Prince Po & Oh No - Animal Serum

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With "Animal Serum" Oh No & Prince Po offer a thematically aggressive project without being too one-dimensional.

In a few months, Hip Hop will begin officially celebrating the 20th anniversary of a handful of albums that helped characterize the ‘90s. In April, the web will almost certainly be flooded by Illmatic and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik features, and September might as well be Ready to Die month. By comparison, Organized Konfusion’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda, which was released in August of the same year, will probably fetch a little less consideration. Still, and noticeably as their sophomore release, Stress found both emcees at their very best and has rightfully endured as an underground classic.

The group rang in their milestone early last month with a performance of the album in Brooklyn, and Prince Po’s latest record fittingly carves out a spot for Pharoahe Monch as well. If only for the amount of music he’s released since OK’s last album, Monch has paved the more noticed path in the industry. But Prince Po, after quietly dropping an album in 2012 to break a six-year dry spell, has chosen a good time to team up with Oh No.

The lead single, “Toxic,” is a fair cross section of the album’s grimier side with its dark piano loop and marching beat. Both emcees kick imaginatively violent scenarios that hinge on their own abstract brags: “Lethal injections in ya veins, I’m a prophet / Sulfuric acid setting into your brains it’s acrostic.” Oh No’s verse, which is his only on the album, manages to follow up Po nicely thanks to a surprisingly agile flow and some clever references (including a Heisenberg-like ricin threat). While Oh No’s production is never laid-back, not all of the album is as forward as “Toxic.” “Machine Rages,” with its more politically channeled anger on Po’s end, kicks off the release at a tensely slow pace in comparison.

The rest of the album’s features are spread out over four songs, but Monch’s appearance on “Smash,” with Stress collaborator OC alongside as well, is an obvious pick for the album’s most gratifying reunion. Particularly given the somewhat focused subject matter, the song is thankfully more than just a space for nostalgia, but OC does hark back in his verse. “Allow me to do my thing / Career long as Yao Ming’s arm length / The tale of the tape reaches far beyond so / Let’s be honest / My team mix-matched with legal dudes and convicts,” he raps. Monch’s third verse is a practice in his fragmented but on-beat style. “If she’s intelligent she’ll increase my diction / Pulp Fiction / Cult flick / Hulk..smash / Culprit, passion / Adult Swim, brash,” he raps.

Throughout the album, both Oh No and Prince Po pull off a thematically aggressive project without being too one-dimensional. Prince switches lanes from lyricism for its own sake to cautionary tales and political raps and Oh No’s production maintains its grittiness without relying on the same sounds over and over. On “Where U Eat” and elsewhere, he builds up a brooding effect with repetitive synths, but hard-hitting sample chops achieve a similar feel on “Givitup.” As a whole, the album is balanced enough, but it does end up striking the same note at least one times too many. Still, with the first two singles previewing the release’s harder sound, listeners can expect a little more range than they allow. Prince Po’s lyrical appeal has never been his simplicity, but Animal Serum isn’t a demanding listen either. With the added allure of Oh No’s consistency, Po has plotted a convincing resurgence.

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17 Comments

  • Rating OH NO!

    Compared to what his SoundClash partner did on E&J, I got to say that this joint was a taste dissapointing for Oh Knuckles. But considering that it still knocks & the masterpiece that Ohnomite [& Kali Tornado Funk] is, a brother can't be that mad...

  • twoholla

    I haven't heard this LP but I've copped all of Prince Po's albums & the guy gets major props for Organized Konfusion but as a solo artist...he's a big OKAY. He never had the lyricism or same wide range of delivery, conviction, ingenuity or narrative abilities of Pharaoh Monch & he never will. He's dope but he basically uses the same cadence & delivery throughout all his songs & albums. Prince Po is good in small doses but a whole album of him solo & he doesn't bring enough to the table to keep you locked in. Prince Po is kinda like what Big Boi is to Andre (with Monch being Andre), except I have to say that Big Boi proved himself solo-worthy with speakerboxx & his 1st official solo LP 'Son of Chico Dusty' but his latest LP is supreme weak sauce!!!

  • son of a sax

    I really don't believe in half points. Either it is or it aint. Either its a classic or its a real good album. I'd give it a 4.

  • Huh.

    I think 4/5 is deserved, especially after some of those passes DX has been handing out to the wack.

  • bambam

    this cd got the club on smash...stripper music

  • Anonymous

    Really dope album with decent production. 4/5.

  • real journalism

    @ HATER Jay Balfour If this was a drake, kanye, tyga, wale, 50 cent, future, lil wayne, young jeezy album then you would have given it 4 stars. Why does DX hates on real hiphop? Is it because of the advertising you spend so much time on bullshit articles like: a boxing mathc between DMX and Zimmerman, lil wayne buying new shoes, jayZ goin to a hairdresser, game getting a trayvon tatt, snoop farting, puffy daddy buying a new pants. I never witness so much bullshit as on this site. I wish we were back in the time we had magazines instead of the internet bullshit

  • Anonymous

    Backpack nerds gonna be butt hurt by the rating but I agree with it. It's okay but its not gonna blow anybody whose already familiar with either of these guys away. 3.5 sounds about right

  • poppa large

    remember me Jay Balfour? good review. 3.5 is accurate.

  • Anonymous

    What only a 3,5 ??? C'mon DX Isiah whatever got a 4 rating for a disjointed EP. This album is a more cohesive listen and lyrically Po's on point.