28Dec/108

Organized Konfusion – “Invetro”

Stream: Organized Konfusion “Invetro”

It is 1997. Pharohe Monch and Prince Po are in their mid-twenties but they radiate a level of maturity and weariness one does not normally observe in people under fifty. They have encountered numerous difficulties —the death of their mentor Paul C, multiple label reassignments, critical adoration that never translates into gold sales— but unlike the majority of the rap artists that debuted around the same time,  they have lingered long enough to release their third album.

Their works are lauded for being ahead of the curve at points, but each release also functions as a time capsule for their respective mini-epochs of rap. Their self-titled 1991 debut is an upbeat hodgepodge of whimsical concepts and fanciful fables; their 1994 sophomore effort mostly abandons their early formulas and sticks closely to a script of rugged realism; 1997’s The Equinox boasts a sparer sound that the duo uses to render an atmosphere of gloom, paranoia, and uncertainty.

Equinox does not cohere as well as their earlier works. Their attempt at telling a story through skits is a failure. Many of the beats are stripped down to the point that they sound incomplete, which is not the same as sounding raw. The music often fails to express the same level of urgency as the rapping. Monch and Po rock over beats that cannot support the weight of their technical virtuosity, let alone their conceptual depth. This unevenness is understandably jarring to some fans, but in retrospect it sort of makes sense.

Both urban America and the rap industry are in a strange place in 1997. Clinton-era prosperity empties the inner cities of remaining professionals, who migrate to the deceptively greener pastures of the inner-ring suburbs, their poorer relatives not far behind. Violent crime decreases, high-rises are demolished. The ‘hoods popularized by rap music change. Bored young men loiter, more concerned about paying child support than catching a drug charge. Their older siblings return from mandatory sentences without so much as a plan; ghettos look more like ghost towns than bustling drug marts.

The music is turning sparse and glossy enough for daytime airplay. The dominant themes revolve around notions of atomistic upward mobility. Issue-oriented outrage is almost non-existent. Political content is relegated to deep album cuts, b-sides, or just the underground in general, and most of it takes the form of esoteric conspiracy theorizing. The perpetuity of poverty and other ills amongst the poorest inner city residents lead many to wonder if moderate collective gains are all they are cracked up to be.

Po and Monch have questions that they feel are somehow connected to all of this. How will they temper the cerebral loftiness of their new album with verses that directly address the hardships of urban life? Can they convey the unsettling, tense mood of the times but raise their listeners out of the pervasive muck of mediocrity that they face daily? “InVetro” is the album’s philosophical center, as well as a satisfying detour from the plodding skit-based storyline. Within the song we hear the collision of the fear of extinction, the compulsion to persevere, and the resignation that comes with growing up too fast.

Monch descends on Buckwild’s piano-laced slow burner, reciting his lines with conviction and heart. He raps as an unborn child who is entirely aware of his lousy prospects. His mother abuses drugs, eats the wrong foods, and fills her mind with insipid entertainment. He describes “pissing in the abdomen” and having “thought of stabbing men,” suggesting that he is already living out the ghetto pathologies that will define him once born. Worse yet, he is faithless and nihilistic: “where the fuck do I go from here/ ’cause when the afterbirth disperse/ it’s hard to persevere.” He feels he is branded as a thieving “coon” and describes his upcoming birth as being “emitted” as if he is innately toxic.

Monch’s narrator would rather be aborted than face the scorn he sees coming, but his mother intends to keep him. We all know that an unborn child does not possess a conscious perspective, even a hopeless one, so it makes sense to read Monch’s narrator as a symbol for ghettoized youth. In the ghetto they become accustomed to a certain level of familial and social dysfunction. They are harmed by low expectations to the point that they stifle their own nascent dreams of success. “Birth” for them can only mean being moved directly into the prison system.

Po’s narrator is different. He is empowered by his imaginative faculties. The knowledge that he may not be born causes him to proudly claim his life as his own. He admits to confusion and even pessimism but his voice gets livelier as he describes his own ambitions. For him, birth means entering a world of opportunity that will make this dark period worthwhile. He views his trials and tribulations as preparation for legitimate success, even insisting that a reputation as “the city’s number one threat” could serve him well in a bid for mayor. He lusts after for material objects but also maintains a faith in a higher being as well as hope in redemption.

Po’s narrator is inspired by life’s challenges. He is determined to preserve his humanity on the eve of his annihilation. Monch’s narrator cannot even envision possessing the agency to reflect upon his situation, let alone devise a plan of escape. Both must contend with the temptations of illusory riches while figuring out how to fend for themselves, and both are lacking positive role models. Both are beset by recent mental and physical traumas and remain oblivious to the extent that historical processes have shaped their destinies. These are two consciousnesses that sometimes inhabit the same body, two states of mind that dwell in urban America waiting for a shock to the system, for something new to happen. — Thun


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9 Responses to “Organized Konfusion – “Invetro””

  1. Oh man, I’d forgotten all about how this album was a narrative with skits and all… They were hitmen named Death and Christmas Past or something. I just remember the singles and blocked the rest out!

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  2. hl says:

    Man, one day you’re going to have to compile all these in depth posts and publish a book.

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  3. TED says:

    invetro is definitely one of my favourite tracks of all time
    where else are you gonna hear a balanced argument for, and against abortion in a song?

    Two weeks before my old man busted up in her
    My moms never walked slow
    Now she smoke crack, sit back, and listen to talk shows
    I hope she don’t eat pork fried rice tonight
    See, the cholesterol already got my arteries tight
    I might, select, even before she injects her lethal chemicals
    to wrap the umbilical cords around my neck
    Shit, I’m pissin’ in the abdomen
    Two and a half weeks old, already thoughts of stabbin’ men
    Unravelin’ plots and plans for thievin’ and shit
    Immune to the gospel, not believin’ in shit
    Where the fuck do I go from here?
    Cuz when the afterbirth disperse it’s hard to persevere
    I swear I can’t fuck with it
    She hits about two packs of cigarettes a day and I’m stuck with it
    The asthmatic, internally scarred from crack addicts
    Who share needles outside in the rain on Kraftmatics
    and laugh at it
    I guess for them it seems funny but soon
    I be the nigga who kills for petty money presume
    Inside this Temple of Doom we throw the womb
    I bloom to be emitted in June, considered a coon
    Livin’ my life incomplete though
    On the edge of destruction, invetro

    I’d rather not be born
    than to be scorned in this world of hate
    Where life escape me and stick me like thorn
    Wild like child porn
    -ography, the autobi of the unborn

    Overshadowed in darkness where curiosity is my light
    Fear it but very coherent that there’s a fifty percent chance that I might
    Not make it in spite of the fact, it’s my life
    And can’t take it, knowin’ that I’m losin’ this fight
    to contradiction
    The love with the hatred inviting friction
    Umbilically inflicted, watchin’ my life go down like Christian
    Understand mommy dearest is confused right now
    but my faith brings us through someway, somehow
    From now I vow to invest the livin’, bow only to God
    The coke’s tokes and tell-lie-vision violence already got me scarred
    Disregard what the devil allowed on my set
    This city’s number one threat, huh
    Bet I could probably run for mayor on some shit like that one day
    Or get my hustle on, just like my dad, quiet as kept for the long stay
    Flow as a positive form to first step
    I want some friends and a ill-ass fuckin’ neighbourhood rep
    600 Benz gooseneck with a Nakamichi system in it
    Graduated from a rookie, rolled-up windows tinted
    Desire presented for ice cream, Big Wheels, local rented movies
    From Power Rangers, Lion King, Toy Story and Goonies
    But the bomb, at least that’s what I heard
    Beyond my 9 to 5’s I write a dope rap song
    but with your insides gone the vision is frail
    Dreams can’t set sail
    From all that unprotected sex and cold Ballantyne ales
    Oh well, I still prevail, God always has something in store for me
    outside this hell, move on
    Torn in the eyes of Allah, scorned when the dawn distortion upon
    My abortion clinic visit in the morn

    I’d rather be born, shine as the true and livin’
    Spawned to live this gift to the fullest, shit is on
    Still rethinkin’ my position until I’m gone
    Mission is to elevate mind
    Glisten, destined forever, weather the storm

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  4. Alex aka thereallex says:

    Good one again Thun da pen !

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  5. DJ HD says:

    Thank you so much for the artikel ABOUT Organized Konfusion.
    I didn’t know them but after reading and listening to there albums i must say there great!
    Thanks again!

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  6. Komplikated says:

    Paul C.!

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  7. verge says:

    wOrd, definitely this was one of my favorite tracks off Equinox.

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