Producer: Buckwild
Album: Stress: The Extinction Agenda
Label: Hollywood BASIC/Elektra Records

Over the 45 minutes of Stress: The Extinction Agenda, Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po inhabit the spirit of a serial killer; an evangelical holy roller; a redneck trucker; and a poetical poltergeist. And that's all before the album gets to "Stray Bullet," the penultimate comment on hip-hop violence, in which our heroes assume the POV of one Glock 9's discharged ammunition. It makes sense then that the first words on the record are a confession of exasperation from Po: "Pain, stress / My brain can't even rest / It's hard to maintain the pressure on my chest / Excess frustration strikes!" The wordplay is dense and so is the music, but the whole thing still manages to move like a great slab of soul jazz, glutinous and gleaming with radioactive sheen. —Sam Sweet