When discussions come up about the greatest MCs of the 90s a lot of the same names continually pop up. Most of those names are worthy of being in those discussions, while others are certainly questionable. However, what is a bigger misstep are the names that all to often get omitted. One of the most overlooked names is Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers.
Poor Righteous Teachers hit the scene right as the 80s were coming to a close. As the name suggests, the lyrical content had a message and the group was on a mission to educate those in their inner community first and eventually beyond. Their first single, “Time To Say Peace” was on a small indie label, so I didn’t hear them until they signed with Profile Records and dropped “Rock This Funky Joint”. Immediately upon hearing it I knew there was something special there. The beat had a great vibe with plenty of open space and was perfectly arranged to accent Wise Intelligent’s intricate and diversified flow.
Not long after, they dropped their debut album, “Holy Intellect” and they pretty much maintained that same quality of the previous single through the whole album. The title track was the ultimate testament to Wise Intelligent’s impeccable delivery. By no means did he allow the quicker pace to force him to abandon his complex style. In fact, he continued to push the limits of the speed, as well as the intricacy. On the other end of the tempo spectrum is “So Many Teachers”. Tracks like that gave the album’s producer, Tony Depula (R.I.P), the title of the master of the moaning beats. The beat is nearly hypnotic, which is a useful tool for helping the messages of Wise Intelligent sink in. He pleads, “Our people need some leaders and some positivity”. Though it’s not one of the more popular songs from this album, it was always one of my favorites. The back and forth of the contrasting voices of Wise Intelligent and Culture Freedom add some additional textures and the track is filled with many powerful quotes, such as, “Peace is that which rightfully be mine/Disagree? Then let the teacher take you back in time/Once upon a time upon the earth, many say we’re cursed/But those who are Black are that of first/EVER to exist upon the planet, let me speak ????/I’m here to give a greater understanding/Peace was the flow of the universe/So shut your bibles, stop telling lies that you were first…" “Rock This Funky Joint” was considered a hit in Hip Hop circles, but didn’t quite penetrate the mainstream. However, considering the group’s message, that isn’t completely surprising. However, the album certainly impacted enough to garner a sophomore release.
A year later, still on Profile and still produced by Tony Depula, they dropped “Pure Poverty”. Their formula wasn’t largely different, but the difference was noticeable. “Pure Poverty” was far more representative of their Reggae roots, something only hinted on with the debut. A couple tracks feature some roots chatting courtesy of Lego Man and Long Man. One of the album highlight is “Hot Damn I’m Great”, complete with the perfect Tim Dog quote cut up very sharply by DJ Father Shaheed and supported by additional vocal flavor from Davy DMX’s “One For The Treble”. This track also exhibits Wise Intelligent’s use of more freedom with his voice on this album. At times his flow seamlessly transitions from complex flows to a more relaxed singing approach, but always rugged or as Wise Intelligent calls it, “just check out (the) teacher and the way I’ve evolved since last time…I’m truly perfection/But don’t balance this with the other LP or the last rhymes, because there’s no connection.” Base on the sound and lyrical dexterity of “Each One Teach One”, it initially sounds like a perfect choice for an album single. However, the song content is also among some of the most challenging on the record. On one of the opening lines he speaks, “It’s knowledge of yourself and science of everything in life/In about one century from now these devils’ll run around and paint me white!” He expounds further on this thought on the second verse and later in the third offers some words of advice he dream about better conditions, but don’t act, “Some try chasing dreams, but never find the dreams they seek/Wake up is all I ask, cause dreams are plights in sleep!*”
Two years later in 1993 PRT dropped their third album, “Black Business” and is arguably them at their best. Tony Depula is still in the fold offering a few tracks, but by now the crew had become completely capable of producing themselves and the results are very impressive. “Black Business” is astatement of mastery on all levels. The music is an evolution of the foundation they have been building, but is brighter and as engaging as ever. Culture Freedom makes a bigger presence on this record, contributing some quality verses. As for Wise Intelligent, his flow is now at a level of perfection. He has an uncanny control over his flow and a keen understanding of using his vocal tone as an instrument. All that and their message is also still in tact, with no punches pulled. Essentially, PRT deliver 12 strong songs that should have solidified them as a larger force in industry. However, it was their most largely overlooked album**.
The crew didn’t release any music for a few years, but in ’96 Wise Intelligent came out swinging. Within that year they released a new PRT album, “New World Order” and he also dropped his first solo album, “Killin’ U…For Fun”. “New World Order” is an extension of the direction of “Black Business” and is a very solid album, even though Wise Intelligent is not quite as complex with his flow. PRT enlisted a few like-minded artists on this album, resulting in quality collaborations with The Fugees, KRS One, and Brother J of the X-Clan. “Killin’ U…For Fun” could be viewed as an updated version of the “Pure Poverty” sound, pulling heavy from the Reggae influence side and features the lyrical mindblower, “Freestyle (A Conscious Lyric)”.
Poor Righteous Teachers didn’t release any more albums, but Wise Intelligent stayed present on the scene with some rhyme features and eventually started to build a good online presence as the internet became a powerful tool for indie artists with his Intelligent Muzik movement. Over the last several years he continued to release quality material; “The Talented Timothy Taylor” (2006), “Blessed By The Poor?” (2007) and “The Unconkable Djezuz Djones” (2011). Over twenty years later and Wise Intelligent hasn’t lost his passion for educating the youth, seeking truth, inventive rhyming, and Hip Hop Culture.
Written By Kevin Beacham
*I am not 100% on the last part of the quote. Trying tor reach out to verify....
**The only challenge with this record, artistically, is a reflection of a trap that many Hip Hop albums fell into with making homophobic statements. This is something noted in some of the few mainstream reviews that the album did get.