After eight years of hype and only one 12-inch single from the Army Of The Pharaohs (AOTP), as of late, this East Coast super group has been looking more like a concept rather than a reality. But when Babygrande announced this year that they would be putting out AOTP’s long-awaited debut album, all the talk was finally leading to something tangible. For at least one record, Vinnie Paz, The Ju Ju Mob’s Chief Kamachi and Reef the Lost Cauze, Apathy, 7L & Esoteric, Celph Titled, Outerspace (Planetary and Crypt the Warchild), King Syze, Des Devious and Faez One are becoming one.
Now that The Torture Papers is here, this album proves to be exactly what one would expect from this mass of subterraneous MCs from Philly, Boston and beyond: 13 tracks of epic boom-bap beats and relentless battle raps that are likely to get even the most docile listener rowdy.
The interesting thing about AOTP’s debut is that while most of these cats (Esoteric, Reef the Lost Cauze, Apathy, etc.) have long since graduated from being in constant battle-mode, when these 12 come together, their combative rhymes sound absolutely ideal. As the independent movement is so saturated, they’re not targeting imaginary rappers-they’re fighting to take back the underground to its original rawness. Chief Kamachi says it best on “All Shall Perish,” when he calls AOTP “independent warriors taking over the game.” From Vinnie Paz to Kamachi, almost everyone is at their best. At times, though, the battle can become a little over the top. For example, when Celph Titled claims that he’ll “catch you sleeping, stab you so deep the tip of the blade puncture your water bed / ’cause I’m the type to slice the skin on your back off / come back a week later and slice the mutha fucking scab off” (“King Among Kings”), it’s hard not to cringe. But that’s kind of the point. These guys are out to shock and awe, not pull their punches.
Amid the large quantity of MCs in AOTP, everyone does seem to be on the same page. Even as a different combination of the Pharaohs gets down on every track, they consistently provide a similar hardcore East Coast sound – just as producers 7L, Shuko and all of the featured up-and-coming European beat-makers do. Obviously posse cuts like these aren’t going to be heavy on concepts because of the coordination obstacles. But on a few tracks like “Into the Arms of Angels,” Vinne Paz and company share heartfelt stories of family-centered strife without sounding soft.
When all’s said and done Army Of The Pharaohs is about relentless battle rap with a purpose. There really is no telling when a collaborative effort of this significance and size will happen again, so don’t sleep on these “independent warriors” because they’ve just made history.
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