the other hand, gave zero fucks about flooding the market with heat in the span of just two months. In March of 2018, he and Preemo kicked things off first with PRhyme 2, the sequel to 2014's universally acclaimed debut project from the super group.
I assume that Royce and DJ Premier were aware of how high the bar was set with PRhyme, so what would their approach be this time around? Well, without beating around the bush, it's a mixed bag of ideas that sound really good at times, but never quite gel together in any way. An example of this is a song like "Everyday Struggle." You can tell Royce was clearly aiming to bridge the gap between old heads and modern rappers on the track, but the problem is that it completely contradicts "Era," one of the earlier tracks on the album that preaches how Royce feels like he's wasting his time making music in the wrong generation. So what are we really talking about here, bruh? There are also a couple of questionable features and hooks on PRhyme 2 that make you wonder if Royce just ran out of top-tier rapper friends to collaborate with after the stellar feature list from the first album. I'm sorry, but Royce has absolutely no business making music with 2 Chainz for ANY reason. Not only that, but Chainz's contribution is BY FAR the worst verse I've heard from him since his emancipation from Disturbing tha Peace. This is a problem. Shit like this tarnishes the PRhyme brand in my opinion. When DJ Premier attaches his name to something, there's a certain level of quality control expected, and there just wasn't enough of it on this album.
While PRhyme 2 is certainly a far more thematic project than its predecessor, you rarely ever feel that signature Preemo thunder for more than a couple of tracks successively. For the most part, it's an album where style takes a backseat to substance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with Premier at the helm it's natural to expect his style to be prominent throughout. Even though he technically had a hand in producing every song, it's evident that Premier leaned a little too hard on AntMan Wonder for production this time around, as a good chunk of this album sounds nothing like what you'd expect from Preem. Still, Royce's artistry makes it work by making sure nearly every track sticks to a given theme without falling into a pool of shallow-yet-lyrical rappity raps for too long.
"Black History" ferociously kicks off the album with one half sending you on a journey through Royce's troubled life from birth, while the other half gives you a quick rundown of Premier's career leading up to the inception of Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja's debut album, and Group Home to name a few. It's a powerful yet succinct trip down memory lane designed to either educate youngins that ain't ran their Googles yet, or jog the memories of older rap heads who grew up witnessing DJ Premier shape the entire culture of hip-hop on the east coast. That same energy is maintained into the next song, "1 of the Hardest," which truly lives up to its name as Nickel Nine is on his typical braggadocios shit with an onslaught of nothing but BARS. The real meat of the album is found right in the middle though, with a mostly consistent streak of standout bangers such as "Streets at Night," "Rock It," and "My Calling" taking center stage. Sadly though, that streak comes to an end with "Made Man" which is a song that speaks on how despite what anyone thinks about his career, Royce da 5'9" feels like he has been successful and deserves to be respected. It may end up not being very memorable, but based on the subject matter alone this would have been a good track to end the album on, as the remaining five songs do nothing but weaken the project.
Overall, PRhyme 2 is certainly an adequate follow-up to the original, but you're gonna find yourself doing a lot of skipping around as it pales in comparison to the consistently raw and aggressive underground vibe of the first album. It almost makes you wonder if the original PRhyme should have just been left alone as a modern day classic. Songs like "Rock It," "Streets at Night," and "1 of the Hardest" most definitely fit the premise of PRhyme as a collective. The major issue is that with so many missteps like "Gotta Love It," and "W.O.W.," as well as tracks whose themes were better than the songs themselves like "Loved Ones," "Flirt," "Everyday Struggle," and even the lead single "Era," it's as if Preem and Royce just dumped a bunch of random shit on us and called it a PRhyme project without it having any notable identity. Sometimes less is more, and that is certainly the case with PRhyme 2 vs. PRhyme. I feel like if half of these songs were left on the cutting room floor, PRhyme 2 might be able to compete with its predecessor on a more equal playing field. It holds up on well enough on its own, but if their goal was to establish some sort of reputation moving forward with PRhyme, this album did little to strengthen the brand.