’all know the name. Except, all things considered, with the exception of those of us who listen to our hip-hop whilst stroking our chins, the mention of the name “Prince Po” would lead to a puzzled look, or maybe some sort of Prince Paul/Teletubby based witticism. Whilst his old Organized Konfusion mucker Pharoahe Monch took the Godzilla-sampling based route onto hip-hop’s A-list and movie soundtracks the decade over, The Po is very much seen as the Marty Janetty of the relationship. A nice concern. And where do they end up nowadays? Why, Lex Records of course.
Lex Records are probably the premier label in 2004 for the hip-hop that would have found a place on Rawkus circa 1999, and they have a definite formula. The problem is that this seam has been mined so many times now that The Slickness can come across as paint-by-numbers on occasions. So the packaging is both inventive and immaculate (a faux picture frame effect complete with pull-out tabs and slots to turn it into an actual stand), the ethos is very much “’93 til infinity (or at least 2006)”, and there’s guest vocal spots from the usual character actors (MF Doom, J-Zone). Indeed, even if they weren’t featured here, separately, on four tracks (nearly a third of the album), comparisons to last year’s DM and Jemini tour de force Ghetto Pop Life would be inevitable. Both albums were from 90s golden boys with a point to make, and both of the albums sound like they’re from 90s golden boys with a point to make. Except whereas Jemini’s point was sharp enough to cut fast, Po simply appears to be making music because he can, or at least because other people let him.
As an album, and as both an MC and producer, this is easily above competent, but surely any album that revels in a cry of “This is for my beer drinkers / Fuck Cris” should have been content to convince me that those involved in its making imbibed something harder than herbal tea during its production. For instance, “Social Distortion” actually features 9/11 “discussion”, before MF Doom turns up and starts talking about that tiger that attacked Siegfried, and straight-talking King of the Hill hero Boomhauer. Similarly criminal is the opener “Hello”, where Mr Poetry uses the names of popular guitar based beat combos in his lyric (U2, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Sabbath and, bizarrely, Jane’s Addiction), with all the confidence and seeming knowledge of a parent accompanying their 13 year old son to a V festival.
As it’s his first solo album in a fourteen-year musical career, it’s clear that PP isn’t totally confident on his own. It’s not the drowning of the album in guest spots, because the album doesn’t. Po gets buoyed when someone else comes along to pick the slack up. For instance, J-Zone delivers beats and rhymes on “Meet Me At The Bar”, and turns the track into his own, giving us the usual J-Zone ign’ant hilarity (this time he’s pissing over a women he’s just met). Po responds in type, and you get the album’s high point. Strangely enough, a collab and remix with vaguely sinister bedroom pop maestro Richard X falls flat, Po isn’t pop enough to make it work, and X definitely isn’t hip-hop enough to lead to a positive outcome.
Despite all of the faults though, The Slickness is a good album. Definitely more than the some of its irregular parts, the album has its own pulse, and Po has obviously put something of himself into it. You just can’t help but wonder what it’d be like if he put everything of himself into it. Ain’t a damn thing changed…