Detroit’s Royce da 5'9" is something of a rapper’s rapper: hard-working, well connected, indifferent to trends but passionately dedicated to the craft. And he brings it all together on Layers with textbook boom bap, as confident and cinematic as it is cool. “Highest exalted/Call me commercial?/I’m highly insulted,” he drawls on “Shine,” delivering a workingman’s credo that surfaces again on the album’s title track, alongside Pusha T and Rick Ross: “I philosophize with wise words from learned lessons/In my world, mistakes turns to blessings.” Not that he’s too humble to flex when he’s ready—just listen to “Hard.”

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