We last left the Poor Righteous Teachers in 1990, releasing their debut album Holy Intellect. While Holy Intellect did not move a ton of units, on the strength of “Rock Dis Funky Joint” the PRT’s were able to establish a solid following.
PRT returned in 91′ with their sophomore effort Pure Poverty, which also happened to be released on the same day as fellow Newark crew member/producer Tony D. Pure Poverty uses the same formula used on Holy Intellect: Wise Intelligent on rhymes, Tony D behind the boards, Father Shaheed on the ones and twos, and Culture Freedom doing whatever it is that Culture Freedom does. Although Pure Poverty(an album title that I absolutely love, by the way) is held in pretty high regards amongst hip-hop circles it didn’t move as many units as Holy Intellect, making it a commercial failure, which if the PRT were depending solely on album sales for income, indeed their poverty became pure.
Fortunately, we don’t equate quality music with record sales here at TimeIsIllmatic, kids.
Shakiyla (JRH) – PRT kick off Pure Poverty with the lead single from the album, which also happens to be a remix of a song from Holy Intellect. Right from the jump Wise Intelligent warns the listener that “this is not a love ballad”, as you’ll soon realize when Tony D’s dark piano riff and eerie sound effects kick in over his rough drums. This may not be a ballad but like the original it is still all about uplifting the black woman. Wise does a good job on this one but Tony D’s monster instrumental is the true champ on this one.
Easy Star – This one opens with a little comic relief provided by a random statement from Wise Intelligent as he commands Culture Freedom to “come back with me apple pie” right before the beat drops. After the beat drops this one turns into a reggae tinged banger that Wise adapts to beautifully and rides like Willie Shoemaker on a saddled horse in his prime. Long Man (which sounds like a name for a porn superhero) contributes a little reggae chant during the hook which was a nice added touch. Well done.
Self-Styled Wisdom – Lazily, Tony D recycles the War “Slippin’ Into Darkness” sample he used for the backdrop of “Rock Dis Funky Joint”. Even though he makes a few adjustments to the original it is still the same concept. Wise sounds solid as usual but I’m not willing to overlook Tony D’s iniquity.
Hot Damn I’m Good – Wise turns in yet another solid effort but Tony D’s instrumental is a hot mess. The moaning woman on the hook, which I assume was supposed to sound sexy winds up just being annoying.
Strictly Mash’ion – Now this is more like it: Tony D provides a solid instrumental that Wise uses to boast of himself and manages to sneak in a little 5 Percent ideology while you’re not looking.
The Nation’s Anthem – This song is to the Five Percent nation what “The Star Spangled Banner” is to North America. The PRT’s take it and make it their own, which also includes an added verse from Wise. Brand Nubian would also record this song a few years later on In God We Trust. I think I prefer their version over the PRT tread.
Each One Teach One – This starts with an interesting piano sample, but it quickly fades away and is replaced with heavy drums covered with Jungle sounds. Wise Intelligent spends the length of this one speaking on religious lies and several other ways that the black man has been deceived by the white man. You know, that usual PRT shit. Decent.
Rappin’ Black – Tony D’s instrumental is all over the place and I didn’t care much for Wise’s nursery rhyme rhyming cadence, either.
Just Servin’ Justice – Wise surprisingly opens this one by giving a shoutout to MC Hammer. Even if it was only to rhyme “you can’t touch this” with the song title, it was not a popular move at the time (Ice-T did it earlier the same year on O.G.). Wise sounds razor-sharp on this track, and I love Tony D’s bass line, but the rest of the song stinks. Reggae artist Lego Man (no, I didn’t make that up) babbles on forever on the hook, going on and on about what only he and God knows and the rest of Tony D’s instrumental was disappointing.
Freedom Or Death – Tony D’s instrumental doesn’t sound serious or urgent enough to match the song’s title or content. I still find it hi-larious that a group that calls white people devils would have a white man produce their entire freakin’ album (although PRT Deejay Father Shaheed gets a co-production credit on this one). Contradiction, much.
Methods Of Droppin’ Mental – Decent.
Pure Poverty – What is it with Tony D’s obsession to incorporate moaning women into instrumentals? The title song is the second time during the album that he resorts to that idea. I didn’t care much for this one.
I’m Comin’ Again – Wise finishes off Pure Poverty with one quick accapella verse filled with Five Percent jargon and ideology.
In my review of Holy Intellect I mentioned that Wise Intelligent’s biggest downfall as an emcee was that lyrically he never moves away from his 5 Percent ideology. That issue persists on Pure Poverty, and without the assistance of Dr. Dre the problem becomes chronic (*rimshot*). The monotony of Wise Intelligent’s subject matter is only magnified by Tony D’s lackluster production, which with the exception of a few songs will have you wishing the good doctor would have provided the cure for Pure Poverty. Wouldn’t it have been sick (and made Pure Poverty more tolerable) to hear Wise spittin’ over Dre’s beats? But he doesn’t. Leaving Pure Poverty sounding a bit impoverished.