Royce Da 5′9″ – The Bar Exam 3 Mixtape + Review

So this evening I find myself in my garden, with the rare pleasure of UK sun and a certain eagerly anticipated mixtape; none other than Royce Da 5’9”s The Bar Exam 3.

After the industry’s mostly favourable response to last year’s Street Hop LP Royce has continually drip leaked us tracks from TBE3 to keep us salivating for the full effort. Unlike other artists in the game who drop a half-hearted mixtape endeavour to promote an upcoming album, TBE3 proves Royce’s commitment to his fans and most won’t be disappointed here.

Upon import the first thing you will notice is that TBE3 is pretty skit heavy; After the introduction there are eight more to contest with. The only saving grace here is that not only are they short, at least there is some correlation with the mixtape’s material. Failing that, Royce does seem to get away with it because we know what to expect with the quality of tracks on offer.

(Edit: two hours later and having listened through several times now the skits are actually pretty funny and make for some light laughter in between tracks).

Having said all that, I’m actually a big fan of a solid introduction skit to an album and TBE3’s sets up the intro track aptly.

The Most Interesting Man, a mere 1:49 long, sees Royce let loose over an insane, drum heavy track which will leave you clamouring for more yet wondering where those 109 seconds just went.

Track three, Go Hard Pt. 1, and it still feels like we are part of TBE3’s introduction. A gun-laced backdrop allows Royce to drop some ridiculous multis, whilst supported by brother and long-time collaborator Kid Vishis.

One of the problems with Royce drip-feeding us TBE3 leaks is that the mixtape loses some of its ‘newness’ feeling and you find yourself skipping through dope tracks because they have already been raping your iTunes over the past 6 months. On Fire with Crooked I is one of those. For anyone who missed this first time around it’s over Xzibit’s popular Hurt Locker to which it goes without saying that both Royce and Crooked meet the highly expected standards.

Number six has Royce calling in his Detroit connections with a Mr. Porter beat and second and third verses provided by Slum Village’s Elzhi and Detroits’ talented beatmaker/MC Black Milk.

After an acapella up next is Royce’s attempt at Drake’s mainstream hit Over. I made the comment to Indi earlier that one of the brilliant characteristics of hip-hop, often not found in other genres, is you hear a crazy beat somewhere then wait for the mixtape scene to gobble it up, spit it out and give it the justice it deserves. Oh wait…Royce’s version is a freestyle too? The man should offer Drake some lessons on the strength of this one.

Continuing a strong, skit-uninterrupted line-up of tracks we find ourselves at number nine and you will notice T.I’s I’m Back blaring out of your speakers. Bun B, one of the very few Southern artists I can stomach, lays down some nice bars setting up the rest for two quarters of the Slaughter (wait, that’s a half) to demolish. No Royce verse on this version though (get that here), but reassuring to see him letting his Slaughterhouse brothers do the business on this one.

One of my favourite ‘newbies’ on TBE3 is a brilliant freestyle over B.o.B.’s Airplanes. Regardless of whether this is actually a freestyle or not, this track is crazy and be sure to pay this one special attention.

After Beamer, Benz or Bentley Remix (which I hope none of you missed out first time around) and I Hate Your Pants (Skinny Jeans) is a very unusual track which has Royce taking shots at, well, men who wear skinny jeans. Pretty funny and worth a listen.

Next up is Forever Freestyle. Personally not a big fan of this beat at all and I won’t spend too much time bumping this. Royce makes it more enjoyable and showcases his versatility by switching flows up.

Picking through several skits sees us end up at Go Hard Pt. 2 which has Royce and Kid Vishis flexing lyrical muscle over Rihanna’s Hard, before ending up at the door of 50/Em’s Psycho. Loved the beat on the original so to see Royce tackling this is a real gem. Again, unfortunately it was one which I’ve had a while, but those who haven’t discovered it yet will be very pleased here.

Drama with Trick Trick & Junes Flow is a very heavy beat, one which I haven’t heard before (answers on the back of a postcard/comments field please), and one which I shall definitely be exploring again. Perhaps not Royce’s strongest verse but a Dr. Dre-esq beat with some neat piano-loops? Yes please.

Some time needs to be spent dissecting the interview with Saigon which hears him going at Joe Budden and Slaughterhouse’s credibility when it comes to make ‘hit records’. Pot calling the kettle black much? Yep.

Step up Royce’s response. Whether Royce has the ability to make hit records may be open to debate (Hip-Hop and Boom to name only two may put that discussion to bed) however, one thing for certain is that he knows how to make a diss record (various drama involving D12 & Em, Mistah F.A.B. and recently, Benzino has Royce well-equipped to go toe-to-toe). Over 50 Cent’s brilliant Flight 187 Nickel-Nine spits: “Calm down, shhh, you so emotional, I know where you at in your career is such a low for you.”

“I promise you that if you chill now, in five years I will not ride through the McDonalds drive thru and not bother you.”

“You said yourself you got the greatest story never told.” That line kills it (Saigon’s still-yet-to-be-released debut LP is entitled The Greatest Story Never Told).

I was surprised to see Taxi Driver make an appearance on TBE3 because it’s a joint from back in 2008. It forms some of Royce’s best work over the past two years however and showcases his story telling ability. Clever track where Royce uses the metaphor of his taxi to show the influence 2Pac and Biggie had over him and his thoughts.

Big fan of the next track (no, not only because of the reference to Mobb Deep). Over an eerie, drifting beat Royce drops a tidy first verse leaving the second for another Detroiter, Marvwon, to see us out.

The last track is a superb example of Royce’s creativity and humour. Spark Yo Brain to YouTubers is instantly recognisable as Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain. Royce doesn’t take it easy though and proceeds on seeing TBE3 out with a fiery finale. Genius.

To summarise, Royce’s The Bar Exam 3 is crafted straight from classic Bar Exam formula which saw the widespread praise and success the previous two efforts spawned. Royce shows he’s not here to mess around and proves bar for bar he’s one of the best in the game with tracks such as Most Interesting Man, Go Hard Pt 1 & 2 and Drama. Letting his guard down presents us with mixed results in the form of I Hate Your Pants and Spark Yo Brain but littered amongst the skits some real hip-hop gems are waiting to be overturned. Even Whoo Kid can’t ruin this one.

Stay tuned for the no-DJ version.

Royce Da 5’9″ – The Bar Exam 3 (The Most Interesting Man)

Royce Da 5’9″ – The Bar Exam 3 (No DJ Version)

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2 comments to Royce Da 5’9″ – The Bar Exam 3 Mixtape + Review

  • Superb review, pretty much agree with this 100%, aside from that I actually love the beat for Forever. Top stuff.

    187 and Taxi Driver are amazing, hadn’t actually heard Taxi Driver before, had no idea it was released back in ’08! It’s such a good concept.

  • Fantastic review. Haven’t listened to it all yet, but I’ll definitely be looking at the tracks with new eyes.

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