Royce da 5'9" | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Back in 2000, way before Royce da 5'9" released his first album, his single "Boom" blew me away. Hungry and witty, the Detroit MC snapped off lines like "My flow is hotter than the flash from the click / When the hammer slaps the bullet on the ass from the clip" in a crisp, emphatic style, and for a while he seemed poised for the same sort of meteoric rise his friend and collaborator Eminem had enjoyed. Instead he was shuffled from label to label, bouncing from Tommy Boy to Columbia and finally releasing the long-delayed Rock City on Koch in 2002. The record didn't live up to his early promise, either in quality or in sales, and to make matters worse he had a falling-out with Eminem, allegedly because Em wouldn't help get him signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label. But in 2004 Royce returned with the dark, agitated Death Is Certain, where he ditched the braggadocio in favor of deeply felt personal lyrics, even addressing his debut's failure: "I played myself for radio play / I never dance, but the skill itself is a second chance." Like Rock City, the new Independent's Day (on his own Make It Count label) flounders when Royce tries to pull off a sex song or a club banger--most of the guest stars aren't even stars, just mediocre no-name rappers from his own crew--but straight-ahead numbers like "Politics" and the title track overflow with raw energy and verbal dexterity. Casual, Illogic, Psalm One, and Modill open. Fri 7/8, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $20, 18+.

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