I have to take a moment at the start of this review to note the falling out between Army of the Pharaohs and former members Doap Nixon and King Magnetic. In a collective that large it’s almost inevitable that egos will bump into each other — it’s not like Wu-Tang Clan hasn’t had their share of drama between members over the years. Still listening to Nixon’s “Gray Poupon” was a reminder that he used to be one of the integral AOTP members, before both he and Magnetic released Vinnie Paz diss tracks in 2020 to announce their departure from the group. That couldn’t have been easy for D.P. given that he and Paz grew up in the same hood and Paz was the one who first put Nixon, and in fact his first solo album was billed as “Jedi Mind Tricks Presents” on the cover. It is what it is though.
Perhaps it’s telling that there are no Vinnie Pazienza cameos on “Gray Poupon,” but the “Pharaoh clique” certainly gets cameos and shoutouts on songs like “Grand Opening” featuring Celph Titled and Planetary. This was an immediate favorite on the album and not just because of the lineup. Scratching in the Fat Joe line “today’ll be the grand opening of your chest” fits both the song title and the ominous mood of the beat from D.C. the Midi Alien. Titled has the type of personality that dominates tracks, and punchlines like “I’m wild like an orangutan mixed with a gang banging Mexican” stand out. Everybody plays their part well though and it’s the type of track you’ll instantly rewind and play again.
The Illbred produced guitar rock sound of “War Music” featuring Crypt the Warchild is another banger. In many respects that’s the hallmark of a great AOTP track — everybody seems to up the intensity musically and lyrically. “The Pharaohs on the roof so the Jakes can’t stop it/the flow’s +Sour Diesel+ but the music is chocolate.” Absolutely. Solo Doap Nixon albums from this era feel like a direct extension of the AOTP philosophy, which is why the acrimonious way he split with the collective may feel like a stab to the heart. Perhaps the Pokerface produced “Power to the People” will apply some salve to those wounds. It’s a super mellow reggae vibe instrumental but Nixon still attacks the track. “Ain’t no black or white thing, racism still exists/but it’s just behind the scenes.”
It’s a little confusing that some versions of this album list “Pistol Gang” and “Running” featuring Chief Kamachi as bonus tracks and others don’t. It’s also noteworthy that Kamachi’s appearance here came as he was embroiled in his OWN feud with AOTP, although his issues allegedly stem from a beef with Apathy and the fact he wasn’t brought on tour with the collective. It doesn’t seem like anybody had veto power though over who Doap Nixon worked with on his second solo album and that’s for the better, although my suspicious mind thinks calling it a “bonus track” may have been to appease someone anyway. That’s just idle speculation though, not facts.
In reviewing the first Doap Nixon solo effort I gave a mostly positive reception to it while noting he had some “shortcomings as a lyricist.” That may have been unnecessarily harsh. He wasn’t a bad rapper but he was associated with a lot of really good ones that made it harder for him to stand out. The irony of “Gray Poupon” is that the limited number of AOTP cameos gives him room to breathe, making the collaborations a treat but showing he’s a capable emcee when left to his own devices. I still can’t rank him the best member of the collective before or after his departure, yet I appreciate what he has to offer on “Gray Poupon” and most listeners wouldn’t mind some more of his mustard spread on tracks.