For most hip-hop fans, New Jersey is merely the “place successful rappers move to before upgrading to Connecticut.” But the late 1980s and 1990s were a Golden Era of sorts around Trenton, state capital and home to rappers like YZ, Blvd Mosse and the still-underrated Poor Righteous Teachers. After releasing their moderately successful local debut single “Time to Say Peace” (collected here), the P.R.T. trio of Wise Intelligent, Culture Freedom and Father Shaheed found acclaim in the early 1990s, back when being pro-black and referencing the dense codespeak of the Nation of Islam signified a thoughtful hardness.
Rare and Unreleased tracks the trio's evolution from proselytizers of the conscious way to darker, Illuminati-spewing conspiracy theorists. Their first single, the squeaky A-side “Time to Say Peace” with a primitive version of “Butt Naked Booty Bless” on the flip, still sounds fierce, while the menacing, Bob James-sampling “Word Is Bond” is probably the toughest-ever call for kids to embrace the non-violent thrills of critical thinking. Of course their later tracks belie this early pacifism, as on the dusty “Rock My Project,” an excellent, surprisingly jaunty remix of Wise solo cut “Steady Slangin'” and a sparser version of Wise's “My Sound.” One of the collection's charming outtakes is “Can I Start This,” a crew freestyle over a barebones breakbeat kicked off by a fun, huffing-and-puffing guest verse from P.R.T. producer Tony D.