Prince Po (short for Prince Poetry) once made up one half of the legendary hip-hop duo Organized Konfusion. In the years since the bottom fell out of that particular partnership, Po has been quiet. His former running mate Pharoah Monhe, however, struck gold in the underground. Can Po’s first fresh effort in a long time match Monche’s credibility?
Slickness, as you soon find out, is the key word here. Po now runs with the Lex crew, who are noted for their innovative musical stance (imagine a more leftfield, less popular version of N.E.R.D.). It would seem that they have roped in the favours for this one, and The Slickness can subsequently boast some world class production from the likes of Richard X and the increasingly influential DJ Danger Mouse (the creator of the controversial Grey Album and that guy you’re starting to see in a mouse suit on all the ‘Most Important People In Music’ lists).
It is with no surprise, perhaps, that the two Danger Mouse-produced tracks are The Slickness’ main selling points: Social Distortion, also featuring MF Doom, is dirty-yet-minimal mash up of stop-start drumming and light instrumentals over which Po lays his signature monotone, spitfire rhymes, whilst Love Thang is simply screaming to be a single, being a lush, Malibu-tinged wah groove combined with velvet vocals that could soundtrack a thousand lazy summer nights. As it turns out, Hold Dat is to be the album’s first single. As with Kelis, it could well be the case that Richard X has another surprise hit on his hands. As the bounciest, most electronic track on offer here, it wouldn’t actually be that much of a surprise…
Po’s delivery in general is relentless, much like Busta Rhymes with only a fraction of the overt aggression. His baritone barrage is backed throughout by immersingly rich production, a fact that seems to hark back to his ’90s reign at the top rather than the current trend of wafer-thin instrumentation and stunted riffage. Finding Po’s vocals just a little to fast to comprehend entirely? No problem, just lay back and enjoy the layers upon layers of audible fancies. As with cake, however, it is best to savour every level.
Speaking of vocal and lyrical content, Po is very much a product of the ’90s, and pulls no punches in regards to frank references to firearms and representing a certain hood. There’s no 50 Cent-esque sugar-coating on show, with album opener Hello serving as a state of affairs address: “Grind like Pharrell and the Clipse, flow like the Beatles”, he raps, “Po just spits mean, machine gun 16’s / My true hip-hop fiends, I rep Southside Queens”. Far from getting lost in instrospection, however, Po also finds the time to spew his stylings on the bigger picture: “9-11 distorted to large proportions, we was one unit. / Now we back to being monkeys in mosh pits / Drama and mayhem, soon as the dark hits”. There is absolutely no doubt that Po is an insightful fella.
The collaborations on The Slickness are far less gimmicky than collaborations have been in the recent past, and serve to compliment both Po and his co-conspirators, be it Raekwon, Stone or J-Ro and J-Zone. Contributions bounce back and forth comfortably, giving the distinct impression of a relaxed working atmosphere. Like every other aspect of the album, nothing is conceited. Not overtly so, anyway.
Whilst The Slickness may not pack the commercial punch of a Pharoah Monche record, it does come very close. The self-produced tracks Grown Ass Man and Be Easy sound particularly accomplished, so it may be the case that we have another College Dropout on our hands. If not in a chart sense, then certainly stylistically. Po has taken his time getting back in the driver’s seat, but now that he’s here there could be no stopping him.