Yesterday (November 14), Royce 5’9 released a powder keg of bars in the song “Black Savage.” Produced by the decorated MC, the song was posted on social accounts by the NFL, reportedly tied into JAY-Z’s Inspire Change initiative with the league. However, the song is not about football. Instead, the track—which comes at a time Royce has suggested a followup to 2018’s highly-acclaimed The Book Of Ryan—is about redefining what it means to be labeled “a Black savage.” A firing squad of elite MCs, including T.I. and CyHi The Prynce join Nickel Nine to flip a disparaging term on its head and show what excellence really looks like.
The new video, featuring all of the MCs, as well as singer White Gold on the hook, and veteran Atlanta, Georgia MC providing a bridge, opens with a quote. “You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not the idea of you,” attributed to author James Baldwin. With bold bars, these artists make a soulful song that demonstrates how savagery can be a virtue. It takes place in a stylish nighttime mansion party that celebrates the good life and heritage at once. Fellow Slaughterhouse co-founder Kxng Crooked makes a cameo in the visual.
Royce opens with an example of why he continues to reach new ground with his songwriting at the same time he begins a production career.“I don’t believe in your white Jesus and Last Supper’s / I place value on brothers who never had justice / I am a Black savage / Ali and Foreman in Zaire, fighting for Black magic / Rifles and flag jackets / Mama was suicidal, Papa had bad habits / Product of true survival / Rocker, like Black Sabbath / Hoppin’ up out the Chevy / Pac, Biggie, and Machiavelli / O.G., like Nas and Reggie / Culture like ‘Ox’ in Belly / Vulgar like Akinyele / Focused like Dr. Sebi / We did it your way, but now the culture is boppin’ to our Sinatra medley / I’m limitless energy / They gimmicks and imagery / Kendrick, Cole, and the Kennedy’s / Lyrical Holy Trinity / General of the city / They into promoting silly beef / Keepin’ it Willie D / Weezy on the ‘A Milli’ beat / Dreamchaser facing the enemy like my ni**a Meek / Tyler Perry writing my winning speech like it’s Emmy week / Heart of gold, never sold my soul, gun weighs a ton / Hov tellin’ Lori Harvey no at the Roc Nation brunch,” he raps.
CyHi opens the song with a melodic nod to Kurtis Blow and Lauryn Hill. “If I ruled the world / I would return all the gold that was stole’ / We upholster the nose on the Sphinx, it’s a world war / They try’na take the soul outta Soul / Ni**as say I sold out; I never sold out a show,” he begins, pointing out some historical savagery. “I don’t hang with pawns / I’m Genghis Khan,” he charges a few bars later. CyHi’s Atlanta neighbor T.I. closes out the song, addressing the people who judge him for his past. “You could never be me / Knew who I was before I got out the trap to sell the CD / I been shoulder-to-shoulder with gangstas facing LAPD / Felony after felony, still they be yellin’ me free / Now, my philosophy / Is no possession or apostrophe / ‘Cause ain’t no use bein’ in prison; you ain’t gotta be / Ironically, we dodge a crazy cracker with hammers / Just how they used to dodge a ni**a with braids and bandana / Man, it been more mass-killin’s than its been days in the year / Wonder if fighting for it worth it as much as leaving it here.” The former felon-turned-mogul admits the mistakes of his past without being shy about condemning the violence permeating society, and reminding his listeners where it seems to come from.
This Detroit-to-Atlanta connection marks one of the most potent collaborations of 2019. Royce 5’9 is two-for-two (following the explosive “Field Negro”) in a relatively quiet year to date.
New music from Royce is currently available on the official Ambrosia For Heads Playlist.
#BonusBeat: Royce 5’9’s making of “Black Savage” episode: