As The Gemcutters Prism opens up, a warm string section welcomes you to an album that hopes to empower you with a positive message- a refreshing change of pace in the face of trap-heavy modern hip hop.
Before long Cha$e Royale, the emcee who leads us on this musical journey, slides into your ears with the records opening verse.
Born in Camaroon, West Africa, and raised in DC and PG county MD, Royale’s youth was a mix “village music,” hip hop and DC’s own go-go, a funky mix of the two.
“I had to dig deep inside and come up with it, but its a concept album/mix tape,” said Royale in an interview with RVAMag. He spoke about keeping things positive and trying to weave that into every track on this release. “When you go through the project I try and make it cohesive, and I want people to get a theme by the end. I tried to make it make sense and be genuine; come from the heart.”
He’s since moved to RVA, but spent the last year and a half traveling between Da Spot here locally and House Studio in PG to record. He worked with DC producer IMXIII to develop the beats that help provide a sturdy spine for the 12 track release.
“I’m more into the jazzy, retro sounds.. I’ve always gravitated toward that,” he said. And while the retro sound creates a great atmosphere for the release, it’s a notable departure from some of the more succesful tracks on hip hop charts these days. There’s no heavy digital-trap hooks here, no frantic rants on self destruction ala Danny Brown – instead there’s a message of hope and working toward success in a system that often works against you because of the color of your skin.
“No-one is perfect, but… I reference gems a lot throughout the project and its really about sharpening those edges and perfecting your skill and craft,” Royale said, pointing to the name of the record. “Sometimes you’re in a rough spot, but you gotta stick with it and work on yourself.”
“I want folks to realize you go through everyday life unsure if you’re going to do what you say you’re gonna do,” he said. “People have aspirations and goals but things get tough. I’ve been going through my own personal things os it made since, when I came up with this theme to stick to your roots and not give up.”
Words by Brad Kutner