By 1996, the Poor Righteous Teachers were already wily veterans in the game with three group albums under their belt, all chalked full of conscious content. Their first two releases, Holy Intellect and Pure Poverty, were both uneven listens with a few dope records on them, and while their 1993 release, Black Business, didn’t have any big records on it, in my opinion, it was their most quality of the first three. 1996 would see Wise Intelligent venturing off into his solo career, releasing his first solo album, Killin’ U…For Fun in March, before reuniting with his PRT bredrin to release the group’s fourth album and subject of today’s post, New World Order, in October.
New World Order would be the first PRT album to not include production work from their longtime collaborative partner, Tony D (rip), the white boy who always managed to serve the Black militant trio some heat (he produced the biggest hit in the PRT catalog, “Rock Dis Funky Joint”). This time around, PRT would keep the production mostly in-house with Father Shaheed (rip) and Culture Freedom receiving credit for most of the album’s music and a few other special guests would lend helping hands and beats. NWO would also include more cameos than any of PRT’s prior three albums, and it would be the Trenton trio’s first album to not crack the Billboard Top 200.
NWO would be the last album released under the PRT umbrella, as Wise Intelligent would continue to release music independently as a solo artist. I didn’t buy NWO when it came out in ‘96, and it would be well over a decade before I’d find and buy a used copy on eBay. I’m sure I’ve listened to the album at least once since I bought it, but I can’t remember much about it. So, without further ado…
Who Shot The President? (Intro) – The album opens with a snippet from President Daddy Bush’s 1991 State of The Union Address speech where he infamously mentions a “New World Order.” The speech is suddenly interrupted by the sound of helicopter propellers and gunshots, hinting at Daddy Bush gettin’ smoked.
Miss Ghetto – Father Shaheed serves up soulfully tickled piano keys with an old negro spiritual moaning female vocal sample, all placed over poppin’ drums that Wise uses to declare his separation from the ghetto and the hood state of mind that enslaves so many brothers and sisters: “Miss Ghetto got ‘em dreamin’ of loot and Swiss bankers, the finest weapons, packin’ tri-action Smith & Wessons, unlike the eighties, ladies packin’ Sigma 380s, the shit is crazy, but it’s life to ghetto babies, they gotta eat, so the streets provide the gravy.” Shaheed adds a vocal snippet of Havoc professing “No matter how much loot I get I’m staying in the projects, from “Survival Of The Fittest,” which works as an interesting contrast to Wise’s message and feels like a subtle shot at Mobb Deep’s musical thuggery. Regardless, this was a powerful record and a great way to kick off the album.
Word Iz Life – Wise gets his sober minded (“Their ain’t no reefer in me, one swig of malt liquor, end a nigga”) knowledge of self (“I spat the spit fact the chick gave birth, to Black gods on earth, cause I be cream of the planet, G.”) flex on over a feel good wah-wah guitar loop, backed by a funky bass line and laced with a sick organ break that’s brought in during the hook.
Allies – PRT invites the Fugees to join them for this New Jersey cipher session. Culture Freedom lays down the slightly empty but still decent instrumental, as he, Wise, Wyclef, Pras and L-Boogie each get off a verse. Ms. Hill’s easily the star of this record, as she effortlessly sons her fellow New Jerseyites, while also harmonizing on the hook to give the track a boost of energy.
New World News (Interlude) – This is nothing more than a silly skit that you wouldn’t expect to hear on a PRT album. Shout out to Ted Koppel, though.
Gods, Earths And 85ers – Wise uses Shaheed’s pretty piano loop derived backdrop to teach and civilize the Black nation. Nine drops by, and while I was hoping to get a verse from the underappreciated gravelly voiced emcee, he only contributes the hook and shares a few closing words at the tail end of the record. I was a little disappointed in the under usage of Nine, but it’s still a solid record as is.
My Three Wives (Shakyla Pt III) – For those unaware, “Shakyla” was a reoccurring PRT love/appreciation series dedicated to Wise’s (fictional?) Black Queen. As the parenthesized title suggests, this is the third installment of the “Shakyla” trilogy, and to celebrate, Wise kicks Shakyla to the curb and raps praises to his three newfound wives: Miss Bangladesh (who doesn’t give head, but her “wet body and punani drip the sweetest smell”), Miss Africa (who Wise claims has the softest body his arms have ever embraced and kicks it with her on the dock of the Red Sea”) and Miss India (she listens to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone and is down to do the deed in the back of the Jeep, if necessary). Wise’s bars are pretty superficial, as his emphasis is on sex and the three ladies’ physical appearance, but even his surface content sounds nice over the smooth airy sounds of Shaheed’s production work, and Miss Jones complements the track, nicely with her vocals on the hook that borrows and remixes a portion of Sade’s classic record, “Stronger Than Pride.”
Wicked Everytime – Wise displays his silky dancehall chanting style on this one and choses to boast and brag rather than teach and educate. At one point he claims to have five hundred and ten wives and two hundred concubines, which might only be second to King Solomon’s staggeringly impressive harem. By the way, how the hell is one man able to handle that many women? I get emotionally and physically exhausted just thinking about. Culture’s instrumental feels a little flat, but Wise’s swag and style breathe life to it.
N.A.T.O. (Global Cops) (Interlude) – Short interlude that mixes sirens, marching and a couple of ominous music snippets taken from Mort Stevens’ “The Long Wait” off the Hawaii Five-O TV Soundtrack.
Conscious Style – Now here’s a pairing that makes perfect sense. The Teacher, KRS-One and teacher, Wise Intelligent join forces to form what KRS-One dubs “BDPRT,” as the duo sound like conscious superheroes out to slaughter their arch nemesis, ignorance: (Wise) “See, I remember yesterday when y’all was Gods and Earths, Egyptians and metaphysicsts on the verge of giving birth, to understanding and planting seeds to grow, now everybody’s on that bullshit about killing and so, “eat my pussy, suck my dick,” well, that’s the size of the shit, so in the head of ignorance, I rip some conscious clips.” Kris is credited with producing the decent backdrop that matches their meaty verses rather well.
Culture Freestyles (Interlude) – After expressing his frustration with the repetitive unoriginal bullshit most rappers had been regurgitating during PRT’s three-year hiatus, Culture Freedom does exactly what the song title suggest. As far as authentic freestyles go, he sounds pretty good.
They Turned Gangsta – Wise and X-Clan lead emcee, Brother J (who ironically had beef with Wise’s special guest from just two tracks ago, KRS-One…I wonder if they ever cleared things up) use this blunted banger to call out the real and studio gangstas who promote violence, while Sluggy Ranks delivers a catchy reggae seasoned plea, begging brothers to put down the guns and knives. With the recent murders of PnB Rock and Migos member, Takeoff, this message couldn’t be more relevant.
We Dat Nice – Shaheed hooks up a threatening bass line and snappy drums for Wise to talk his elegantly intelligent shit over: “I shine the light, that knowledge ignites, excite Blacks and Whites, through the things that I write, See, I could extend your days, send a spectrum of rays, in a westerly direction, God is worthy of praise, or I could capsize the planet, deprive you of life, take flight, make ice, of any emcees you like, I’m that nice.” This was…nice.
Hear Me Out (Interlude) – A chipmunk voiced male (I’m pretty sure its Culture Freedom) vents about “dick ridin’ niggas” over a warm and creamy groove that sounds so yummy, I wouldn’t mind hearing it a little longer. I guess that’s what the rewind button is for.
Fo Da Love Of Dis – Culture Freedom provides a trunk rattling West Coastish banger that Wise uses to talk his shit, express his love for the art form and continues to show his versatility and ability to flow over damn near anything you throw at him. This was fire.
Dreadful Day – Wise addresses the prison system, it’s flaws and the poor choices some brothers make to end up in the institution that’s designed to keep them enslaved. The legendary DJ Clark Kent provides the somber soundscape, while Junior Reid laments on the hook, giving the track a bluesy reggae feel that helps drive home Wise’s message.
Sistuh – Mr. Intelligent uses this one to address the Black women that he feels have lost their way and need correction. Wise criticizes everything from the way they dress (even though he admits to liking the scorts and Daisy Duke shorts that accentuate their curves and cakes) to the way they address each other (Wise just can’t make sense of why a woman would get upset when a man calls her “bitch,” but is completely okay with her girlfriend calling her one). On the second verse, he calls out the Black men who disrespect, use and manipulate the sisters, so even if you don’t necessarily agree with everything Wise has to say (like myself), you can sense the good intent in his words. Wise should have taken some time to correct Turiya Mason’s horrendous singing on the hook, as she completely butchers “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” (form The Color Purple movie and soundtrack), almost derailing Wise’s smooth flow and Shaheed’s slick instrumental.
Hidden Track – The album ends with a hidden track that finds Wise explaining how the Powers that be (in this case, the Office of Emergency Planning) can suspend our constitutional rights through executive orders if some “unforeseen” national emergency or crisis were to occur, which according to Wise, would make “niggas slaves all over again.” I’m not sure how accurate this is, but since I’m a Black man with Black babies, it might be worth checking into. In the meantime, it makes for an interesting closing statement.
Hip-hop has given us several Black conscious artists through the years. Many of them started off with a strong Black conscious message, but over time, whether do to label pressure or just wanting to stay relevant, the message became tainted, and the once righteous stance became laxed, then later consumed by ratchetness. You’d be hard pressed to find a group that has stayed truer to their conscious/Black militant stance than the Poor Righteous Teachers.
New World Order finds PRT sticking to their guns with songs about Black unity, peace, righteousness and 5 Percent mathematics, all rooted in pure love and appreciation for hip-hop. As per usual, Wise Intelligent carries the lyrical load, flaunting his flexible flow that allows him to effortlessly navigate the scale from rapid fire bars down to a smooth reggae styled chant without missing a beat. His conscious content may get repetitive at times, but his versatility and dynamic delivery makes it all sound entertaining, while standing his ground rhyming next some of hip-hop’s elite emcees (i.e., KRS-One, Lauryn Hill and Brother J). On the production end, NWO is more consistent than any of their previous projects, as Culture Freedom, Father Shaheed and their guest producers provide a diverse quality batch of instrumentals to keep your head bobbin’ while you chew and get full off their food for thought.
I recently saw Wise Intelligent post a statement on one of the social media platforms about how “politically conscious rap voices DID NOT fall off” but were systematically “pulled off and replaced with a steady rotation of self-hating, anti-Black content that aligns with racist stereotypes historically used to justify injustices against Black people.” Maybe the New World Order is being ushered in even as we speak.
Great review Deedub. I have this album and its been a long time since I gave it a spin. Seems like 1996 was the beginning of a new era in hip hop where the gate keepers who were trying to keep it “real” began to lose footing in the tug of war match against the jiggy more commercialized thug rappers. Wise has always been a natural talent. One of those MC’s who’s style was so dope, he never had to change it up. I believe he dropped a solo album after this effort and linked up with Tony D for the track Steady Slangin. I also think he dropped a solo album recently within the past few years, but I haven’t heard it. It’s tough to keep up with new music now of days. I’m not a big streamer. If its not in the collection then I’m not listening.