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Pharoahe Monch - Desire

Pharoahe Monch, Desire

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

NEW YORK legend Pharoahe Monch has complained that hip hop has become “boxed in right now”, courtesy of the gangsta culture surrounding it.

Hence, Desire – his keenly anticipated return after eight years – is designed to use “the art form to its full capability”.

And true to form, Monch has created an album that’s both hard-hitting and fun; one that embraces and defies hip hop convention; and one that waxes lyrical on everything from Iraq and the human cost of gun trading to love, sex, survival and George Bush.

Evidence of the album at its most adventurous and genre-defying is the current single Body Baby, which offers proof positive that hip hop DOESN’T have to be about hard-hitting lyrics or materialism.

Rather, it’s a clear ode to Elvis Presley (All Shook Up in particular) and Tom Jones, as well as a genuine booty-shaker into the bargain.

From the first hip beat to the Elvis vocal impersonation, the record commands your attention and just keeps getting better and more funky with each play.

It’ll be a firm dancefloor favourite this summer – and deservedly so.

But it’s not generally the sound of what to expect as Desire is genuinely ecelectic.

First song proper Free is a hard-hitting combo of hip hop and rock that’s born from the streets, but which retains a funky vibe, while title track Desire drops a funky beat and some stirring strings over a flow that reflects on the current state of the music industry.

What’s more, it includes a deeply soulful vocal collaboration from Showtyme that lends it extra flavour.

Push, another highlight, emerged as a single last year and drops a sensational beat over some sharp stabs of brass, a sub Motown vibe and contributions from Showtyme, Mela Machinko and Tower of Power. It’s classically old-skool and a lesson to the likes of 50 Cent and The Game, who continue to fall back on a routine sound.

Thereafter, Welcome To The Terrordome mixes pop culture references such as Here The Drummer Get Wicked with more hard-hitting social commentary that draws on New Orleans, Iraq and political disaffection (“man I’ve had it up to here”). The beats and melodies maintain an upbeat vibe though, so that you’re just as likely to dance as join the protest.

What It Is and When The Gun Draws continue the biting commentary, showcasing Monch’s ability to mix thought-provoking flow with instrumentals that are worth listening to.

When The Gun Draws, in particular, begins with a sample that perfectly encapsulates a sentiment that must be on every parents’ mind: “Something is wrong in this nation when a child can grab a gun so easily and shoot a bullet into the middle of a child’s face, as my daughter experienced… something is wrong.”

The song itself is accompanied by a short online campaign film to accompany the graphic lyrics that follow – and it’s evidence of Monch’s desire to mix entertainment with important social commentary and action.

Further highlights come in the form of Bar Tap, featuring the welcome return of Mela Machinko, and the deeply soulful, ultra chilled Hold On, featuring Erykah Badu on delicious form.

Nine minute penultimate track Trilogy is another standout, drawing on the sort of hip-hop rhymes that 50 Cent employs, but unfolding as a three-act piece about infidelity, retribution and the pointlessness of violence.

It features guest vocals from Mr Porter (Act I), Dwele (Act II) and Tone (Act III) that put forward a compelling tale of despair based around a love triangle turned sour. It takes a bit of getting used to – but it’s the album’s most ambitious track and a brilliant cautionary tale.

Desire is therefore a deeply impressive album that marks a considerable triumph for Monch and hip hop in general. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another eight years for Monch to return…

Download picks: Free, Desire, Push, When The Gun Draws, Body Baby, Hold On, Trilogy

Track listing:

  1. Intro
  2. Free
  3. Desire
  4. Push
  5. Welcome To The Terrordome
  6. What it Is
  7. When The Gun Draws Dirty
  8. Let’s Go
  9. Body Baby
  10. Bar Tap
  11. Hold On
  12. So Good
  13. Trilogy
  14. Agent Orange

  1. Make Pharoahe more popular. Go to musicblog. ugo . com

    Peace and respect to all media outlets supporting the monch!

    El Monstro    Jun 26    #
  2. Thx for the review but “Welcome to the Terrodome” is a cover of an old Public Enemy record!!!!

    carlito    Jun 30    #
  3. “Thereafter, Welcome To The Terrordome mixes pop culture references such as Here The Drummer Get Wicked with more hard-hitting social commentary that draws on New Orleans, Iraq and political disaffection (“man I’ve had it up to here”).”

    Yeah, it was pretty clever of Chuck D to anticipate all that when he wrote this song in 1990. :-P

    Pearce    Jul 3    #
  4. First verse on Welcome to The Terrordome is Chuck D cover, next verse is Pharoahe Monch

    adam    Jul 4    #