A Guide to Army of the Pharaohs and Their Cleverly Balanced Extremes

Perhaps a rapper’s most valuable artistic quality is variety – the ability to apply your skills to multiple sounds and ideas that keep the audience engaged. The underground collective Army of the Pharaohs embodies this practice through the range of talented and diverse MCs in their group and from across the country.

Whether it be over the top lyrical-miracle raps, social radicalism, or horrorcore bordering on juggalo territory, Army of the Pharaohs brings a range of interesting perspectives and styles. Founded in the late 90s by Philadelphia MC Vinnie Paz, Army of the Pharaohs would draw broad influences – from hardcore New York streets, to battles, even to Boston oddities. As a result there grew many subgroups in the collective, such as The Demigodz, and countless renowned affiliates from across scenes. Even R&B legend Bahamadia counts herself as an original member.

Army of the Pharaohs would undergo many iterations since its original formation on 1998’s The Five Perfect Exertions / War Ensemble EP, so years of hype and left turns culminated well on the collective’s eventual full collaborations: The Torture Papers and Ritual of Battle. Their hardcore roots are felt even today with influence on Philly MCs such as Dark Lo, OT the Real, Ar-Ab and more.

Here, we’ll discuss some of Army of the Pharaohs’ core artists and their spectrum of styles:

Jedi Mind Tricks & Vinnie Paz

Certainly the most revered act to come out of Army of the Pharaohs is Jedi Mind Tricks and their frontman Vinnie Paz. The Philly group, comprised of Vinnie – once Icon the Verbal Hologram – occasionally Jus Allah, and producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, became essentials of backpack hip-hop with their classic album Violent By Design, despite bringing a much more hardcore and old school sound than their contemporaries.

Vinnie Paz tends to follow his tried and true formula of mythological references alluding to how he’ll fuck you up, whether it be violently in the street or on the mic. Thankfully, Jus Allah breaks it up and Stoupe brings epic production with exotic motifs.

Vinnie’s prolific solo work occasionally features more introspective moments which work well given his unique perspectives on life.

7L & Esoteric

Demigodz duo 7L & Esoteric have gained some acclaim in recent years through Czarface, but their work goes back decades and counts among Army of the Pharaoh’s very best. In fact, Esoteric arguably edges out Vinnie Paz as the group’s best MC on a pure technical level. They employ a more straightforward, boombappy sound and punchlines, but also some amazing lyrical gimmicks such as “The First Letter“.

Perhaps it’s for these reasons they became rivals of El-P and Definitive Jux back in the day. Not wanting Army of the Pharaohs to be boxed in with what might be considered “nerd rap”, the sides exchanged classic disses.

Celph Titled & Apathy

These two frequent collaborators often reach levels of old headedness so absurd it makes RA the Rugged Man look like Lil Uzi Vert; but beneath the stubborn slurs and goofy delivery are some of the most clever punchlines ever put out, as well as some nice come up stories (Celph brings an interesting background, being from Tampa and searching for his place in the industry)

Apathy, meanwhile, brings great topical variety and song concepts, whether it be more personal subjects or lyrical acrobatics. He’s even been known to remix and kill hits of the time, with a penchant for Biggie and Pun samples.

While The Gatalog might be an intimidating listen, its chock full of Celph’s best for whenever you’re in the mood, and Eastern Philosophy by Apathy is among Army of the Pharaoh’s essentials for its immaculate, soulful production.


Outerspace is a duo comrpised of MCs Planetary and Crypt the Warchild, two members of Army of the Pharaohs who definitely deserve more shine for their discography. Like Jedi Mind Tricks, the two members contrast well by bringing both philosophical and more aggressive street raps respectively. To top it all of, the production on albums like Blood and Ashes and Blood Brothers bear great DJ Premier influence for fans of MOP.

Chief Kamachi & The Juju Mob

Perhaps the greatest strength of Chief Kamachi – relative to the rest of Army of the Pharaohs – is actually that he has less personality than many members. Rather than going all in on religious references or goofy punchlines, he opts for more standard Philadelphia hardcore; and it works, because its so authentic. Other members of the Juju Mob include Reef the Lost Cauze, Charon Don, and State Store.

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