Organized Konfusion’s poetic lamentations

Organized Konfusion’s poetic lamentations

“The Equinox”, a powerful boom bap with aggressive fury

Priority / EMI, 1997

“The misunderstood lyrical complexity of an underground band that became legendary”

Organized Konfusion never managed to break into the mainstream scene. Yet, the two lyricists from Queens received critical acclaim for their first two albums, 1991’s Organized Konfusion and 1994’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda. They are probably the most respected group on the Hip Hop scene that have remained stuck in the underground.

The explanations can be numerous. Known for their subtle and complex rhymes full of spirituality, the duo is just maybe too complex to enter the mainstream scene. As we know, too much complexity can kill complexity. It’s clear that Organized Konfusion is overflowing with lyrical ingenuity, arguably the most skilled duo in this field, but this ingenuity can eventually make them misunderstood by an uninformed audience. After all, we don’t always want to get caught up in twelfth degree references that complicate the general understanding. As a result, Organized Konfusion undeniably reduces its audience and forgets about a public looking for more sensations and entertainment. 

Of course, the duo offers a form of entertainment and generates its share of sensations, but reserved for a more erudite public. The lyrical genius, and we can definitely call it genius, is unprecedented, Prince Po and Pharo are some of the sharpest lyricists in the Hip Hop scene, competing with their fellow Freestyle Fellowship on the West Coast. They have impressed lyricism-seeking listeners and the Hip Hop scene with their dexterity and creativity with words. Their first album was full of spirituality and reflections on funk tunes. Stress, on the other hand, took the audience into darker sounds and more nihilistic themes. With these two albums, Organized Konfusion managed to enter the legend of underground Hip Hop groups.


“A conceptual album thought as a movie with an elaborated scenario”

Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po came back with a third try in 1997 with The Equinox. An album that will be different from the first two but still focused on the art of poetry. The Equinox is a conceptual album and is thought as a movie with an elaborated scenario. We enter in the skin of Malice and Life, two young teenagers from Queens. The two lyricists will tell us the dramas of urban life. An approach that may seem simple at first, but this is without counting the creativity of the two artists.

In this scenario, Pharo and Prince Po will both lament staying in the underground, while demonstrating their lyrical superiority over their competitors in search of success. Question is a good example, they question each other with a question and answer game about the mysteries of the group’s lack of success in the music industry. On tracks like Soudman and Somehow, Someway, the two rappers exchange multi-syllabic rhymes that have everything to dazzle the audience while bragging about their respective talents and declaring war on lyricists who can’t compete with their ingenuity. Numbers, on the other hand, is an apology for arithmetic. On Confrontations, the duo attacks more directly their rivals whom they consider as corrupted in a metaphorical battle.

The cover of the album is strangely reminiscent of LL Cool J’s Phenomenon, released less than one month later. The album was released after The Equinox, but the cover of LL’s album may have been unveiled beforehand. I don’t know if a parallel can be made, but LL Cool J fits perfectly the description of the rappers attacked by Pharo and Prince Po, especially since LL gets closer to Puff Daddy and Bad Boy for this album with some more commercial oriented R&B tracks. Knowing the subtlety of the duo, one could think of a disguised attack. It is of course a simple theory, the will of Organized Konfusion was perhaps quite different.

Invetro is one of the highlights of the album with Prince Po and Pharo who respectively make the thesis and the antithesis of birth and life in a contemptuous world where they think that knowledge must prevail. They put themselves in the shoes of two unborn embryos, one of which wants a chance to live while the other does not want to know this world. The construction is ingenious and reminds strangely Stray Bullet with this personification.

Pharoahe Monch, Invetro

Two Weeks before my old man busted up in her
My moms never walked slow
Now she smoke crack, sit back, and listen to talk shows
I hope she don’t eat pork fried rice tonight
See, the cholesterol already got my arteries tight
I might select even before she injects her lethal chemicals
To wrap the umbilical cords around my neck
Shit, I’m pissin’ in the abdomen
Two and a half weeks old, already thoughts of stabbin’ men
Unravelin’ plots and plans for thievin’ and shit
Immune to the gospel, not believin’ in shit
Where the fuck do I go from here
Cuz when the afterbirth disperse it’s hard to persevere
I swear I can’t fuck with it
She hits about two packs of cigarettes a day and I’m stuck with it
The asthmatic, internally scarred from crack addicts
Who share needles outside in the rain on Craftmatics

Prince Po, Invetro

Two Weeks before my old man busted up in her
My moms never walked slow
Now she smoke crack, sit back, and listen to talk shows
I hope she don’t eat pork fried rice tonight
See, the cholesterol already got my arteries tight
I might select even before she injects her lethal chemicals
To wrap the umbilical cords around my neck
Shit, I’m pissin’ in the abdomen
Two and a half weeks old, already thoughts of stabbin’ men
Unravelin’ plots and plans for thievin’ and shit
Immune to the gospel, not believin’ in shit
Where the fuck do I go from here
Cuz when the afterbirth disperse it’s hard to persevere
I swear I can’t fuck with it
She hits about two packs of cigarettes a day and I’m stuck with it

“Theatrical aggression tinged with fury and disappointment”

The narration of the album is prodigious, the rhymes are exceptional, the alchemy between the two always works wonderfully. Yet, both artists get lost in the concept of the album. As well executed as it is, it comes out a demonstration of the lyrical talents of the two prodigies where they lament to be misunderstood. There seems to remain a bitter taste with a form of disappointment, even anger, regarding the commercial failure of the group. Tracks like They Don’t Want It or 9x out of 10 are aggressive in the flow of the rappers. The interpretation is excellent and makes fully feel this fury, but they also complain about being rejected by the music industry. Where their first album was more joyful in the rhythms, The Equinox seems more angry and aggressive.

9x Out Of 10, Organized Konfusion

Nine times out of ten, a nigga wanna shine
But nobody shines brighter than the light Organized
Extra-tight, one hundred percent, drama full armor
The persona is to “Crush Kill Destroy” the bad karma that
Hums superb, lyrics emerge from the slums
Of the latest gun drug runs, fun feds and dum-dums
Priority and confidential
Organized mission is ripping any instrumental, believe that

This aggressiveness is also felt in the rhythms of the album, especially on the tracks produced by Organized Konfusion like They Don’t Want It, 9x or of 10 or Hate. Contrary to their previous albums, the duo leaves the production even more, to delegate it to recognized producers, notably the beatmakers of DITC like Buckwild, Diamond D or Showbiz. Rockwilder also offers the last track of the album, Somehow, Someway, before closing with the epilogue. This tendency to put big names on the production may be part of a quest for success, or simply to focus on the lyrical aspect of the album. Unfortunately, this is not what will get them visibility. Either way, the production fits the theme of the album perfectly with typical 90’s boom bap rhythms. The strings and the horns offer an atmosphere at the same time heavy and empty, with sometimes an angry aggressiveness and sometimes a solemn calm. There is no musical revolution but the beats remain particularly effective and well realized. 


“Poetry in the service of poetry”

They put us in full sight, we have everything to be dazzled by their theatrical prowess and their skills in the art of poetry. However, this poetry is at the service of poetry and not at the service of a deeper and spiritual reflection as they have done in the past. The reflections of the duo are of course interesting despite everything, since the lack of success of the group can finally hide societal problems, even spiritual, more profound on the world that surrounds us, and more particularly on Hip Hop. From this point of view, we can say that it is successful. But it comes out lyrical prowess for lyrical prowess, which can become very boring on the length. The album remains of very high quality on all the aspects and the fury released in the interpretation gives consistency to the album. From a writing point of view, it remains obviously in the master pieces of underground Hip Hop.

Following Equinox, the group will separate. The reason of this separation is certainly linked to the lack of commercial success of the group. Prince Po will later state in an interview that one of the reasons for the split was to preserve the name Organized Konfusion as an underground legend, as the release of other albums could have tainted this reputation. The second reason seems to be related to Prince Po’s role in the duo, having stated that he was handling all the business aspects with the record companies, in addition to the artistic part shared with Pharoahe Monch. This time spent on the business part seemed to prevent him from fully investing himself in the musical part. Even if some tensions seem to be palpable, there is a priori no resentment between the two members of the duo. Following the separation, Pharo will sign on Rawkus for a first solo album in 1999, Internal Affairs. On his side, Prince Po founded his own label, Nasty Habits Entertainment, before going solo with a more mitigated success.


The Equinox is not the best album of the group, but we can salute the quality of the rhymes and the puns of the duo with a powerful interpretation. This album will mark the end of one of the most respected duo on the underground Hip Hop scene. A group that has definitely become a legend thanks to their unprecedented lyrical talent and creativity. The three albums of the duo speak for themselves.

By Grégoire Zasa


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