Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reviews:: Pharoahe Monche - Desire

These days I don't really review a lot of major label hip hop albums. There are a number of reasons for that, but don't worry, I'm not about to launch into one of those "hip hop is dead" rants that are so popular with the kids these days. It's really quite simple, if you're looking for a review of Kanye's latest ego-fueled masterpiece, there are roughly eleventy-trillion other sites you could check out. I'd rather spend the limited time I have to do reviews on albums you might not find on other sites. Or just anything from Edmonton. That being said, there are always exceptions, especially when you come across a big release that is what so many albums of late are not: good.

Such is the case with Pharoahe Monch's Desire. After a staggering 8 years since his debut album Internal Affairs, Monch finally drops his eagerly awaited second album on Steve Rifkind's SRC Records, which is a division of Universal, and that makes it "major" enough in my book. This is an enjoyable album, which is a quality that I think is overlooked these days. Yes, it's fantastic that you have 15 songs about how wrong the Iraq war is, but does listening to them have to feel like I'm getting hit in the head with a cartoon frying pan? That's certainly not the case here, as Pharoahe gets deep with the lyrics, but his flow always keeps your head safe from cartoon frying pan injury.
Monch is so talented and versatile that I don't think it is exaggeration to say he's one of the best MC's in the biz. Don't take my word for it, listen to what Kool Moe Dee has to say about the Pharoahe in his nonsensically awesome book There's A God On The Mic:

Pharoahe Monch is like an eloquent linguistics professor moonlighting as a rhyme serial killer terrorist, challenging the listeners' IQ while daring him or her to keep up. He's pound for pound the most lyrical emcee Ive ever heard!!!

Are you going to disagree with three Moe Dee exclamation points? I didn't think so. With such high praise it's sort of surprising that Moe Dee only ranked Monch at #26 on Moe Dee's top 50 list, but really it would take a herculean effort to unseat Heavy D at 25.

After a spiritual-sounding intro, the album kicks off with Free which has pounding drums that kind of remind me of another opener, Jay-Z's The Ruler's Back. Of course Monch's description of the shackles placed on him by labels, and the man in general, is slightly deeper then the Jigga man gets. Desire is essentially feel-good hip hop for the thinking man. The Alchemist track is headlined by guitar strums that remind me of Talib & Hi-Tek's Move Somethin', a song I loved, so this is a good thing. A fellow named Showtyme kicks some gospel ballistics on the hook that would make K-Ci and/or Jojo proud. As for lyrics, here's a sample I enjoy: "I'm so famous, understand, New York City respect my game like Joe Namath, and I protect my name like yo anus, in prison, ya'll don't hear me, ya'll don't listen, ya'll just wanna shine, ya'll just wanna glisten". Reading it probably doesn't do it justice, Monch's flow and cadence bring it to life.

Showtyme and Mela Machinko croon with Monch on Push over a horn laced track that has its horns provided by Tower Of Power(!). The scary state of the US make it a perfect time for Monch's remake of the PE classic Welcome To The Terrordome. I'll admit this is far from favorite PE song to begin with, and I was nervous before I heard it thinking it might be a hip hop Bad Idea Jeans ad, but it is actually an enjoyable song. Monch does a great job with it, and if you want to feel old, just think about the fact that some kid named Constant reviewing the album on Amazon didn't even know this was a PE song.

Moe Dee gave Monch a 90 for "concepts", so you know the Pharoahe can bust a conceptual rhyme with the best of them. When The Gun Draws is like the '07 version of the Organized Konfusion classic Stray Bullet, with Monch kicking his verses from a bullet's viewpoint. Detroit's Black Milk provides the rugged, yet catchy, backdrop for Monch to kill it on Let's Go. Body Baby has a gin-joint jazz beat that you would expect to find Andre 3000 doing what it is he does over, but Monch handles it with aplomb. Erykah Badu joins Monch for the powerful Hold On, and the concepts are front and centre again on the 9 minute love & murder epic Trilogy.

Desire is that rare animal in this day in age, a hip hop album you can listen to from start to finish. Pretty much every beat is enjoyable and Pharoahe Monch gives you lyrics with substance, but he's always able to make it enjoyable to listen to. Good stuff all around, I'd check this one out if you haven't already.

mp3:: Pharoahe Monch - Free

mp3:: Pharoahe Monch - Let's Go f. Mela Machinko

myspace :: web :: buy it

Posted at 8:49 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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