Holy Intellect was Poor Righteous Teachers' excellent debut, as well as the group's highest-charting release, peaking at number 142 on the Billboard 200. Rhymes reflecting the beliefs of the Five Percent Nation never translated to mass appeal, but the group's inability to become more popular is kind of surprising, given that this album can be enjoyed by any fan of Gang Starr, Main Source, the Jungle Brothers, or A Tribe Called Quest. At the very least, it contains some of the era's most undervalued MCing. Perhaps it was the group's name, neither as tough-sounding as Public Enemy nor as clever as Brand Nubian. Or maybe they just lacked that one big breakout single. Produced mostly by Tony "Tony D" Depula (YZ, Jazzy Jay, King Sun), Holy Intellect contains many examples of late-'80s/early-'90s rap positing brainy lyrics over energizing productions suited for a party. Having a good time and feeding your mind didn't have to be mutually exclusive events. Take "Butt Naked Booty Bless," which, instrumentally, could be used for any old crowd-goading chatter, rather than Wise Intelligent lines like "Lessons are the key to the style I drop/Hip-hop, not miscellaneous rhymes." It is worth noting that three tracks were released as singles that hit the Billboard rap chart: the hard-charging "Holy Intellect," the relaxed "Rock Dis Funky Joint," and the tender "Shakiyla," (which sampled Zapp's "Be Alright" before Big Daddy Kane's "Prince of Darkness" and 2Pac's "Keep Ya Head Up").
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman