(Today's Reader Review finds Matty D. listening to Organized Konfusion's second album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, which is a project that many of you two have been waiting to see written up for quite some time. Be sure to leave some notes for Matty D. below.)
1994 was a huge year for hip hop. A lot of people would even call it the best year of all time as far as hip hop goes. (Which it probably is). There were a ton of strong albums released in '94, including Nas' Illmatic, The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, O.C.'s Word... Life, Gang Starr's Hard to Earn, Jeru the Damaja's The Sun Rises in the East, Method Man's Tical, and Scientifik's Criminal, just to name a few. I think you'll agree that 1994 was a pretty damn strong year, to say the least. Which brings me to my review today of Organized Konfusion's Stress: The Extinction Agenda.
Organized Konfusion is a duo made up of rappers Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po, who both specialize in conscious rap (with violent undertones), as opposed to the materialistic shit that was taking up space on radio airwaves. You are probably more familiar with Pharoahe Monch's work, thanks to his success as a solo artist (by which I'm referring to his solo debut Internal Affairs, which you can't find for less than what seems like a small fortune these days) and his many cameo appearances. Both Prince Po and Pharoahe hail from Queens, which has nothing to do with this review: I just thought you should know that.
Anyway, Stress: The Extinction Agenda was the follow-up to their self-titled debut. It was met with critical acclaim but didn't sell many copies, which we all know doesn't mean a damn thing in terms of quality. Stress: The Extinction Agenda is a mainly in-house affair, with O.K. handling the majority of the work themselves; however, Buckwild lends a hand to a few tracks, Rockwilder works the boards for a single song, and rappers O.C. and A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip make a couple of cameos.
Enough with this introduction shit; you know enough about Organized Konfusion to continue reading, so let's just get into it.
Not a complete waste of space, but there's still nothing to see here. Moving along...
Once Buckwild's dark beat hits, you are instantly taken back to 1994, which by all measures was a much better time in hip hop. The chorus, "Crush, Kill, Destroy, Stress!" plays on a loop at the beginning, building up to Prince Po's first verse, on which he rips the ominous instrumental to shreds with a grimy verse that kicks off with him screaming a single word: “Pain”. Pharoahe's verse is also really damn good, as he asks a bunch of rhetorical questions, including, “Why must you believe something is phat just because its played on the radio twenty times per day?" (which is something I ask myself every fucking day, as do most of you two). Yeah, the term “phat” dates this song a bit, but it was still a great way to kick this album off.
3. THE EXTINCTION AGENDA
The beat may not be as dark as on “Stress”, but it was still very enjoyable. Prince Po starts it off with a solid first verse, but Monch provides the standout performance with his truly original-sounding flow. His unique style blends with this beat incredibly well, especially when he goes off on his chess tangent in the middle of his damn verse. I never cared much for the hook on this song, though. Oh well. Still, back to back good tracks to start off the album; I think I like where this is going. (For hip hop's sake, I wish it was 1994 again.)
Buckwild checks in with another grimy beat for what is Pharoahe Monch's solo track (although Prince Po does pop up at the very end to answer Monch's question). This is another great showcase for Monch's unique flow, which is guaranteed to work for you unless you find Pharoahe Monch boring, which isn't possible if you actually like good hip hop music, but you never know.
5. BLACK SUNDAY
I'm about ninety percent sure that “Black Sunday” uses the same sample as on the Gravediggaz track “Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide” and A Tribe Called Quest's “Push It Along”. (He's right: all three songs utilize “Jagged The Dagger” by Eugene McDaniels.) Regardless, it sounds good, and Pharoahe's opening verse is strong: he talks about watching his grandmother in church and how he barely makes enough at his department store job to afford cheap sneakers, but then has an epiphany and decides to write rhymes to make extra money. I guess his decision was a good one, as his verses on Stress: The Extinction Agenda are damn good. This song wasn't all that great, but it's decent enough, and it does successfully describe Organized Konfusion's journey into the hip hop world.
6. DROP BOMBS
I never really understood this track, as it seems completely unnecessary: I suppose that Organized Konfusion are dropping bombs on the hip hop world and want some space to call their own?
7. BRING IT ON
The chorus is pretty straightforward, I have to say. The beat on here isn't bad, but it isn't that great, either. “Bring It On” is a step down from the previous tracks (not including “Drop Bombs”, of course): Pharoahe and Prince Po sound like seemingly average rappers on here, and the chorus grows annoying rather easily.
The instrumental on here screams “1994”, which, for me, is never a bad thing. Pharoahe spits a nice verse in his typical Pharoahe fashion, while Prince Po follows with a solid performance. The storytelling on this track is pretty good, and the chorus is even worked into the track in a decent manner. No complaints here.
9. LET'S ORGANIZE (FEAT. O.C. & Q-TIP)
This is the only song on the album with guest stars, and it is not a let down in any way. Q-Tip only appears on the hook, but O.C. gets the opportunity to turn out a few hot bars. The instrumental is funky and enjoyable as hell. Prince Po truly shines on this track, as he has his fingers in all three verses: his flow is on point and it meshes well with the music. I wish songs still sounded like this today, as this was damn good.
A pleasant enough track with a decent beat and a passable hook. The unique lyricism of both artists is on full display here.
11. KEEP IT KOMING
Yet another enjoyable beat that screams “1994”. The duo's intricate rhyming and lyrics are in full gear, with Pharoahe Monch stealing the show with his second verse. His style of intricate rhymes essentially forced together flow perfectly on this track. The hook was a bit wordy, but not so much that it became a problem.
12. STRAY BULLET
The most unique song on this project is performed from the point of view of a stray bullet shot from a gun. Monch's verse is crazy with the attention to detail, relating the incredible story of a bullet from the moment it is fired until it reaches its final destination. Prince Po follows with a different story from a different stray bullet, doing just as well as his partner did. This song was really fucking good and it makes you think: I don't think I could ask for more from a track. I'm pretty sure the instrumental on here (or sample) was also used by 2Pac at one point, but that shouldn't discourage anybody from listening to it.
Organized Konfusion end Stress: The Extinction Agenda with a Buckwild-produced instrumental that is quite simple, but still pretty good. This song isn't anything great, but it is a solid effort from our hosts, who help make this a good way to cap off the album.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Organized Konfusion's Stress: The Extinction Agenda is one hell of an album. The intricate rhyming style and complex lyrics from both Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch truly deserve to be heard by all hip hop heads. There are virtually no misses on this album: most of the tracks are really good, and a handful of them even rank among the greats. I realize that I'm preaching to the choir with this write-up, but I still feel that people are sleeping on Stress: The Extinction Agenda, possibly because it was released in the midst of one of the greatest times in hip hop history. I can understand how it could have gotten lost in the mix, but it is inexcusable for you to not be familiar with this album today.
BUY OR BURN?: What do you think? This is a BUY all the way. This is, in every aspect, a classic album; you can put this on and listen to it straight through with absolutely no problems. Organized Konfusion's unique style deserves your money. You should actually buy five copies of this shit.
BEST TRACKS: "Stray Bullet"; "The Extinction Agenda"; "Stress"; "Let's Organize"; "Thirteen"
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)