PRhyme suspects Royce, Premier bond over friendship

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

For rap fans, especially for connoisseurs of the nitty-gritty, tried-and-true hip-hop aesthetic represented by Detroit rapper Royce da 5’9” and New York producer (and Gang Starr great) DJ Premier, their joint collaboration PRhyme was a special occasion.

But their album, released in December, was only the beginning. The PRhyme project would not be complete until they took it on the road.

“That’s really what we do it for,” says Premier, on the phone last week from an early tour stop in Philadelphia. “Whenever I buy an album, I’m hoping and praying the artist comes to town to do it live. I hear it, now I want to see it in person.”

The duo’s tour comes to Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig on Thursday night. The project was originally envisioned as a collaboration between Premier and Royce’s group Slaughterhouse, but scheduling issues pared them down to a twosome. After deciding to knock out an EP together, the project flowed so well that it swelled to a full album.

PRhyme — the first two letters stand for Premier and Royce — finds the Detroit MC spitting bars over Premier’s moody, hard-hitting beats, which are composed entirely of samples from composer Adrian Younge. The tracks are layered and intricate and Royce’s rhymes are equally complex, and “PRhyme” has been hailed as a headline-worthy event for hip-hop heads.

“It was a special enough situation to start from square one and be its own brand to build,” says Royce, born Ryan Montgomery. “We also wanted to separate it from our individual achievements; Premier’s been in the game for 30 years, and I wanted this to be separate from his legacy. I didn’t want people to start making Gang Starr comparisons, I wanted it to be a completely new thing.”

Royce and Premier’s friendship dates back to 1999, and their relationship outside of music is a key factor in them working so well together. After the current tour wraps, both are open to returning to PRhyme in the future.

“Beside my Gang Starr family, Royce is the only other artist that I call and check in on,” says Premier, born Christopher Martin. “I have relationships with Jay Z and Nas and them, and we talk when we see each other, but I don’t call them just to check in. With Royce, I check in even if we aren’t doing any work, and we’ll talk about stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with music. I don’t know why it’s that natural, but it is.”

“I think that’s just because Preem is just a down-to-earth dude,” Royce says. “Because we talk so much and we know how each other feels about the state of music, we both agreed it would be good for two guys in our position to come together and do a project that’s not about, ‘How much are we going to sell?’ or, ‘What are we going to get out of it?’ but that’s actually a contribution to the art form. We wanted to provide a different sound for the younger listeners that they’re not used to being force fed, to give them a little bit more of a balance. And hopefully this style of music will affect them the same way it affected us.”


9 p.m. Thursday

Blind Pig

208 N. First St., Ann Arbor

Tickets $20

(734) 996-8555