Album Review | Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory

This album was released on February 21st this year. This was another one of my most anticipated releases of the year, even though I had mixed feelings towards some of the singles. I love when albums are super black, and Royce’s last two solo albums were both amazing to me. I haven’t loved every single album he’s released throughout his career, but I think he’s been on a hot streak for the better part of the last decade. I don’t think I’ll like this album as much as Layers or The Book of Ryan, but I know there’ll be a lot of material here that I absolutely adore. The reason I’ve been putting it off for so long is because it’s just such a massive project. There are 22 tracks, and it’s just under 70 minutes in length. Again, I’m not expecting it to be the best album of the year or anything, but I’m excited to listen to it because I know there are gonna be a lot of amazing verses here. The entire project is completely self produced.

1. Mr. Grace (Intro)

Right off the bat, I was stunned by how detailed and polished the production here is. This doesn’t sound like the work of someone who has only been producing for a couple years. It’s genuinely a fantastic instrumental. The opening conversation is pretty cool, and the way it transitions into the verse from Royce is awesome. The verse itself is incredible too.

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

Everything about the way this song is written and performed just feels incredibly cinematic. This sounds like the narration of a play to be honest, especially with all the different sound effects and the dynamic production. It’s easily one of, if not the best intro I’ve heard to an album all year. At the end of the verse, he reveals that the album is supposed to explore Plato’s Allegory of the Cave theory. I learned about it during my second year in high school, but the concept didn’t really sink in until I left my home state and went to college. It’s a really eye-opening theory once you kinda wrap your mind around it, so I was looking forward to hearing Royce explore it more throughout the record. This song is amazing though, and it had me super excited for the remainder of the album.

2. Dope Man featuring Emanny & Cedric the Entertainer

The way the previous track segues into this one is super seamless. As soon as I read the title of this song I thought of Dope Man by N.W.A., which ended up being sampled on this song. The production from Royce is super impressive, and Emanny sang his motherfuckin’ ass off as always. The instrumental is incredibly smooth and relaxing; it sounds like cool breeze in the form of music. The words from Cedric the Entertainer were a nice touch; he basically played the role of a radio DJ. Honestly, the song sounds a lot like something Kendrick Lamar would do. Not only because of the vocals and instrumentation, but even Royce’s flow and lyrics reminded me of Kendrick.

Oldhead starin’ at me, they some has-beens, I’m the nigga that they never was
Your mama used to be a dime piece, now I let her and your auntie split a dub
Mommy got a fat ass in a sundress, I’ma see if I can get a hug
Fucked your baby mama, only problem is now it’s too hard to get rid of her

I like his verse a lot, but I feel like this song showcased his production skills more than anything. This beat is superb. I’m not as blown away by this track as I was with the opening song, but this is still top notch material. I think the song is dope as hell.

3. I Don’t Age

I think this is one of the better singles that I’ve heard from Royce’s upcoming album. I still think Field Negro is the best song he’s released in the past couple years, but I like this new track more than Black Savage & Overcomer. With that said, it’s not perfect. I wasn’t really crazy about the beat at first, but it slowly grew on me. Royce killed this shit. I saw a comment from someone saying that they need Jay-Z on the remix, and now I can’t unhear that. I feel like Jay would fit on this track like a glove. Not only does Royce mention cocaine several times throughout this track, but I just feel like Jay-Z would fit really well over this beat. It’s not the best beat I’ve ever heard, or even the best beat I’ve heard from Royce, but, as he said himself, “It’s not about making the best beat; it’s about making the right beat.” I feel like this beat just works. Of course, Royce murdered this track.

My brethren, I’m not a legend, I’m not a vet
Do not address me as second, I’m the best
You niggas always sleepin’, I’d rather stay woke
They say you are what you eat, but I never ate G.O.A.T.

Honestly, the only issue that I really have with this song is the way it ends. It feels very undercooked for some reason. It just seems like the song kinda fizzles out without any true climax or a satisfying conclusion. It almost felt more like a radio freestyle than a fully fleshed out song. I obviously still really like it since I said I like it more than the other singles so far, but that is a nitpick that I had to bring up. It’s definitely a great song though. Check it out.

4. Pendulum featuring Ashley Sorrell

This song has yet another really awesome beat. The hook on this track is fucking superb too.

Time to divvy up your pieces with the deal
All my people gon’ be speaking what they feel
All my people gon’ be eating what they kill
Rob the rich and leave ’em with the fucking bill

The first verse is fucking brilliant as well. Pretty much every line is a quotable bar, but the way he ended it was amazing.

I’m still learning, wheels turning, tryin’ to get the fortune
My side chick is still burning out, my dick is scorching
Talkin’ ’bout, “I think I’m pregnant, I’m not with abortion”
Any child that slides out you is an instant orphan

The second verse is also really fantastic. The way Ashley Sorrell came in to finish the verse was pretty cool. I may be forgetting something, but I don’t remember her rapping in the past. I feel like I’ve only ever heard her sing. She did her thing here though. Overall, this is definitely a major highlight for me on the album. I think it’s dope af.

5. I Play Forever featuring Grafh co-produced by DJ Green Lantern

I was pleasantly surprised to see Grafh featured on this album since I’ve really been getting more into him lately. This song was apparently supposed to be on The Oracle 3 at first, but I guess Royce liked it so much that he kept it for his own album. The production here is fucking superb, and the opening verse from Grafh is awesome too.

Nigga, I’m awesome, get off ’em, you all dumb
You all wonder where I get all of my ambience from
You all wonder how I come from the swamp and the pond scum
Peon, comparin’ me to y’all is beyond dumb, beyotch

He also did a great job with the hook. The way the beat evolves when Royce comes in is super dope, and he fucking slaughtered this shit. Honestly, it was really smart for them to put this on The Allegory instead of The Oracle 3 because Royce really dominated this track.

On the block all day and night like a prostitute do
Every artist out there y’all like on the charts are doo doo
I’m from where thots’ll convolute you, the cops are cuckoo
Charge you, try you and prosecute you, if not, just shoot you

His verse is fucking incredible. Everything about this song is awesome to be honest. There’s not a single aspect of it that I don’t love. It’s dope af.

6. Ice Cream (Interlude)

I feel like this skit was kind of unnecessary personally, but I’m sure some listeners probably learned something from it at least. I don’t think it’s a bad skit or anything, but I just didn’t really get anything out of it. It’s well acted enough for me to not feel the need to delete it from my library though.

7. On the Block featuring Oswin Benjamin & DJ Premier

Once again, the production here is absolutely phenomenal. DJ Premier’s scratches on the hook are glorious too. The opening verse from Royce is fantastic.

Y’all should come procreate with a winner
If I should catch a fade with an earthquake I’ll make it a tremor
I’m cold enough to go on a date with the eighth of December
When I’m finished, make the rest of the winter pay for the dinner, nigga

At this point on the album, I started realizing that this album doesn’t exactly deliver on its conceptual promise. If anything, the entire album is a collection of parables that all kinda hold similar messages, but it’s not one fleshed out allegory. As much as I love this song, I didn’t really grasp an overarching point. Oswin Benjamin’s verse was really dope, but I didn’t see much significance in his story about the promiscuity of the younger people in his neighborhood growing up.

Lowest totem on the pecking order, all the pretty hoes wanted athletes
Bamboozled by the bamboo-wearing bad bitches with the fat cheeks
That made us wait on the same pussy that got ran through like a track meet

I love the song itself, but I just don’t see how it connects to the theme of the album. That can be said about a lot of the songs on this album though in all fairness. The way the beat switches up for that little verse on the outro from Royce was like the frosting on the cake. This shit is dope as hell.

8. Generation Is Broken

This is another super unnecessary interlude. The Ice Cream skit at least kinda told a story, but this just sounds like a snippet of a super undeveloped idea for a song. I’m not really bothered by this track that much, but, at the same time… Why is this here?

9. Overcomer featuring Westside Gunn

This song is kinda frustrating for me, and you can probably guess why. Westside Gunn ruined this shit for me. Bro… Why… Why? Why is he on this song? He’s so bad… I just do not get the appeal of him at all. His voice is fucking unbearable, his flow is mediocre at best, and he’s not a good lyricist. Why the fuck does he have such a huge presence on this song? Even if he was rapping well, the content is completely out of place. It has barely anything to do with anything Royce said. The percussion on this track doesn’t come in until after he’s done rapping, and it sounds like he was really struggling to flow over the loop properly. The beat itself is cool though. Shoutout to Royce for producing this. However, one thing that I will mention that kinda ruined it for me is that as soon as I heard it I couldn’t help but notice that it has the same melody as Perfect Day by Hoku. Anyway, when I saw the little behind-the-scenes teaser for this single, I was hoping that Westside Gunn would just be on the hook, but that unfortunately isn’t the case. For some reason he has two verses on this shit. His hook is cool though. I don’t mind him there. Honestly, if Westside Gunn had a tolerable voice he would be an average rapper. The voice makes him below average though. Anyway, I guess I should stop shitting on him and explain why I’m talking about this song in a post about my favorite tracks of the week. Once the beat finally drops, this shit gets really good. Royce’s verse here is fucking amazing. His writing is so eloquent. It’s crazy. Obviously the main thing people are gonna talk about in regards to this single is the fact that he dissed Yelawolf.

Yelawolf, this is your first and your last pass
I ain’t gon’ put it on blast, your punk ass know what this about
You think it’s ’bout being loud or tryna be hostile
‘Til you get found face down on the ground outside of Kid Rock house
Though you a vulture pundit, I hope you get sober from this
Men lie, women lie, so do numbers

That’s a pretty small part of the verse, but obviously that’s the excerpt everyone’s paying the most attention too. Overall, I don’t really like the song that much. I mean, I definitely like the song to some extent, but it’s too flawed for me to call it dope. I’m gonna have to edit out the Westside Gunn feature in GarageBand. After that it’ll be great. It’s definitely worth checking out for the Royce verse alone though. He killed this shit.

10. Ms. Grace (Interlude)

This track is a continuation of the conversation that started the album, but this time it’s between the father and his daughter instead of his son. There’s not really any reason for me to discuss this, but I will say that I enjoyed it, and the production was very cool.

11. Thou Shall

The production here is really great. One thing I appreciate about this album is that most of the beats don’t really sound generic, and the production is really varied throughout the whole record. Once again, Royce fucking slaughtered the first verse here.

Whoever Superman, I got kryptonite in these hands
But I’d rather soup-a-man, leave you liquified with these cans
I don’t care if you rap niggas is trendin’ topic, your shit is garbage
You couldn’t make a classic out of that trash if you had Brenda drop it

I kinda wish the song had a more fleshed out structure because the entire thing is just two verses with nothing else going on. That’s just a nitpick though, and it’s my only real complaint. I always thought that Kid Vishis was a good rapper, but I’ve never really looked at him as an elite MC like Royce. He did a really great job here though.

All these foul styles goin’ ’round and y’all allow it
No skill required, the game’s overcrowded
So when a rapper say he can spit now, I doubt it
You could listen to Future, but just know who the now is

He kinda sounded like Crooked I mixed with Royce. I’m just comparing their voices though, not necessarily anything else. Once again, this song doesn’t seem to be allegorical in any way. I still really enjoyed it though. This shit is dope as hell.

12. FUBU featuring Conway the Machine

Obviously since I’m such a huge fan of Conway the Machine this was one of my more anticipated tracks, and it didn’t disappoint for the most part. Conway murdered this shit, and I love the way he let the beat breathe between each bar in the final quatrain.

They know this extendo we got on us
Can’t name a time when it’s not on us
Hope they try robbing us
So they can go back and tell niggas about all these bullets they got from us

The production from Royce here is glorious too. The way he was able to craft this dark beat for the track with Conway was really impressive, and the smack sound effect he incorporated added so much to the song for me; it sounds so fucking awesome. The hook itself is nothing special, but the record scratches really add a lot. This is a frustrating track though. I was really enjoying the second verse from Royce until he said this…

My son got autism from injection by syringes

doc rivers

You know what makes it worse? He “elaborated” on this position in an interview and basically just said “over the past couple years I’ve started feeding myself information, and I’ve found a correlation between vaccinations and autism. I believe what I want to believe. To all the people who say it doesn’t cause autism, where’s your facts to back up what you’re saying?”

What in the fuck is he talking about? That’s genuinely some of the dumbest shit that I’ve heard from someone who I actually respect in a long time. It’s incredibly disappointing, and easily the worst aspect of the album. I wish I could say it’s the only anti-vaccination line on the project, but it’s not. It doesn’t completely ruin the song; I still enjoyed his verse overall. It definitely makes this far less enjoyable than it could’ve been though. It’s also incredibly random; it doesn’t seem to relate to any other line in the song as far as I can tell. With that said, I think the song is awesome. The rest of Royce’s verse is fucking spectacular.

Put the beef behind me to put your soul behind you like De La
Twin white Maybachs
Steering wheel wood when I’m floating through the hood like sailors
Couldn’t be cut like me if you had ten tailors
Put the wifey in a black bent Bentayga

Honestly, this could’ve been my favorite track if it didn’t have that one line. This shit is still dope as hell though.

13. A Black Man’s Favorite Shoe (Skit)

This is pretty much just the audio of that incredibly racist video from Parker Mustian threatening black people and symbolically participating in a lynching. There’s not much for me to say about this, but I like that it’s included here. It’s edgy enough to be interesting, but not so edgy that I roll my eyes.

14. Upside Down featuring Ashley Sorrell & Benny the Butcher

Once again, I’m cheating. This track technically came out last Friday, but since I was distracted by the Iowa caucus I didn’t hear it until Sunday. With that said, this is easily my favorite single that Royce has dropped from The Allegory. For whatever reason I was under the impression that the album was released on February 9th, which is part of why I didn’t rush to listen to this single when it dropped. Anyway, I really wasn’t expecting that interpolation of Tom’s Diner from Ashley Sorrell on the intro. It was cool though. I typically don’t really care for interpolations of old songs like that—Ariana Grande’s wack “7 Rings” track comes to mind—but it worked here. The super low-key, yet haunting piano-driven production from Royce is really nice on this track as well, and he of course murdered his verse. Here’s my favorite quatrain in the whole song…

Bill Maher use the term “nigga” so loosely
‘Cause truthfully, he know that he be usin’ it on the DL
Louis C.K. know he can use it in front of Pookie
But know damn well that he wouldn’t use it in front of DL

I fuckin’ lost it when I heard that shit. That’s amazing. Those aren’t the only quotable lines from Royce, but they’re my favorite. I wasn’t sure how Benny would sound on this track, but he fit in perfectly. His verse was loaded with quotable lines. Here’s one of my favorites…

What’s the difference from a nigga who lived it and storytellers?
Of course we felons, sold a brick whiter than Tori Spelling
Roll with killers, nobody on my block was poorer than us
I put a fork in the pot and got a euphoric feeling

He killed this shit. That line about how Griselda are The Firm without Foxy Brown was hard as bricks too. The song ended super abruptly, but I’m guessing it probably transitions into the following track on the album really well. So yeah. The song’s dope af. Don’t sleep on it like I kinda did.

15. Perspective (Skit)

This track is pretty much just Eminem talking about how Elvis colonized Rock & Roll, and how the zeitgeist is always dominated by watered down bullshit coming from white people. I kinda wish Em would’ve commented on his own position and acknowledged his role in it, but I’m not gonna pretend to really care that much. I enjoyed this track a lot, mainly because I think the instrumental in the background is really fucking good.

16. Tricked featuring Crooked I

This is definitely the weakest song in my opinion, but I don’t think it’s bad. It probably has my least favorite beat on the whole album, but I wouldn’t say it’s a wack beat. It’s just not really that great to me. This is one of the few songs that kinda relates more to Plato’s aforementioned allegory, which I guess could’ve been predicted based on the title. This song easily has the worst hook on the album. I don’t think the it’s terrible or anything. It’s just not good at all. I also don’t think the rapping from Royce is on par with the rest of his rapping on the album. He spits one of, if not the worst couplet on the record in his second verse.

From day one at the hospital they target our children
Say they gonna immunize ’em they somehow get autism

Bruh, come onnn. When I first heard that shit I was like…

Streets Is Done

The way Royce & Crook chose to rap on this song is just kinda disappointing. I don’t think the verses are wack or anything, but they didn’t spazz out like I expected them to.

Trick, trick, my nigga, you’ve been tricked
Trick, trick, it’s a trick, we’ve been tricked
Trick, trick, my nigga, you’ve been tricked
Trick, trick, my nigga, you’ve been tricked

That’s not some random bridge or hook; Crooked I wastes time in the middle of his verse to say it. This track really just lacks momentum. It’s kinda boring to be honest. As much as I didn’t like Overcomer, Royce’s verse was at least good enough to almost save it. Nothing about this track really stands out in a great way. Again, I don’t think it’s bad, but to me it’s just very mediocre, and easily the worst song on the record.

17. Black People in America

Tricked is the worst song on the album, but this is easily the worst overall track. This skit is more anti-vaccination bullshit. I’m not gonna go into why this is incredibly fucking stupid and disappointing because I really shouldn’t have to. This is fucking horrible though, and it really tarnishes the album.

18. Black Savage featuring Sy Ari da Kid, White Gold, Cyhi the Prynce & T.I.

This was the first single released for the album, and I like it, but it’s definitely a relatively weak song in my opinion. It just sounds very commercialized and almost formulaic. I do like it though. I think it’s good. If Tricked wasn’t on this album, this song would easily have my least favorite instrumental. It’s just a little bland to me honestly. The rapping on this song is phenomenal though. The opening verse from Royce is stellar; his flow is glorious, as always. The hook from Sy Ari da Kid is okay I guess. I feel like White Gold’s presence here is completely unnecessary; his verse did absolutely nothing for me. I definitely would’ve preferred a verse from Sy Ari da Kid instead of him. Cyhi fucking slaughtered that second verse though. The way he was rhyming was awesome.

I don’t hang with pawns, I’m Genghis Khan
Slang with a gang of cons that came with guns
Who speak the language from the ancient ones
Dangerous, huh? We shinin’, nigga, shame the sun

I didn’t like T.I.’s verse as much, but he did his thing. Cyhi & Royce are definitely the ones who stood out most. Again, this is a relatively weak song in my opinion, but I still enjoyed it. I think it’s good.

19. Rhinestone Doo Rag

This track feels more like an interlude than anything. It’s only one minute and 19 seconds long, and there’s just one verse. There’s really not a lot going on here. I would say that every single aspect of this track is just “pretty good.” The production is nice, but far from the best on the album. The same can pretty much be said about the verse. It’s definitely an enjoyable track, but it’s really not very memorable. I like it though; I think it’s dope.

20. Young World featuring Vince Staples & G Perico

The beat on this track is pretty dope, but it’s not one of the best on the album in my opinion. I kinda feel like it’s impressive that Royce was able to make this West Coast sounding beat, but maybe I’m just getting that feeling because of the features. The opening verse from Vince Staples was actually really great. I think that’s one of the best verses I’ve heard from Vince in a long ass time. I’m not crazy about the hook, but it’s definitely not bad enough to ruin the song. I just feel like the way it changes the entire atmosphere of the track every time it comes on is really jarring. G Perico’s verse was pretty cool. He definitely had my least favorite verse on the track, but that’s just a testament to how good the rapping is across the board because he did a really good job. Royce of course had the best verse. He fucking killed this shit. Honestly, I think I would’ve liked this song a lot more if he just spit three verses and there weren’t any features. All the verses were good though. This shit is dope.

21. My People Free featuring Ashley Sorrell

The beat on this track is solid, but it’s not really that memorable to me. I honestly didn’t really care for the opening verse from Ashley Sorrell. I don’t think she was bad, but I didn’t really get much out of her verse. I could’ve done without it because it really just went in one ear and out the other. I mean, I appreciated the lyrical content of her verse, but her singing and cadence weren’t particularly enjoyable to me. The hook is also just okay in my opinion. Royce’s verse was really great though.

Your final day might be the day that you finally made it
Only Gucci we acknowledge around this way is Radric Davis
Only thing fly around this way, hollow tips, I dodge that shit
Gave my nigga three to five for marijuana and legalized that shit

I definitely like this song, but it’s just kind of unexciting in the grand scheme of things. I really like the content, but as a song it’s not super entertaining to me. I feel like the way it ends is kind of abrupt too, but that’s not a big deal. The song is pretty good overall, but if someone told me that they didn’t care for it I would totally understand because it’s very slow.

22. Hero featuring White Gold

I think this is a really fantastic song, but it’s kind of an odd way to end the album in my opinion. It seems really out of place honestly. It almost feels like a bonus track, especially considering the way the penultimate song ends. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think this shit is bad at all. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the better songs. It just doesn’t really connect to any of the themes of the album, so it feels really strange as a closer. The entire song is a message of appreciation and love dedicated to Royce’s father. The one way this kind of connects to the theme of blackness is that a lot of us unfortunately don’t have fathers in our lives, but Royce doesn’t do much to highlight that connection aside from this one line…

This goes out to y’all if y’all grew up without a hero

I’m glad he released this song, but I really think it would’ve made more sense if it was sequenced differently. It’s not a huge issue for me in the grand scheme of things though. I don’t have any major issues with the song itself. I think it’s dope as hell.

This album is great. I enjoyed it about as much as I thought I would. I don’t think it’s Royce’s best work, but it’s far from his worst. It’s very flawed, but there’s definitely more good than bad. I just really think it kinda lost momentum during the second half. The first half is much stronger. This shit should’ve been cut in half. Much like that latest Vinnie Paz record, if he pared this down to the best material it could’ve been a genuinely amazing album. Well, he’d have to do a bit more to clean it up a bit. I think he kinda missed the mark with the concept. This album doesn’t present an allegory in any way. If anything there was just a loose theme of pro-blackness. The anti-vaccination messages really fucked this album up in a lot of ways though. It’s even worse here than it was on Freddie Gibbs’ latest album. With that record Freddie only said some dumb shit in one line. This album has three different tracks with anti-vaccination messaging. One of them is completely dedicated towards the subject. Honestly, I kinda lost a little respect for Royce because of that. I still think he’s one of the greatest rappers of all time, but that shit is frankly just not okay. What’s with all these great rappers being against science? First Nas, then Freddie, and now Royce? I’m sure there are countless others that I’m just not thinking of too. So yeah, my two main gripes are that there isn’t really an allegory here at all, and the questionable anti-vax shit. Also, some of the songs just weren’t as good as others in my opinion. This shit is still really fucking great though, and it contains some of the best rapping I’ve heard all year. It’s definitely worth listening to.

Favorite Song: I Play Forever
Least Favorite Song: Tricked


Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.

Grade: B+

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