HEADS AIN'T READY: Organized Konfusion's Search For Equilibrium
by: Cas McGee

"When you make it a point to bring light into manifestation, you are met
with an opposite force of darkness," hypothesizes Pharaoh Monch, one half
of 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 your
hand to the fire you will get burned.’ If someone stands to gain
financially or whatever from people getting burned, they will make it a
point to lie and be like…’That’s not necessarily true because if you wear
this glove, you won’t get burned,’" Monch explains. Light versus dark,
truth versus lies, positive versus negative- all opposite, but not always
equal, forces working in everyday life. When your life is hip-hop, which
force is pushing harder? Where is your balance?

Pharaoh Monch and his lyrical comrade, Prince Poetry, are a couple of
hardheaded muthafuckas. Neither of them can boast of having a single
"murder/death/kill" notch on their glocks, the death toll remains at zero
for now. Shit, last I heard, they aren’t even prone to flashin’ steel much
less bustin’ it. They also have very few "bitches" making their way through
the revolving door of a posh hotel and up to their penthouse. Not enough
hoes are getting served…you gotta wonder why. Maybe it’s because they have
yet to pop the cork on a bottle of Cristal. Then, if they aren’t burning an
acres worth of herb a day - forget about it. What are they…blind? Did
someone forget to hip them to the formula for becoming a (in)famous hip-hop
"artist?" Bitches + Blunts + Bustin’ Steel = Beaucoup Bucks. Are they
trying NOT to make some ends? Perhaps shit doesn’t go down like that for
them. You gotta wonder.

Since their eponymous debut in 1991, Organized Konfusion has been about
elevating heads to higher echelons of emcee technique. As hip-hop was on
the verge of being swept away on billows of blunt smoke, heralding the dawn
of "The Chronic" era, Organized were on some straight cerebral
manipulation of a different fashion. They extended the mind-fuck on 1994’s
virtually ignored Stress - the extinction agenda (Hollywood BASIC). Imagine
this…academically enhanced, urban intelligentsia stilos executed over
butter smooth production, leaving the average listener cramming to
understand 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 their
cinematic opus, The Equinox (Priority). Using several skits interspersed
throughout the fourteen musical tracks, The Equinox tells the story of
Life and Malice, two friends careening towards adulthood, faced with every
external and internal obstacle imaginable. Life and Malice are two sides of
the same coin, good and bad, pleasure and pain, hope and despair,
understanding and confusion. In short, and as the title of the album
implies, they represent balance. The songs on the album also reflect that
balance. From the battle rhymes of "Questions" and "Confrontations,"
heading towards the party mode of "Move" and "Sugah Shorty," and settling
in the troubled introspection of "Invetro" and "Hate," each song presents
different facets of Life and Malice’s coexistence, illuminating every high
and low that can be associated with trying to survive in this world. The
whole story is narrated by a much older Life who comments on his past
actions 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 for
going against the grain. In this age of "guns, money greed, and sex"
rhymes, Organized Konfusion’s decision to stay true to form reads like a
death sentence.

"I like a lot of rappers today but 9 out of 10 of them are based off of
witty metaphors," muses the forthcoming Prince Poetry. "’I’m this and
you’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 gangsterism
or play by play accounts of Cristal soaked parties, the vantage point is
rarely one actually familiar to the emcee much less his/her audience. These
days, most emcees put no heart in their rhymes. Consequently, hip-hop’s
heart has slowed, approaching a life threatening state of inertia.
"People, to me, make ‘dream’ albums," continues Prince Po, his gruff
baritone voice exhibiting equal amounts of disgust and worry for the
present state of hip-hop. "You can’t hustle everyday. You can’t hang out
and party everyday. These things just don’t happen everyday. It seems like
a lot of people be sellin’ themselves out for not diggin’ inside themselves
and 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" type
format - 20,000 leagues and under most people’s understanding of how life
should be portrayed on wax. We’re talking head crushing depths here.
"Great balls o’ fire/ I’m traveling at higher speeds to proceed to
penetrate flesh/ Hitting the spleen after splitting the chest of a Queens
teenager/ Pager shredded to pieces from the glock 9 inch hollow tips it
releases/ The police is in the back of the ambulance/ Blood loss as I
shook across your chest/ I rest, rupture/ I’m the slupture, slasher/ I’ll
bust 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 to
touch upon infinite subject matter. To say to yourself, ‘If it could be
said…if a bullet or an unborn fetus could speak, what would it say,"
explains the more reserved Pharaoh Monch, highlighting a classic rhyming
m.o. for Organized Konfusion - the group’s tendency to give voice to the
voiceless, to speculate on the thoughts and feelings of persons or things
that don’t usually get to express themselves.

On The Equinox the group has recorded the amazing "Invetro," where Monch
and Po assume the perspective of unborn twins, broadcasting live from their
crack mother’s womb. Over a Roy Ayers inspired track, Monch relays the
vision of the twin who sees no chance for himself in an apocalyptic world
and would prefer to be aborted, while Po counters with the optimism of the
twin who would like to give life a shot, despite the adversity that he
faces in the womb and the trials that lie ahead. It’s all another part of
the "balancing act" that is The Equinox. Quite frankly, the song is a thing
of beauty, equally imparting utter hopelessness as well as the unfettered
determination that it takes to get through this thing called life - even
more profound when coming "from the mouths of babes." Thought provoking as
it is, it’s no wonder that the song’s concept is one that has been
marinating 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," says
Monch, the silent intervals between his words conveying his analytical
nature. "Although it’s a conceptual song, I start to question….’Do I really
want to say this? Am I saying that or is the character? How are people
gonna take it?’ That matters to me." It’s THAT kind of respect, for the
audience and for the art, which distinguishes Organized Konfusion from
run-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 leave
pupils dilated…/ Now it’s easier/ Plus economically feasible for me to
leave rap if it’s queasy and inebriated/ We made it/We came/ Dedicated - we
rated supreme/ Either with or without the cream. -Pharaoh Monch, "Questions"

With unadulterated talent and innovation acknowledged, the question
remains, "Why are Organized Konfusion still slept on?" Outside of the love
from their small but loyal fan base, Po and Monch are treated like they’re
pushing a demo. Been there - done that. Record labels still don’t know what
the fuck to do with a group whose fans range, as Po puts it, from "b-boys
with mad jewels and diamonds" to "white kids with backpacks who ride
skateboards 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 the
president and the vice president and their assistants and promoters. The
president and vice president generally don’t give a fuck until sales come
in. But they don’t know that the person they hired to do your in-store
didn’t have your shit set up when you got there. All they know is that your
record is not selling and they’re ready to kick you off the label or shelf
you. 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 to
promoting "experimental" stuff could possibly mean they won’t get a thin
dime in return. Pharaoh Monch doesn’t see it that way. "If I was president
and there was a song that was selling itself, I would give it a banister to
lean on. But at the same time, to flip the company, I would redirect some
funds and try to make a million dollars out of the stuff that needed the
support. If you work something like that into the program, you’re setting
up a whole fuckin’ lifetime of sales for those types of groups."

As the story goes, Organized Konfusion’s record sales have not been the
object of envy. Most recently, their contract with Hollywood BASIC was
bought by the more diesel Priority Records - The Equinox is their first
Priority release. A sign of good things to come? More exposure maybe? That
remains to be seen.

"I don’t know what Priority’s game plan was but it seemed to be ‘let’s
pick them up from a label that has bad distribution and make their
distribution better.’ We’re still screwed ‘cause I walk into stores to this
day and my shit is not there," explains Prince. Not once though does either
emcee delude himself about their "challenging" marketability. "By putting
out albums that are lyrically, emotionally, and musically versatile , I
understand from jump that it would be harder to market than someone just
saying ‘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, who
they following - the niggas with skills or the niggas who be hollerin’?"
These are only two of the questions posed by Organized Konfusion on The
Equinox, but they are easily questions that every so-called emcee and every
so called hip-hop head should be asking themselves. There are a few groups
like Organized who are illuminating truth, trying to protect their peeps
from getting burned by the "fire" that Monch talks about. Still, the powers
that be would have fools believe that true fulfillment comes in the quest
for the almighty dollar. So we put on the gloves they give us, as well as
the matching jacket, skully, boots, and goggles, and we leap into the
flames. We are so far removed from the days when hip-hop was about taking
what little resources you had to lace folks with the illest rhyme, the
dopest beat, the unbridled truth about life and how you live it. We now
settle for silly rhymes, jacked beats, and fabricated lies…and all this
time, Prince Poetry and Pharaoh Monch have been diligently putting in work
to 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 at
breakneck speeds to fork over dough for the next ghetto fable, one more
question begs to be answered. Is Organized Konfusion hardheaded or are we?