24 February, 2014@12:25 am
One thing that Prince Po and Oh No have shared throughout their respective careers is being overshadowed by their peers. Pharoahe Monch always stole the show from Po during the Organized Konfusion days, while Oh No lived in the shadow of his older brother, Madlib. However both have carved out respectable individual fanbases for themselves, so with the two teaming for a collaborative album, Animal Serum, it begs the question of whether they can bring out the best in one another.
Oh No has really stepped up as a producer over the years, distancing himself from Madlib with projects like Gangrene and OhNomite, which have really showed off his talent. He continues that trend here, with a series of solid beats for Po, but never goes quite as experimental as Vodka & Ayahuasca or as conceptual as OhNoMite. Things more or less stay pretty grounded this go ’round, as Po’s style is very straightforward.
They are at their best together on tracks like the sordid street tale “Where U Been” or the soulful “Keep Reachin’”, which put Po over buttery beats that would have fit on any Organized Konfusion LP. They hark back to that era many times on the album, with a series of collaborations featuring other classic MC’s. Rock of Heltah Skeltah and Saafir join in on “U Ready”, while O.C. and Pharoahe Monch help out on “U Ready”. Sadat X chimes in on “Wavy”, however there is a bit of a forced feeling here when older rappers try to use today’s generation’s slang (which in the case of “wavy”, is a term that’s already had its run.)
The same problem helms that pseudo-crossover attempt, “Starflyer Milez”, which sounds like something Missy might have spit on ten years ago, adding to the embarrassment. Some of these hooks could use some work too, such as the album opener “Machine Rages”, where Po chants over-and-over again, “RAGE. AGAINST. THE. MACHINE”. Do over.
While Oh No doesn’t rhyme on Animal Serum, perhaps a few bars would have benefitted the album, as it does begin to fall into monotony rather quickly. Thankfully, there are a number of collaborations on here that find Po sharing mic duties with other, respectable emcees. however like Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest, and countless other rap duos, we’ll always prefer both Po and Pharoahe Monch as a group. Despite these minor gripes, Animal Serum is still a solid LP, with a few memorable moments.
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