Prince Po :: The Slickness :: Lex Records
as reviewed by William Ketchum III

MC's who start out as members in a group have different results when they branch away to make solo projects. Mobb Deep's Prodigy managed to release a quality album with "H.N.I.C.," and went back to making "murda muzik" with Mobb Deep. Black Star's Mos Def and Talib Kweli have made names for themselves individually while keeping limited involvement in each others' projects, while Fugees members Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean used their group affiliations to launch lucrative solo careers. Outkast's Big Boi and Andre 3000 broke the mold, releasing their solo projects in one package. In all of these instances, the artist was either able to create their own celebrity outside the group, or capitalize off their group's trademark sounds to satisfy fans.

Other artists aren't as successful. The Fugees' third member, Pras, has failed to make many waves since the group disbanded. Q-Tip has had limited solo success, but his fans still know him from his work with A Tribe Called Quest. As talented as Rah Digga is, she's still looked at as a Busta Rhymes protégé. These artists haven't been able to escape the shadows of their respective groups, either lacking the charisma of their fellow group members or their solo material not living up to their group work.

Prince Po is known for his work with Organized Konfusion. The Queens-bred duo of Pharaohe Monch and Prince Poetry (Po's former name) released three albums between 1991 and 1997, their self-titled debut in '91 widely regarded as one of the 50 best rap albums of all time. Pharaohe Monch's incredible full-length debut, "Internal Affairs," has heightened the expectations for Prince Po's solo album, "The Slickness." Will Po be a Wyclef Jean or a Pras? From the opening bars on "Hello," Po seems set on making a name for himself. Over bass and chopped violins courtesy of producer Jel, Po shows that Pharaohe wasn't the only Organized Konfusion member that has skills behind the mic:

"Flows never synthetic, words ultra-magnetic
To challenge this track master, consult your paramedic
Or get murdered! Inserted like hypodermic needles
+Grind+ like Pharrel and the Clipse, flow like the Beatles
Po jus spits mean, machine gun 16's
My true hip-hop fiends, I rep Southside Queens"

While displaying one's own skills is necessary, another way of swaying listeners' minds away from group affiliation is hiring the big guns to supply the beats, and "The Slickness" plays extremely well, boasting a who's who list of underground producers for every other track. Madlib's trunk-rattling "Too Much" perfectly fits Po's raspy baritone, and brings back his dark, intense trademark production on the title track. Danger Mouse (most known for his controversial The Grey Album project, which combined Jay-Z's lyrics from The Black Album and instrumentals from The Beatles' White Album) employs triumphant horns to create an incredibly funky beat for Po, Jemini and Cairo with "Fall Back," and gives Po a light, dreamy backdrop to talk about his "Love Thang." J-Zone contributes his trademark scratching to "It's Goin' Down," and Richard X supplies dirty electronic bounce for "Hold Dat," the album's first single. Po does a considerable job of establishing a name for himself behind the boards as well, showing listeners that he's a "Grown Ass Man" with simplistic, punchy piano keys, and creating a steady boom-bap to tell us to "Be Easy."

The collaborations on this disc are also on all cylinders, each of them complimenting Po instead of outshining him. He trades verses with Raekwon over another thumping Madlib track on "Bump Bump," and gets drunk with J-Zone and J-Ro on "Meet Me At the Bar." Po teams up with MF Doom for one of the album's shining moments, "Social Distortion." Peep the disarray that the two MC's paint to Danger Mouse's engaging futuristic humdrum:

Prince Po: "Survive wit the movement
madness, domestic abusing
extortion, +Organized Konfusion+
teenage abortion, tossed and forced to prostitution
9-11 distorted to large proportions
we was one unit
now we back to bein' monkeys in mosh pits
drama and mayhem, soon as the dark hits..."

MF Doom: "Done said? Terror alert high
Dress code, one in stress mode in shirt and tie
A certain guy told her ignore the mass
A flirt and a skirt will make ya beg for the ass
Baby got back, maybe got black in a stranger house
Danger Mouse gave him hot tracks..."

Most of the 13 tracks on "The Slickness" are sick, with the worst ones only bordering average. An Organized Konfusion reunion track with Pharaohe would've been welcome, but this reviewer has no complaints. While Prince Po does a considerable job of establishing a name for himself, "The Slickness" is just a good album across the board.

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: June 15, 2004