A lot of artists talk about owning their masters, but few can. One of them is Detroit MC Royce da 5’9, who recently gained ownership of most of his master’s from his 20-year catalog.
Owning your masters means that you own the copyright to the original sound recordings of your music. In many cases, artists’ masters are owned by record labels. In Royce’s case, he wants the freedom to do whatever he wants with his.
With his newly owned masters, he released The Heaven Experience, Vol. 1, a compilation of five never-before-heard tracks featuring Big K.R.I.T., Black Thought and Courtney Bell, plus 10 previously released tracks featuring Pusha T, Rick Ross and Eminem.
But why now?
“The biggest thing for us was taking ownership of the masters and getting them back up on streaming platforms,” said Royce. “The greatest part of owning your masters is being able to have whatever conversation I want about it. Only the owner can have the conversation about what we’re doing with it. Who’s pressing play and who’s pressing stop? Who’s buying and who’s selling?”
Despite the project being a callback to a couple of standout tracks from Layers, Book of Ryan and The Allegory (Royce’s last three studio albums), the newly released songs are anything but fillers, especially the newly-released track featuring Big K.R.I.T., “Black Lives Matter.”
Ironically, the song was recorded way before the killing of George Floyd and the“Black Lives Matter” movement became en vogue.
“I did the song some years back. I would’ve used the song in Book of Ryan (released in 2018) but I didn’t feel like it fit,” said Royce. “Anytime I do music, for whatever reason as time progresses, the music starts to become even more relative to the times today than when I originally created the song.”
He continued, “The fact that I was thinking like this way back then. But this song is way more relative to now. Nothing’s gotten better, things have only gotten worse.”
Everything, that is, except Royce’s pen, which has continued to improve ever since he first popped onto the hip-hop radar with Eminem’s 1999 track, “Bad Meets Evil.” And just like how Em put on Royce two decades ago, he’s using his reach and voice to put on a new generation of Detroit artists.
Featured on “What a Time,” one of the newly released tracks on The Heaven Experience, is Courtney Bell an up-and-coming Detroit MC who Royce has been nurturing and mentoring.
“Courtney just reached out to me to say some good words about a post I made on Instagram,” said Royce. “We were already familiar with each other but he was just inspired by some words I said.”
Since then, the two have stayed in touch, and Royce has taken the promising MC under his wing and introduced him to a larger audience.
Thanks to Royce’s incredible skill, knowledge and artistry, he’s gained the respect of many rappers in the industry. Everyone from J. Cole to Westside Gunn. But despite the respect he gets in hip-hop, Royce isn’t trying to please everyone.
“I never worry about checking every fan’s box,” said Ryan. “I try to check every Ryan Montgomery creativity box. That’s what’s on my mind.”
So far in the rapper’s decades-long career, it’s worked out pretty well for him.