Release Date: Mar 22, 2011
Record label: Duck Down Music
There’s a sense of apocalyptic grandeur to Pharoahe Monch’s latest, framed by actor Idris Elba’s vivid soliloquies. Of course, there’s an argument that a Pharoahe Monch LP deserves this sort of grand scale: Since parting company with Prince Po in 1997 (the two formed the seminal hip-hop duo Organized Konfusion), his output has been an exercise in quality over quantity, the sizeable downtime between each of his three solo albums justified only by their sheer class. Few tongues twist with as much tang as Monch’s, his rapid-fire flow and intricate wordplay ensuring he stands out as one of hip-hop’s most genuinely extraordinary talents.
Pharoahe Monch :: W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)War Media/Duck Down MusicAuthor: Steve 'Flash' Juon"I got a middle finger for mass media, mute the newsCause when the gun draws, you see familiar viewsWhich gives me the right to break the rulesSay FUCK radio if the people can't pick and chooseWhile BET gets screwed by ViacomThe new revolutionary is shy and modestAnd I, brush fire rappers, five alarmmotivational music after I am gone" The cynicism Pharoahe Monch displays on the title track of "W.A.R." is not unwarranted. Dating all the way back to the early 1990's, the man born Troy Donald Jamerson has been amazing hip-hop audiences and drawing rave reviews from even the snottiest of discerning critics.
With the 2011 release of his third album, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), rapper Pharoahe Monch halved the eight-year wait fans endured between his first and second efforts. This strong, satisfying, often stunning third release proves he can deliver the goods under this tighter release schedule, and when listening to lyrics that are topical for 2011 (“Calculated Amalgamation” is inspired by the recent Egyptian revolution), one begins to wonder if it’s been three years off for Monch, and then one very strong year back on.
Pharoahe Monch can be a hard listen. His rhymes are dense and his beat picking is occasionally suspect. His music requires focus and attention to appreciate and sometimes the reward isn’t worth the work. It’s no surprise, then, that his major label gambit, 07’s Desire, was a big-ass flop ….
Review Summary: 'smoke kush, wake up, and eat breakfast'The length of the typical rapper's career could easily be related to that of professional athlete. They probably have a span of four years where they seem relevant until eventually they are booted from the mainstream. Trends in a genre based around immediate hits change so rapidly that it is hard for rappers to constituently do something new.
The book isn't closed yet on Pharoahe Monch, but it's safe to say that history's going to be kind to him, and deservedly so. In the 20 years since the first Organized Konfusion album he's fathered numerous styles; without the precedent of his sharp, needling, Ornette Coleman-solo flow and the triple-reinforced polysyllabic depth it delivered, there's arguably no Mos Def, probably no Eminem, and definitely no army of complicated indie-rap spitters elbowing each other in a crowded post-Scribble Jam strata. And despite the huge hitch in his career arc-- eight years between his 1999 solo debut Internal Affairs and his excellent 2007 comeback Desire-- he always seemed like each dispatch from the studio could erase the aftereffects of his protracted absence.
Like Desire before it, We Are Renegades (W.A.R. for short) is a departure from what the audience expects from Pharoahe Monch. After four years of waiting, perhaps that’s to be expected and, in fact, invited. As much if not more so than any other genre, hip-hop is dictated by fast-moving trends and fresh sounds, but Monch has never been known to hurry himself.
The strongest tracks here stand tall, ensuring Monch remains a powerful rap force. Sam Hesketh 2011 Likely to be forever known as the rapper that brought the world Simon Says back in 1999, Pharoahe Monch has struggled to live up to his debut album's hype and, having waited four years to bring out third LP W.A.R., has heaped pressure atop himself to deliver a bona-fide stormer. Sadly, that’s something he hasn't fully managed to do.There are plenty of high points here.