The teaming up of venerated MCs with esteemed producers has reaped fantastic results over the past few years. From Kool Keith and Dan the Automator's Dr. Octagon project to Danger Mouse and MF Doom's Danger Doom, the right chemistry can elevate both rhymes and beats. In an attempt to reach legendary partnership status, ex-Organized Konfusion member Prince Po has joined forces with Bay Area producer Tom C3 as Saga of the Simian Samurai.
The results are impressive. Po's declarative flow and forceful cadence fit perfectly into Tom's KutMasta Kurt–influenced cut-and-paste production, which is heavy on funk samples and cinematic flourishes. While tracks featuring Del, Motion Man, and Kool Keith shine, it's songs like “Roota to the Toota,” with an unorthodox 6/8 time signature, that are the wheat to commercial hip-hop's chaff. “Get on your grind,” Po repeatedly urges, but he's also not above offering females a taste of his “chocolate fudge pop” on the slinky “Candy.” One of the record's best tracks is “Now and Then,” built around a rhyme scheme of short phrases, much like Kool Keith's “I Don't Believe You” or Big Shug's “Hood with That.” Beginning with images of “Corn braids, Big Wheels, chico sticks, Sugar Hill,” Po matches rhythms with Tom's spare beat while contrasting retro and modern pop culture images.
Packing 14 songs into just under 40 minutes, Saga doesn't wear out its welcome. Although the disc plays out like a low-budget version of better-known tag-teams, Po and Tom's natural rapport makes this collaboration work.