The wave of Hip-Hop runs through all of us with certain keys touching all of us at certain levels. Where some flood the masses with a river of average music, Pharoahe Monch, throughout his storied career, has always chosen to attempt to reach the souls of Hip-Hop folk with high caliber lyricism over a wide variety of music inspired by some of the greatest musicians of all time. “Music is dear to me,” says Monch, “it is the soundtrack to our history. So many legends have partaken in it since its inception.”
An artist from birth, the Queens, NY born and bred emcee began his experience with expression as a visual artist, putting his heart and soul on canvass. While in art school, Pharoahe was introduced to Hip-Hop culture through its visual manifestations of graffiti and fashion. From there he discovered DJing and rapping and instantly recognized them as the viable means of expression they have been since their inception. To Pharoahe, art is a unifying force that brings together all divisions.
An artist with new brushes, Monch found a partner in rhyme, Prince Poetry, and began painting on the canvass of Hip-Hop with a critically acclaimed run as the legendary Organized Konfusion, bursting on the scene with the creative and inventive “Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken”. The group took off with the remix of “Fudge Pudge” featuring O.C., the only guest appearance on their self-produced, self-titled debut. The album was critically lauded for the duo's inventive rhyme schemes, jazz related production and densely packed lyricism that challenged their listeners and stretched the boundaries of conventional Hip-Hop.
From there, the duo took another creative leap forward with sophomore release Stress: the Extinction Agenda. The album was also low on features and high on concept and expression, notable for the narrative “Stray Bullet” which chronicles the path of a bullet through the life of it's flight path. This concept was later “borrowed” for inspiration by Hip-Hop legends Nas on “I Gave You Power” and Tupac Shakur on “Me And my Girlfriend”. Also notable is the track “Bring It On” which features Pharoahe Monch delivering one of the greatest verses of all time with a rapid fire staccato, yet melodic delivery, internal rhyme schemes and breath control techniques that pushed him to the forefront of his contemporaries in rhyme, solidifying Monch as an emcee of the highest order.
Following their third release, The Equinox, a high concept album with narratives and a running storyline that, while intensely creative, was not as well received as their previous work, Organized disbanded, leaving Pharoahe Monch to create on his own canvass and express himself as a soloist, which he did with aplomb on 1998's highly touted Internal Affairs. “Expression as a group is different from solo expression,” noted Monch. “The group setting involves compromise and collaboration.”
With Internal Affairs there was no compromise, allowing Monch to craft one of the greatest underground Hip-Hop albums ever. Decades before Drake, Monch sang his choruses with soul driven melody on songs like “Queens” which chronicled the tragic life of an aspiring athlete taken under by the mean streets. “Simon Says”, the crowd moving hit powered by a Godzilla movie sample, itself became a monster single, propelling Monch to commercial success. The song appeared in the block-buster movie Charlie's Angels, and well as Boiler Room, which also featured “Right Here.”
Monch took a break from album crafting following the dissolution of Rawkus, but he wasn't totally gone. In 2001 he appeared on the soundtrack to the Denzel Washington Oscar winning vehicle Training Day with the unapologetic “F**k You”. He also played the role of ghostwriter for Sean “Diddy” Combs on his 2006 well-received album, Press Play. Monch's hand is evident on tracks, “The Future” and Havoc of Mobb Deep-featured track “The Holdup.”
After a label bidding war, he resurfaced 8 years later with another Universally lauded album, Desire, garnering attention from mainstream media and song placement on the highly popular Madden NFL 08 video game. This time, Monch spread the production out and focused on his delivery, again crafting verses of variable speeds, deliveries, rhythms and concepts like very few have ever done.
Now in 2011, Pharoahe Monch stands ready for W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), taking a stand for higher thought and for the love of the art in Hip-Hop culture; standing firm against the commoditization of the music and so many lowbrow approaches to the art form. “This is a science and it filters into our being. This is what W.A.R. is about. This record is my truth as it was written when I made it,” says Monch. “I would like this album to be on a frequency to let you open the doors to your God-self. I want this harmony to give you goose bumps and raise the hairs on your arms. W.A.R. is a coat of arms against the destruction of art”.
Armed with an enormous array of skill, talent, and most important, love and soul, Pharoahe Monch sets out to wage war under the flag of his newly created company W.A.R. Media in a partnership with Duck Down Music for real Hip-Hoppers and that percentage of Hip-Hoppers that connect to this music on that primal level. Are you ready for W.A.R.?