We last heard from Poor Righteous Teachers in 1991 on their sophomore effort Pure Poverty, and while it didn’t move as many units as their gold selling debut album, Holy Intellect, some critics and fans considered it classic record (I personally found the album’s title more interesting than the actual album itself, but that’s neither here nor there). The Trenton, New Jersey trio would return in 1993 with their third effort, Black Business.
Tony D (rip) handled most, if not all, of the production duties on the first two PRT albums, which I’ve always thought was interesting, considering he’s white and PRT’s black militant stance. For Black Business, PRT decide to do it themselves, as they handle the bulk of the production, only leaving Tony D to produce 4 tracks. Like Pure Poverty, Black Business was another critical success for the trio, but it didn’t match the commercial success of Holy Intellect.
But we don’t care about commercial success here at TimeIsIllmatic, only quality music. So let’s see if PRT handled their um, business, this time around.
144K – PRT start things off with a bangin’ reggae-tinged instrumental that has Wise Intelligent displaying his flow and seamlessly shifting from a standard flow to raggamuffin style (sometimes within the same verse), spilling black consciousness mixed with shit talk (damn, that was a long sentence!). This was a great way to kick things off.
Da Rill Shit – Interesting to see a posse cut appear this early in the sequencing, but Wise Intelligent, Culture Freedom and Father Shaheed are joined by Power Israel, Black Prince and Omar Superstar (yeah, I never heard of any of them either), as each party kicks a verse in this cypher. The instrumental is decent, and even though no one sounds spectacular on the mic, every one holds their own and sounds like they had fun recording this one.
Nobody Move – This was the first, and I believe, only single released from Black Business. Over a bleak and rugged backdrop, Wise Intelligent continues to pimp slap the beats with his commanding ragamuffin flavored flow. Dope.
Mi Fresh – Long time PRT collaborator, Tony D gets his first production credit of the evening, and it’s fairly decent instrumental. Wise and Culture Freedom take turns talking their shit, dropping a few lesson and defending their own righteousness when their critics are “drinking brew, puffin’ blunts, shootin’ dice and shit”. Well done, gents.
Here We Go Again – More black conscious rhymes mixed with emcee bars from Wise and Culture on this one. This instrumental kind of reminds me of the one used on “Mi Fresh”, but different enough to sound dope in its own right.
Selah – Black Business’ momentum slows down quite a bit with this one. Tony D slides Wise Intelligent a sleepy paced instrumental that he continues to teach over. And Wise may have been just as dope on this one as the previous songs, but Tony D’s instrumental is so boring it distracts your attention from anything else going on during the song.
Black Business – Talk about redemption. Tony D comes right back and turns hard drums and a breezy horn loop into a gem of a backdrop for the title track. Wise Intelligent serves it justice, but Tony D’s backdrop is the true star of this one, as he provides the best instrumental of the entire album.
Get Off The Crack – On this one PRT take things back to the dark and dusty zone they’ve been it for most of the album. Wise and Culture Freedom take turns mixing lessons with shit talk, and while Wise has nothing to worry about as far as being the number one emcee of the crew, Culture Freedom sounds pretty nimble with his flow on this one.
None Can Test – The energy comes down a bit from the previous song. Over a decent instrumental, Wise continues to “New Jersey drive” over the track (he must have loved that movie, because this the third song on Black Business that he mentions it on). Wait. Did Wise take a shot at Brand Nubian (“if there’s a foe that’s in the place that’s willin’ to fuck with this, you punks jump up to get beat down for playing that stupid shit”)? Regardless, this song is decent, but definitely not one of the strongest songs on the album.
Ghetto We Love – Wise uses this one to reminisce about his ratchet upbringing in the ghetto (“rats in my front room, roaches in the back, junkies in the alley running sells for the crack”), while at the same time singing praises for the childhood trials that helped shape him into the man (or god) that he is today. Add a decent backdrop to the mix and this turns out to be a well sculpted track.
Rich Mon Time – Over a reggae tinged backdrop, Wise pulls out his “stummer step” style (which is basically his reggae/ragamuffin flavored flow), and Culture Freedom contributes a useless verse that makes me want to take back everything nice I said about his rhyme on “Get Off The Crack”. The song opens with Wise saying “this is a rich man time…unless poor people fight for their rights”, but neither he or Culture’s rhymes have anything to do with the that statement or the song title. The PRT produced instrumental is a nice mellow groove that kind of reminds me of the acoustic mix of Arrested Development’s “People Everyday”.
Lick Shots – The final song of the evening has Wise licking shots at his adversaries over a hard and dark Tony D produced instrumental. Not my favorite song on Black Business, but still a solid ending to the album.
Black Business is easily the most consistent of Poor Righteous Teachers’ first three albums. With some help from Tony D, PRT manage to string together a cohesive batch of backdrops, mixing in a few certified bangers (see “144K” and “Black Business”) amongst a bunch of blue-collar instrumentals that more often than not work well behind Wise Intelligent’s strong and flexible flow. Black Business does come with a few hiccups, but overall winds up being a black business worthy of your support.