I really shouldn't be writing an intro like this for Royce. He should already be there; celebrated, jocked, mentioned among hip hop's elite. He came close, "Bad Meets Evil" lit the fuse and "Boom" caused the explosion; but the flood gates soon burst and the flames were doused. Nickel-nine had to start again; he had to overcome new odds, against all odds. Which is why the title is so appropriate, Royce saw his certain rise to superstardom crumble, he saw his once seemingly unbreakable relationship with the world's biggest rapper disintegrate. Nothing is certain in this game, nothing is certain in this life; only death.
With that in mind, Royce seems to ignore his own philosophy throughout the entire album. If anything is certain, it is Royce of his own abilities. It is a rare occasion to hear an emcee spit like this; such, fury, hunger, frustration, passion and utter desperation. The unflappable confidence Royce displayed on "Boom" runs through all 16 tracks. Only this time Royce doesn't need to tell you that his "saliva and spit can split thread into fiber and bits," because it is evident in every line and there is really no need for Royce to tell you. Perhaps what is more responsible for the comparative lack of braggadocio is that Royce is too busy putting his lifetime in between the paper's lines. It doesn't get much more personal.
Over Carlos "Six July" Broady's soulful offering, Royce comes clean right off the bat 'fessing that "its hard to believe that Columbia couldn't market me to numbers like D-12 at least/I played myself for radio play/I never dance/but the skill itself is a second chance." Royce really starts smoking on Ty Fyffe's overly dramatic "Throw Back": "coldest flow of the summer/I see'em come and they go/I see'em fumble the flow/there's more goers than comers/put the piece to your dome/then you at peace with the chrome/peel your cap and eat you/pick my teeth with your bones." You can almost hear the mic sizzling. "I Promise" is perhaps the most introspective offering as Royce continues to vent to anyone willing to listen, "the whole misconception with me/the only thing people think that I'm arrogant/.../this shit is not fair/just imagine yourself looking in the mirror trying to change what is not there."
There are better beats on the album, but you'd be hard pressed to find better lyrical content than on "T.O.D.A.Y." where Royce asks "can I hold my own in rap/without having to go back to Pharrell or Poke & Tone?/can a married man still appeal to broads knowing everything he spits from here on in gon' be raw?/can a nigga simply spit that real shit/just for niggas that feel me/or will the system kill me?" Thankfully Royce doesn't hesitate to go back to another former collaborator. Proving once again to have a magical chemistry, Royce and Primo team up for "Hip Hop," a worthy successor to "Boom." With a title as played as "Gangsta" you might be quick to dismiss the track as needless thug posturing, but it is really just Royce being really pissed off over an equally angry bass line. Things turn even darker when Royce borrows two song titles from the late greats, "Bomb 1st" and "Beef." The album's title theme is represented on "Everybody Goes," a sinister and very dope offering. It is only appropriate that the album ends with "Something's Wrong Him" and Royce laments "my wife don't like my album/its way too dark for women/she said it sound like I hold grudges/she'd rather listen to Joe Budden's." Six July does a great job of lacing Royce with an ominous track to compliment his rhymes, but it is triumphant at the same time.
"Death Is Certain" is "Momma Said Knock You Out," it is "Stillmatic." Much like those legendary emcees, Royce has been written off only to come back with a big fuck you for everyone who doubted him. Poor beat selections, ill conceived collaborations, bad business decisions, and plain old bad luck, are just that, nothing more. All those setbacks had nothing to do with Royce's talent; Willa Ford didn't destroy Royce's ability to fuck up damn near anyone with 16 bars. If you don't believe that, well that is your choice, and more importantly, it is your loss. If you're not listening to this album over the next couple weeks, it is time to rethink why you listen to this genre. If you are listening to this, I'm sure you're preparing to edit your top 10 emcee list. This is certain...