"When you make it a point to bring light into manifestation, you are metwith an opposite force of darkness," hypothesizes Pharaoh Monch, one halfof the severely under appreciated hip-hop group Organized Konfusion. "Let’s say I attest that there is a truth and the truth is…’If you put yourhand to the fire you will get burned.’ If someone stands to gainfinancially or whatever from people getting burned, they will make it apoint to lie and be like…’That’s not necessarily true because if you wearthis glove, you won’t get burned,’" Monch explains. Light versus dark,truth versus lies, positive versus negative- all opposite, but not alwaysequal, forces working in everyday life. When your life is hip-hop, whichforce is pushing harder? Where is your balance?
Pharaoh Monch and his lyrical comrade, Prince Poetry, are a couple ofhardheaded muthafuckas. Neither of them can boast of having a single"murder/death/kill" notch on their glocks, the death toll remains at zerofor now. Shit, last I heard, they aren’t even prone to flashin’ steel muchless bustin’ it. They also have very few "bitches" making their way throughthe revolving door of a posh hotel and up to their penthouse. Not enoughhoes are getting served…you gotta wonder why. Maybe it’s because they haveyet to pop the cork on a bottle of Cristal. Then, if they aren’t burning anacres worth of herb a day - forget about it. What are they…blind? Didsomeone forget to hip them to the formula for becoming a (in)famous hip-hop"artist?" Bitches + Blunts + Bustin’ Steel = Beaucoup Bucks. Are theytrying NOT to make some ends? Perhaps shit doesn’t go down like that forthem. You gotta wonder.
Since their eponymous debut in 1991, Organized Konfusion has been aboutelevating heads to higher echelons of emcee technique. As hip-hop was onthe verge of being swept away on billows of blunt smoke, heralding the dawnof "The Chronic" era, Organized were on some straight cerebralmanipulation of a different fashion. They extended the mind-fuck on 1994’svirtually ignored Stress - the extinction agenda (Hollywood BASIC). Imaginethis…academically enhanced, urban intelligentsia stilos executed overbutter smooth production, leaving the average listener cramming tounderstand and the active listener - awestruck. On both previous albums,folks were hit with some old next shit.
Emerging from a three year hiatus, the group has just dropped theircinematic opus, The Equinox (Priority). Using several skits interspersedthroughout the fourteen musical tracks, The Equinox tells the story ofLife and Malice, two friends careening towards adulthood, faced with everyexternal and internal obstacle imaginable. Life and Malice are two sides ofthe same coin, good and bad, pleasure and pain, hope and despair,understanding and confusion. In short, and as the title of the albumimplies, they represent balance. The songs on the album also reflect thatbalance. From the battle rhymes of "Questions" and "Confrontations,"heading towards the party mode of "Move" and "Sugah Shorty," and settlingin the troubled introspection of "Invetro" and "Hate," each song presentsdifferent facets of Life and Malice’s coexistence, illuminating every highand low that can be associated with trying to survive in this world. Thewhole story is narrated by a much older Life who comments on his pastactions with the kind of wisdom that can only be attributed to experience.The Equinox is yet another ambitious effort by a group that is known forgoing against the grain. In this age of "guns, money greed, and sex"rhymes, Organized Konfusion’s decision to stay true to form reads like adeath sentence.
"I like a lot of rappers today but 9 out of 10 of them are based off ofwitty metaphors," muses the forthcoming Prince Poetry. "’I’m this andyou’re that. I’m like a Benz and you’re like a Volkswagen buggy.’Everything is sounding stagnant." Yeah, things are sounding rather(e)motionless right now. And whether it’s nihilistic tales of gangsterismor play by play accounts of Cristal soaked parties, the vantage point israrely one actually familiar to the emcee much less his/her audience. Thesedays, most emcees put no heart in their rhymes. Consequently, hip-hop’sheart has slowed, approaching a life threatening state of inertia."People, to me, make ‘dream’ albums," continues Prince Po, his gruffbaritone voice exhibiting equal amounts of disgust and worry for thepresent state of hip-hop. "You can’t hustle everyday. You can’t hang outand party everyday. These things just don’t happen everyday. It seems likea lot of people be sellin’ themselves out for not diggin’ inside themselvesand pulling out more intellect. It just proves to me that you’re shallow."On the contrary, Monch and Po’s songs are often on some "Captain Nemo" typeformat - 20,000 leagues and under most people’s understanding of how lifeshould be portrayed on wax. We’re talking head crushing depths here."Great balls o’ fire/ I’m traveling at higher speeds to proceed topenetrate flesh/ Hitting the spleen after splitting the chest of a Queensteenager/ Pager shredded to pieces from the glock 9 inch hollow tips itreleases/ The police is in the back of the ambulance/ Blood loss as Ishook across your chest/ I rest, rupture/ I’m the slupture, slasher/ I’llbust your liver faster/ blood pours - now it’s up to the master…"-Prince Poetry, "Stray Bullet"
"The whole beauty of being a writer is to allow yourself 100% ability totouch upon infinite subject matter. To say to yourself, ‘If it could besaid…if a bullet or an unborn fetus could speak, what would it say,"explains the more reserved Pharaoh Monch, highlighting a classic rhymingm.o. for Organized Konfusion - the group’s tendency to give voice to thevoiceless, to speculate on the thoughts and feelings of persons or thingsthat don’t usually get to express themselves.
On The Equinox the group has recorded the amazing "Invetro," where Monchand Po assume the perspective of unborn twins, broadcasting live from theircrack mother’s womb. Over a Roy Ayers inspired track, Monch relays thevision of the twin who sees no chance for himself in an apocalyptic worldand would prefer to be aborted, while Po counters with the optimism of thetwin who would like to give life a shot, despite the adversity that hefaces in the womb and the trials that lie ahead. It’s all another part ofthe "balancing act" that is The Equinox. Quite frankly, the song is a thingof beauty, equally imparting utter hopelessness as well as the unfettereddetermination that it takes to get through this thing called life - evenmore profound when coming "from the mouths of babes." Thought provoking asit is, it’s no wonder that the song’s concept is one that has beenmarinating in the minds of Monch and Po for about two years."
Most of the time I second guess my statements. I try to be cautious," saysMonch, the silent intervals between his words conveying his analyticalnature. "Although it’s a conceptual song, I start to question….’Do I reallywant to say this? Am I saying that or is the character? How are peoplegonna take it?’ That matters to me." It’s THAT kind of respect, for theaudience and for the art, which distinguishes Organized Konfusion fromrun-of-the-mill emcees who will rap about anything that makes them money -fact or fiction. Sometimes it’s not all about the Benjamins."We’re making hybrids/ Created potent enough to open eyelids and leavepupils dilated…/ Now it’s easier/ Plus economically feasible for me toleave rap if it’s queasy and inebriated/ We made it/We came/ Dedicated - werated supreme/ Either with or without the cream. -Pharaoh Monch, "Questions"
With unadulterated talent and innovation acknowledged, the questionremains, "Why are Organized Konfusion still slept on?" Outside of the lovefrom their small but loyal fan base, Po and Monch are treated like they’repushing a demo. Been there - done that. Record labels still don’t know whatthe fuck to do with a group whose fans range, as Po puts it, from "b-boyswith mad jewels and diamonds" to "white kids with backpacks who rideskateboards and listen to rock music."
Prince Poetry tries to break down the record label hierarchy and how the"hard sell" gets lost in the shuffle: "There’s a big gap between thepresident and the vice president and their assistants and promoters. Thepresident and vice president generally don’t give a fuck until sales comein. But they don’t know that the person they hired to do your in-storedidn’t have your shit set up when you got there. All they know is that yourrecord is not selling and they’re ready to kick you off the label or shelfyou. They want music that will sell itself. Sex and violence sells itself.Basically, they’re on some genocide shit."
So maybe record execs are addicted to fat pockets and any money devoted topromoting "experimental" stuff could possibly mean they won’t get a thindime in return. Pharaoh Monch doesn’t see it that way. "If I was presidentand there was a song that was selling itself, I would give it a banister tolean on. But at the same time, to flip the company, I would redirect somefunds and try to make a million dollars out of the stuff that needed thesupport. If you work something like that into the program, you’re settingup a whole fuckin’ lifetime of sales for those types of groups."
As the story goes, Organized Konfusion’s record sales have not been theobject of envy. Most recently, their contract with Hollywood BASIC wasbought by the more diesel Priority Records - The Equinox is their firstPriority release. A sign of good things to come? More exposure maybe? Thatremains to be seen.
"I don’t know what Priority’s game plan was but it seemed to be ‘let’spick them up from a label that has bad distribution and make theirdistribution better.’ We’re still screwed ‘cause I walk into stores to thisday and my shit is not there," explains Prince. Not once though does eitheremcee delude himself about their "challenging" marketability. "By puttingout albums that are lyrically, emotionally, and musically versatile , Iunderstand from jump that it would be harder to market than someone justsaying ‘I’m all about fuckin’ the bitches and ice diamond rings!’"
"How did hip-hop get caught up in this ill rap game?" "In hip-hop, whothey following - the niggas with skills or the niggas who be hollerin’?"These are only two of the questions posed by Organized Konfusion on TheEquinox, but they are easily questions that every so-called emcee and everyso called hip-hop head should be asking themselves. There are a few groupslike Organized who are illuminating truth, trying to protect their peepsfrom getting burned by the "fire" that Monch talks about. Still, the powersthat be would have fools believe that true fulfillment comes in the questfor the almighty dollar. So we put on the gloves they give us, as well asthe matching jacket, skully, boots, and goggles, and we leap into theflames. We are so far removed from the days when hip-hop was about takingwhat little resources you had to lace folks with the illest rhyme, thedopest beat, the unbridled truth about life and how you live it. We nowsettle for silly rhymes, jacked beats, and fabricated lies…and all thistime, Prince Poetry and Pharaoh Monch have been diligently putting in workto insure that hip-hop remains original, artistic, and above all, honest.As Plug 1 would say, they’ve been "keepin’ it right." So while we race atbreakneck speeds to fork over dough for the next ghetto fable, one morequestion begs to be answered. Is Organized Konfusion hardheaded or are we?