While Pharoahe Monch, Prince Po's partner in the early-'90s hip-hop group Organized Konfusion, pushed his way to the forefront of mainstream hip-hop (signing to Rawkus and almost hitting the Top 40!), Po stayed in the background, sitting by himself on a dusty old throne—until now. Returning nearly seven years after the duo's last album, Po doesn't drop a beat, even if his intentions are a little wobbly at first. Hoping to cash in on the indie-rock scene's current fascination with hip-hop, Prince Po dedicates the majority of opening track "Hello" to name-dropping critically acclaimed "indie" artists in verses like "Lock and load by Depeche Mode's code" and "I used to be a Radiohead/now radio's dead." Unfortunately, the gimmick falls, and "Hello" turns out to be his solo debut's weakest track. But when he's not trying too hard to win fans, Prince Po's ability to kill the beat on songs like "Too Much" and "The Slickness" is a refreshing reminder of why we liked him in the first place. Slickness has surprisingly upbeat and mainstream production (by Madlib, Danger Mouse and house music's Richard X, among others), especially from a label more known for putting out experimental hip-hop by Sage Francis and Boom Bip, but a smattering of underground-cred guest appearances (Raekwon, Jemini and MF Doom) mix easily into a crisp blend of syncopated bass lines and clever string samples.
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Except for the limp first track, Prince Po's intensely studied craft hasn't gone dull yet—after all these years, he still is pretty slick.