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Article Aug 19 2019 Written by

Way Back: Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994)

On August 16th, 1994, Organized Konfusion released their second album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda. While their 1991 debut wasn’t a commercial success, critics took note of the duo’s political themes and lyrical prowess. Pharaohe Monch and Prince Po knew their music wasn’t for everybody, and admitted as much in their interview with Source Magazine in their September 1994 issue. “We put double meanings in the songs to make them last longer,” says Monch. “Then two month’s later, you’re like, ‘that’s the first time I really heard everything in that song’”. They understood from the beginning that they were releasing material that wasn’t always going to be easy to digest, so it would more than likely be niche.

Yes, they earned a feature in the pre-eminent Hip Hop periodical of the time, but they couldn’t shake the fact that they weren’t yet commercially viable. As such, they were only able to release one single from the album. That would be the hard-hitting “Stress”. Over the horns of a Charles Mingus sample, Pharaohe and Prince chant a minimalist hook of “crush, kill, destroy, stress”, paying homage to the old 60’s show, Lost in Space. As the first official track on the album, it must set the tone, and the crew does that with a dash of lyricism. They acknowledge the stress that the industry and their community can bring them, but they rely on their talent to get them through. Prince Po starts off strong in verse one:

I insert my lifeline into the track, the energy

In me is a poison with no unrevealed remedy

Pharaohe follows up with questions for the passive listeners:

Why do you choose to mimic these wack MCs?

Why do you choose to listen to R&B?

Why must you believe somethin’ is phat

Just because it’s played on the radio 20 times per day?

Organized Konfusion In the September ‘94 issue of Source Magazine

The second title track, “The Extinction Agenda”, let’s both MC’s show off the diversity in their flows. They both rap in double time over some upbeat boom-bap. It’s here where Prince Po refers to himself as the “rebel of rap” as he kicks some assonance in a slick line:

In the vicinity the city’s committee consider me

The trilogy of terror, whatever I do I bring light

As these tracks show, the album does have darker tone, but that picks up a bit on the back end with help from Q-Tip on “Let’s Organize”. If this project were to earn a second single. It surely would have been this song. The song does have a more light-hearted tribe vibe, so it’s only right that Tip contributed on the chorus.

Even though the album was highly-rated across a number of publications, it never charted higher than 28 on Billboards R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Luckily, that didn’t deter the duo, and Pharaohe was able to further establish himself and maintain a long solo career. The group only put out one more album in 1997 before taking some time apart. Still, this may stand as their best work. Spin this classic today to get a reminder of what mid-90’s boom-bap sounded like when paired with elite lyricism.

Written by

I’m a semi-retired rhymer/producer turned educator, writer, and photographer. I fell in love with beats and rhymes when I was a kid, and these days I strive to keep boom-bap alive. I’m probably “wrestlin’ wi…

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