Thursday, 24 March 2011
REVIEW: PHAROAHE MONCH: W.A.R (WE ARE RENEGADES)
Going to W.A.R., Monch shows he's the most high.
Like it or not, know him or not, Pharoahe Monch is one of the best rappers around today and for the last decade or so. Belonging at the top of a class of underground, conscious M.C's like Talib Kweli, Mos Def and many more, if reality was a just fantasy this rapper would top all the commercials with his classics. Sure you may know his lyricist lounge, 'Oh No' session with Mos Def and Nate Dogg (R.I.P.). Or you may have done as told on his 'Gojira tai Mosura' theme sampling smash 'Simon Says'. Still this rapper is no novelty like the 'Cha, Cha Slide'.
Now you may have slept on the fact that almost a decade after his classic debut ('Internal Affairs') he released another timeless, hip-hop disc full of realism in the form of 'Desire'. You might have been too tired to realise that as well as actively rapping in a political way, this rap prophet can also go deep into the psyche of human nature (see 'So Good' and 'Love' with the late, legendary J Dilla). Still, with Monch's latest album 'W.A.R (We Are Renegades)' he intends to wake up music fans and the world alike with a commentary we need both socially and internationally.
This renegade kicks off this album with a cinematic, dramatic intro narrated by 'The Wire's' Idris Elba (who's also got an impressive set of pipes, check his EP ). Now, talking about 'The Wire' and it's movie-like qualities, Pharoahe brings in the HBO drama's Gbenga Akinnagbe for a ten minute, dramatic film for his first single 'Clap (One Day)'. Sampling some previous lyrics, Eric B. & Rakim classics and story-telling styles from the 'Trilogy' on his last album, Monch shows that he is hip-hop's perfect narrator with a social story sure to stir even the strongest of consciences.
The albums lead track, 'Calculated Amalgamation' is also a mathematical, lyrical masterpiece as Monch again drops science, schooling the lost art of real hip-hop. With calculated lines like, "found myself standing in a room full of mirrors/and even my reflection disrespects you like a freshman during hazing/(what an amazing assessment)" , all this adds up to is a greater correlation in Monch's discography of classics. Then Monch's sound multiplies even more with 'Evolve'. A track that shows no subtraction in the rappers style, yet a sound that won't leave the mainstream and the hard hip-hop heads divided. The same goes for the Styles P, substance full track 'Black Hand Side' also featuring Phonte of Little Brother fame. There's no hand my downs here on the typical, traditional sound of underground, conscious hip-hop soul that Monch has honed over the years. A style that needs to be passed up to some mainstream minds.
The title track of this album and the deep cut 'Let My People Go' are all examples of social commentaries that scar the ills that go on with the world. Unfortunately to these often ignored statements ears need to be lent. Just like on the tracks 'The Hitman' and 'Assassins' (where conscious partners in crime Jean Grae and Royce Da 5'9" commit great, lyrical homicide) are cold, clinical murderous classics. On 'Shine' however, Pharoahe Monch shows how bright he can get with a light but fresh track, tailor made for the top-down convertibles of free but conscious thinkers. Monch also strikes hard on 'Haile Selassie Karate' thanks to some kicks from D-12's Mr. Porter, but raps lyrical friend of Eminem gets real magical with his lines on 'The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)'. Monch reaches deeper into his bag of tricks with a vintage jam, circa the classic ages of rap.
The album comes to a beautiful, soulful close with the Jill Scott assisted, 'Still Standing' and this classic proves that 38 years, 3 albums and 13 tracks in this rapper is still firmly planting his feet. Socially conscious rap often falls on deaf ears, but these 'def' jam's need to be heard more, so open your minds and listen and after this album finishes you''ll really begin to get the message. On this disc Pharoahe Monch delivers. Time for those in the wrong to do right and return the favour to the sender. This is one messenger who shoots straight.TIM DAVID HARVEY.