In these most unstable times it seems only three things are certain: death, taxes and hardcore Rap from Army of the Pharaohs.
Reliability is lost when artists preoccupy themselves with reinvention. For the most part, moviegoers flock to a James Cameron film because they expect more of what he’s already delivered; readers know what they’re getting with the latest James Patterson novel, just like Hip Hop connoisseurs rely on acts like Gang Starr or GZA for durable music that doesn’t deviate from the blueprint that was sketched years earlier.
AOTP find themselves in this Old Reliable category. Led by Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vinnie Paz, the Pharaoh Clique’s latest offering, The Unholy Terror, is more of that boom-bap brutality you received from The Torture Papers and Ritual of Battle. AOTP employ a successful formula – rock-solid beats + aggressive rhymes – without sounding formulaic. Not many super groups in any genre of music can claim that.
If you love end-to-end battle rap where the emcees and producers refuse to allow their proverbial enemies a chance to breathe, then The Unholy Terror is your prize. It boasts 16 combative tracks featuring a rogue’s gallery of microphone fiends (Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Outerspace, Esoteric, Reef the Lost Cauze, Celph Titled, Jus Allah, King Magnetic, King Syze, Doap Nixon, Demoz, Des Devious, Journalist, Block McCloud) who rhyme with a certain passion that seems to be missing in modern-era Rap. Vinnie encapsulates it on “Dead Shall Rise”: I don’t call it writin’ no more, I call it a pen virus.
The aptly-titled “Ripped to Shreds,” which features a breath-defying verse courtesy of Demoz, and “Drenched in Blood,” with producer MTK’s slick old-school drums, definitely are rewind-worthy efforts. But Terror’s true strength comes on tracks like the tyrannical “Spaz Out” (Thank you, Esoteric) and “Suicide Girl,” boasting clutch, insightful verses from Apathy, Planetary and Doap Nixon.
There are two minor elements of The Unholy Terror that might cloud the listener’s experience: redundancy and saturation. Since nearly every song focuses on a sort of Hip Hop jihad, the tracks tend to be indistinguishable from each other. And since each track features no less than three emcees, you can make the case for too many cooks spoiling the soup.
AOTP followers, and fans of the individual acts which comprise the group, will revel in this latest aural outburst. There’s something to be said for reliability and respect in Rap. The Pharaohs have the floor.