Hi, my name is Adam, and I’m a hip-hop addict. You wouldn’t think it, given that none of my articles thus far have concerned hip-hop CD’s. (Brainfreeze doesn’t really count – you’ll know why if you hear it) For the most part, I was trying to avoid writing about it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in the genre, not least because of the clichés that now surround it like a swarm of flies. Rapping about bitches and hoes, drugs, guns, “the ghetto” etc – the genre has been so oversaturated with this crap that it’s difficult to believe it was ever any different. That was one reason I didn’t want to write about any hip-hop albums – the other was that I couldn’t really think of any to write about. As much as I love a lot of hip-hop albums, I couldn’t really think of anything to write about them that didn’t sound clichéd, boring or like nothing anyone had ever heard before. But now, finally, I believe I have an album that I believe will make the basis of a great article.
I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of Organized Konfusion. For the life of me, I don’t know why they’re not more well known. Dropping their first album in ’91, their tongue-twisting lyrical skills and self-produced tracks were miles ahead of any of their contemporaries. 6 years and two more albums followed before they quietly disbanded, remaining criminally unknown. Each album sounded well ahead of its time, but only one STILL does in my opinion – their second album: Stress: The Extinction Agenda.
Organized Konfusion consists of 2 rappers (or “MC’s” – Master of Ceremonies) – Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch. Not likely to ring any bells I’m sure. But these two rappers are some of the best in the business. On their debut album, their rapping skills had already been finely honed, resulting in some explosive ejaculations of mind-bending wordplay. As producers, they crafted some fairly simple but effective beats, allowing their vocals to be the focus. On Stress…, their production is generally sharper and fuller. Enlisting the help of outside producers on but a few tracks, some amazing beats are created – gloomy, ecstatic, humourous, chilled-out, and destitute. By placing more emphasis on the music though, they certainly do NOT downplay the emphasis on their rapping. Both rappers are now comfortable in their ability, with their style pushing boundaries that other rappers would not even dare to think about, or trying still more adventurous things every now and then. This is evident almost immediately.
After a short, mostly instrumental intro, the dynamic duo smacks you with their skill on the first full track, Stress. A war-like chant of “Crush, kill, destroy, stress!” appears before Prince Poetry launches into his verse, As if his lyrical prowess wasn’t enough, Pharoahe Monch’s verse takes it to the next level. “You will now consider me the apocalyptic one/After this rhyme, henceforth, there is none.” I couldn’t agree more. Who could dare to try and hold their own against this beast, this decimator of microphones? I know the group is a duo, but I’m sorry, this album belongs to the Pharoahe. Thirteen is a solo track by Pharoahe Monch, and the only solo track on the album. With its trance like, captivating production, it already sounds very notable before the rapping comes in. As this is a solo track, Pharoahe Monch has a bit more freedom to do what he wants. His flow varies from smooth to choppy, carefully leaving words out of lines and changing his vocal inflection so he half-sings some lines. It’s really, really interesting, but certainly not conventional. Lyrically it’s something similar – adventurous but genius. He compares his dominance of the genre to a master over a slave: “Pharoahe, I'm no slave to a rhythm I whip it/Then I take its name and change its religion/Then I chop the foot off the fucking beat/for trying to escape the track, now it's obsolete.”
After a short interlude called Drop Bombs, (“Organized drop bombs!/Guerilla warfare like Vietnam!”) the duo launches into a Bring it On, which in my opinion contains some of the best rapping I have EVER heard. I guess you think that doesn’t say much, but let me reaffirm that this is NOTHING like any rapping you have ever heard before; not from 50 Cent, Eminem, 2pac, ANYONE. Even if Prince Poetry’s verse, second in the running order, was all there was, this would be a classic. (“Fe-fi foe steps up elevations show/That I’m ahead of your time specifically right behind a dope rhyme/Rippin shit up at prime time I’m Optimus Prime time material/Imperial wizard of vocabularic havoc I eat MC’s like cereal”) But Pharoahe Monch’s opening verse is the most stunningly virtuosic display of vocal skills I have ever heard. It would be futile to spend a lot of time describing it, so I’ll give you the basics. Chopped up rapping, slowed down voice so it sounds like a 12-inch vinyl running at 16rpm, fitting as many words into a line as possible and STILL making it flow smoothly, deliberately stuttering in his lines… Okay, I realize these may sound like gimmicks, but the sheer skill, practice and vocal training required in order to create this verse must have been gargantuan, not to mention the immense creativity required in order to think of this in the first place. If there’s one thing I ask from this article it’s this – listen to this song. It’s on YouTube. I don’t care if you don’t like rap – just listen to this song, even just the opening verse, and discover what can be done with the human voice. (That includes you Steven!)
Why contains some gorgeous saxophone and jazzy drums; one of the few tracks to focus more on the production than on the rapping. Let’s Organize is a bit more of a party type track, with a catchy chorus by guest Q-Tip. Of the last few tracks, the most notable is definitely Stray Bullet. As the title implies, this song describes the path (and destructive consequences) of a stray bullet. A really interesting idea for a song and very well executed. I’ve gone on a lot about Pharoahe Monch a lot, but I must say that Prince Poetry is an excellent rapper too. I feel a bit sorry for him, because in any other group he would be the best rapper there, hands down. Pharoahe Monch’s otherworldly skill normally outshines him, but on Stray Bullet it’s the Prince who dominates. “Here comes Mr. Stray Bullet/Five, the tip, getting my jollies from the screams of the ripped/In your chest, then I flip/Nip your liver, blood flowing like a river”
I said at the beginning of this article that I didn’t know why the group wasn’t more well known. Well, that was a bit of a lie. I have some idea. They’re just too good. People generally don’t want anything that will challenge them; that’s why predictable romantic comedies are the tent-poles of the film industry, that’s why dreary, wishy-washy books sell millions of copies and it’s why groups like Organized Konfusion aren’t well known. They’re different; they’re difficult to adjust to, and I believe most people would just dismiss this album as soon as they hear it because it sounds nothing like their hero Dr. Dre. I appreciate that. Organized Konfusion aren’t easy to listen to. The styles of the rappers are bizarre, endlessly creative and incredibly unique – but nothing like you’ve ever heard before. I didn’t like this album the first time I heard it. Give it time though, and you’ll discover that Pharoahe Monch and Prince Poetry are the undisputed royalty of rapping. After all, they’re not called Pharaoh and Prince for nothing.
Words - Adam