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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pharoahe Monch: Desire Review

Pharoahe Monch-Desire

It’s been almost a decade since Internal Affairs, Pharoahe Monch’s debut solo LP, dropped. In rap, that’s an eternity. To say Pharoahe Monch has been ghost would be an understatement. I could write about whose projects Pharoahe Monch ghostwrote for or about how much drama he’s had with record labels or how highly anticipated this album is to so many people but cats really want to know what’s good with this new shit. So, without further delay…

Pharoahe, unlike most emcees, uses his intro wisely. He utilizes it to set the tone of the album using a Negro spiritual to proclaim freedom from the bullshit and politics of the major record labels.

Pharoahe uses this track to uncover the dirt, grime and iniquity present in the music biz; definitely not the typical rapper’s subject content. His verses delve into the parallels between slavery and the rap game i.e. the record label = the plantation, the A&R = the house nigga, the emcee = the slave.

“Desire” is Pharoahe’s testament to his passion for creating music. Lyrically, Pharoahe exhibits his superiority on this effort with lines like “New York City respect my game like Joe Namath/and I protect my name, like yo anus/in prison…” as well as an analogy comparing the writing process to the reproductive organs/natal process. He rhymes, “the book is an ovary/the pages I lust to turn/the pen’s the penis/when I write the ink is the sperm/desire, the fire that ignites the torch that burns.”

This effort is about maintaining perseverance in difficult times. The brass horns play a simple section as Pharoahe and featured songstress, Mela Machinko, croon about overcoming tribulations. Pharoahe doesn’t rhyme until deep into the track where he manages to sneak some brief political commentary in.

“Welcome To the Terrordome”
Just when I realized Pharoahe hadn’t begun relating his conspiracy theories, “Welcome To the Terrordome” commences. Pharoahe summons the energy, feel and message of Chuck D to simultaneously tell you to open your eyes and alert you to the corrupt bullshit the American government is pulling on its citizens.

“What It Is”
This is the “don’t get it twisted I’m still a real n***a track.” This effort comes together nicely as the production and rhymes blend to give you that guttural, grimey feeling.

“When the Gun Draws”
“When the Gun Draws” explores gun violence in America. Pharoahe takes the perspective of a bullet personifying it as a calluous, soulless slave that only answers to the trigger. He describes in detail what the bullet mercilessly does to its victims and also lists victims of government-orchestrated assassinations (Martin Luther King and JFK).

“Let’s Go”
This is the first track I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with and it’s not so much because it wasn’t dope, it’s just not as good as the shit prior to it. It’s still worth a listen because of some of the punchlines and the parody at the end—that shit’s hilarious.

“Body Baby”
This track sounds like an experimental effort. It summons several genres including swing, a little bit of rock and up-tempo blues; a good artistic venture.

“Bar Trap”
This one puts Pharoahe in the club scenario as he relates a narrative about his bagging of a female, their interactions that follow and his desire to well you know, get horizontal.

“Hold On”
Erykah Badu blesses the hook on “Hold On” as Pharoahe delivers a tale of self actualization as he follows a girl from being berated as a child because of her skin color to her, later in life, embracing her pigment as a gift from God.

“So Good”
“So Good” is one of those “deeper—physical and mental—love tracks.” Not my thing, per se; definitely a down tempo record for Neo Soul/Hip Hop chicks.

The album reaches its creative climax on this 3-part tragedy narrative about adultery and murder. Pharoahe glides through this track effortlessly not sparing any details in his story. The story unfolds in media res (“in the midst of things”) as Pharoahe finds himself surrounded by police with guns drawn. Each act in this track brings you one step closer until you get to the shocking end of this tragedy.

Desire stands as a testament to the artistic potential of Hip Hop. It’s not base and pointless street narratives about shooting 38s and 45, it’s verbal literature chalk full of creative imagery and myriad literary techniques. It’s not grandiose, gaudy production done by the prima donnas of the rap game. Instead it favors the soulful sounds of Black Milk, The Alchemist and Pharoah Monch himself. The lyrics aren’t dumbed down for a younger audience. This is lyrical exercise laden with similes, metaphors, allusion and all that dope shit. This is real Hip Hop. This album is the result of passion plus talent plus creativity and bar none the best album of 07 though far. If rap has saddened you with its lack of intelligence and creativity, Desire will assuredly wake you up from the mental slumber mainstream rap has put you in.

Pharoahe Monch-Desire


ron art said...

its too intelligent. it will go triple aluminum by the end of next month.

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