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04'06 INTERVIEW
Mountains Interview
Mountaigns

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Nightmares On Wax

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04'06 FEATURES
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PRINCE PO
The Slickness

LEX025CD
Lex Records 2004
12 Tracks. 46mins04secs

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Mainstream hip-hop continues to operate in thrall to the notion that the ‘realer’ you are the better; more specifically, the idea that no matter how many pounds of gold you decorate yourself with, how many idealized visions of femininity you have hanging off your arm in your video clip, and regardless of how unabashedly FM Radio friendly your celebrity knob tweaker has made your track, you must always be ready to declare your debt to the ‘underground’, even though you’ve long since risen to more commercial climes. Very few MCs can justify this hyperbole through their choice of collaborators (not to discount super producers such as Timbaland who have made a virtue of assimilating avant-garde techniques into chart-scaling rap/R&B bangers). A micro-hegemony exists in the populist hip-hop game: if you don’t have the latest ubiquitous name behind the boards – the aforementioned Timbaland, Pharrel Williams, Kanye West – you ain’t gonna blow up. Props to Lex, then, for taking Prince Po, a rapper with undoubted unit-shifting clout through his work as Organized Konfusion with Pharoah Monch, and teaming him up with a genuinely diverse list of beatmakers from both sides of the spectrum. You’ll find very few projects in which overground names du jour such as Richard X will rub shoulders quite so closely with the more esoteric likes of Jel (who provides the often horror-evoking template for Dose One’s frantic muse in Themselves). Yet these disparate names – add Madlib, Danger Mouse and J-Zone for an impressively rounded list – are united on The Slickness in the quest to provide the ultimate minimal shuffle-and-bump blueprint for Po’s gruff yet lucid flow. The Richard X-produced Hold Dat is probably the highlight, with the ever-inventive chameleon of the mixing desk turning out a sparse, brooding two note synth riff that fizzes with static as Po spits on top in tandem with guests Jemini and Rell. The opening, Jel-produced Hello is another obvious killer, Po name checking Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles and The Clipse amongst others over a high hat-heavy loop with noisy overdubs that recall a slightly muted El-P. Madlib’s contributions are the usual raggedly inspired modal jazz lifts, while the Danger Mouse tracks reflect the timbre of his feted Grey Album, particularly as Po’s wordplay – ‘Hip Hop is under construction/Prince Po’s the foreman ’ – is comparable to Jay Z on the psychedelic funk stew of wah-wah guitar and female vocals that is Love Thang.
Lex will probably be sniped at by purists for dropping such a pointedly commercial release – The Slickness is an apt title, and the ultimate lack of variety in tempo and texture wears one down eventually. But through this project the label has reinvigorated one of the principle players of raw pre-millennial US hip-hop, whilst providing an interesting new challenge for the contemporary cats involved and thus forgoing notions of ‘underground’ and ‘overground’, instead inhabiting territory all of it own.

John Stevens

3.9/5

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TRACKLIST

Hello
Too Much
Love Thang
Hold Dat
It's Goin' Down
Social Distortion
The Slickness
Grown Ass Man
Bump Bump
Meet Me At Tha Bar
Fall Back
Be Easy

PRINCE PO Discography

THE SURFER'S GUIDE TO PRINCE PO
Lex Records

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