As a skateboarder, Royal Flush is forever synonymous with Keenan Milton (RIP) and Gino Ianucci in Girl Skateboards’ ‘Mouse’. The combination of immaculate tricks dubbed to the instrumental of Royal Flush’s ‘Worldwide’ with it’s stabbing violin strings is both haunting and mesmerizing.
I’m not sure if Royal Flush is aware that a good percentage of his debut album sales can be linked to this moment in skateboarding videography. As a Hip Hop head, I already knew about Royal Flush from his various features on mixtapes and albums. In 1997, Wu-Tang Clan released ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ and Notorious BIG posthumously released ‘Life After Death’, both multi-platinum selling hit albums. It’s no wonder sales for ‘Ghetto Millionaire’ weren’t as impressive as they should have been. Thankfully, here’s a reminder to hit rewind and listen back to an above-average debut album.
Rappers are often judged by the city or borough they claim before a lyric slips out of their mouth. Royal Flush is from Queens and during the mid-to-late Nineties, Queens was a New York borough that enjoyed notoriety. Even if Royal Flush repped Queens to the fullest and rubbed shoulders with all of its best known characters, his exact location Flushing was less dramatic than say the Queensbridge Projects, home of Nas, the Infamous Mobb Deep and others. Flushing was famous for it’s Unisphere fountain and annual tennis tournament. Not quite the dark and drab features QB locals dwelled in on the regular.
Those with their ears glued to the sounds of the street would recognise Royal Flush’s poised flow from fellow Flushing rapper, Mic Geronimo’s debut album ‘The Natural’. Featuring on more that half the tracks (8/13), the Royal Flush / Mic Geronimo collaboration was similar in symbiosis to the Raekwon / Ghostface Killah duets on ‘Only Built For Cuban Linx’.
‘The Natural’ dropped in 1995 which gave Royal Flush almost two years to build a solid fanbase. Royal Flush wasn’t the most prolific mixtape feature but his participation was always noteworthy. Sampling fellow Queens rapper Nas for his single ‘Rotten Apple’* is a guaranteed way to get noticed and much needed airplay. Royal Flush wasn’t going to settle for piggybacking off Nas’ fame though. He spit verses with Mr. Cheeks for the unreleased ‘Queens Thing’ track and lesser known Kwaze Modoe and Lace Da Booms on ‘Cut That Weak Shit’. Then, as mentioned earlier, ‘Worldwide’ dropped and ‘Ghetto Millionaire’ was guaranteed underground success.
The album opens with Royal Flush getting home after a long hustle in the streets. All of the noise and distractions have Royal Flush wishing for a ticket out of the ghetto. This dream is omnipresent throughout ‘Ghetto Millionaire’ as tracks like ‘Regulate’ sing about getting your life in order to move forward, or ‘Family Problems’ where Royal Flush recounts a much more sombre and personal tale of the consequences of violence in the home.
On the the surface Royal Flush appears like many rappers from the mid-Nineties, living a life glorified by drugs, guns and violence draped in designer gear, golden chains and pendants.. However, if you take a moment to really listen to Royal Flush’s lyrics you’ll see that his message is quite the opposite and much deeper in fact. Even if Royal Flush is surrounded by all the trappings that birthed the Bling-era, he is mostly preoccupied by the hand Fate dealt him and desperately seeks an escape. ‘International Currency’, ‘Worldwide’, ‘Niggas Night Out’ and other tracks are all an effort to counter the negative energy and influence in order to move towards a more positive and affluent position.
Unfortunately I don’t think Royal Flush became the millionaire he aspired to be. Neither did he explain to me in simple terms what ‘Illiodic Shines’ were? It’s a great phrase but I still have no idea how or when to use it..? Another beyond talented emcee who fell victim to The Source’s 3 1/2 mic rating. With four albums under his belt,** Royal Flush is still rapping and recording music.
* “Dwelling in the rotten apple / You get tackled / Or caught by the Devil’s lasso / Shit is a hassle” Nas, The world is Yours, Illmatic.
** Ghetto Millionaire (1997), Street Boss (2005), Grand Capo (2014), The Governor (2019)