The Poor Righteous Teachers’ Final Word Celebrated Earthly Life, Both Good & Bad (Video)
Hailing from Trenton, New Jersey, Poor Righteous Teachers belonged to a school of thought within Hip-Hop that drew heavy inspiration from spiritual and religious tenets. As self-proclaimed members of the Five-Percent Nation (also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths), PRT used much of their music to emphasize the importance of culture, history, knowledge, and righteousness. Comprised of leading MC Wise Intelligent, MC and producer Culture Freedom, Mike Peart, and the late DJ and producer Father Shaheed, Poor Righteous Teachers debuted with 1990’s Holy Intellect, a politically driven album that aligned them conceptually with artists like Public Enemy and X-Clan. They went on to release two more albums in the early ’90s (1991’s Pure Poverty, which featured their best-known single, “Shakiyla”; and 1993’s Black Business, perhaps their most critically acclaimed) before dropping their final project, 1996’s The New World Order. While not as commercially successful as its predecessors, it featured the Fugees, Junior Reid, and KRS-One, who joined them on the album’s lead single, “Conscious Style.”
The album’s second single was absent any guest appearances, making “Word Iz Life” a strictly PRT affair, lyrically and visually. Produced by Ezo Brown, the song’s messages of Pro-Blackness are joined by recurring references to the Nation and its teachings, particularly in the form of metaphors comparing humankind to celestial bodies and natural phenomena (“I touch the mic and universally greet rising earths with peace”; “I saw the moon turn to blood, watched the sun go black/Sisters crying come back, cause now the whole world lacks science”; “I spat the spit fact this chick gave birth to Black gods on earth”). However, it also carries more terrestrial references, specifically to life in public housing, the reliance on Welfare that so many disenfranchised families are forced to have, and the detriment of sipping malt liquor. The video is a simple yet vibrant depiction of life for many Black men, women, and children, with images of jams in the park, sidewalk cyphers, and a stroll through the neighborhood delivering a message of universal unity with one another.
This would be the group’s final music video, but the song’s message continues to inspire. Do you remember it?