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Word of mouth has kept Royce da 5’9″ around as one of hip-hop’s more underrated acts. Underrated may not necessarily sum up Royce’s career at this point. He exists in the framework of a great rapper: cocksure, heady, introspective and willing to put his real life into his rhymes. When he opened up about his battles with alcoholism and proudly presented his stamp of sobriety, we clapped and applauded with him. In a era where sales are virtually becoming more like footnotes in regards to the actual music, Royce da 5’9″ has managed to succeed as a rap anomaly, a fan favorite who can puncture the heart and happens to fall on his sword when he deals with failure.

Layers, Royce’s first solo album in five years doubles as his best because its part no frills rap album and a sobering reminder that Ryan Montgomery is still the same guy from Bad Meets Evil, “Boom” and a high number of watershed rap moments. Though its due out on Friday (April 15), Layers arrives four days early via Royce himself. We were initially sold when Royce went to Dallas for “Tabernacle”, the first record he wrote after achieving sobriety. For four verses, Royce discussed his life, music, a pregnant girlfriend, Eminem and more. The S1 & J Rhodes produced cut, driven by waves of pianos and punched in drums let Royce spill everything out. Jake One arrives for “Wait” and by then, you’re five tracks into Layers and Royce is in full go mode. With guests ranging from Pusha T, Rick Ross, Mr. Porter & more, Royce ties all of his struggles and open moments to the production of Jake One, Nottz, Mr. Porter, DJ Khalil & more. Weeks after releasing Trust The Shooter, Royce is back at it again, letting his body work around the restless nature of his mind.

Towards the end of 2014, Royce gave us PRhyme, a collaborative album with he and DJ Premier. He’s already given fans TTS and now Layers with Book Of Ryan, his second album of the year still on the way. Underrated never meant that Royce Da 5’9″ would stop working or even stop thinking. He’s got an itch to fix: telling his story and his life one bar at a time. Stream Layers below and pre-order the album on iTunes. You get “Tabernacle” as an instant download for your support.