Two Kings in a Cipher

From Pyramids to Projects

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In the early '90s, an abundance of Afrocentric rappers came from the Northeastern corridor -- the region of the U.S. that gave fans Brand Nubian, X-Clan, Professor X, Isis, Queen Mother Rage, and quite a few similar artists. These hip-hoppers showed no awareness of either the gangsta rap that was coming from the West Coast or the bass music and booty rhymes that were inescapable in the Deep South; instead of rapping about thug life or being sexually explicit, Afrocentric MCs were more likely to talk about African history or the Islamic faith. One of the lesser-known acts that came out of hip-hop's Afrocentric school was the East Coast duo Two Kings in a Cipher, whose debut album, From Pyramids to Projects, is competent but not remarkable. The rappers had an intriguing name and an interesting image -- D.O.P. dressed very b-boy and sported baseball caps, whereas the Noble Amen-Ra wore a fez and dressed like an Islamic scholar from Egypt or Morocco. But, unfortunately, the material isn't as interesting as the group's image. That isn't to say that From Pyramids to Projects is a bad album. D.O.P. and Amen-Ra are capable rappers, and their rhymes aren't weak -- but they aren't mind-blowing either. Most of the time, D.O.P. and Amen-Ra sound undeveloped; one hears their potential, but they settle for adequate instead of excelling. With the right guidance, support, and direction from a record company, perhaps Two Kings in a Cipher could have developed into a group that was exceptional instead of merely competent. But that's only speculation. The duo never recorded a second album, and this little-known CD is only a small footnote in the history of East Coast Afrocentric rap.

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