Pharoahe Monch
Desire


4.5
superb

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
June 26th, 2007 | 77 replies | 17,752 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Egyptian monarch's long awaited sophomore album delivers an old-school jaunt of epic proportions. Simon says get the **** into Desire.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

Living through high-profile guest appearances and a mixtape in the 8 year gap between his 1999 debut Internal Affair and the long delayed Desire, Pharoahe Monch has always teetered between the underground and mainstream. Gaining steam as the star MC in the seminal underground duo Organized Konfusion throughout the 90s, by the time his surprise ‘99 hit “Simon Says” came along, pounding its iconic horn intro and pleas for girls to “rub on their titties,” he was already well-known for his zigzagging rhyme complexity and rapid delivery. Unusual for an indie single to crack the Billboard’s Top 100, Pharoahe was ready for Egyptian deity status. But record label battles for Monch soon began, and a second album wouldn’t begin to materialize until 2005, with more delays to follow. But finally getting Desire, it’s easy to see that Pharoahe doesn’t care about whatever expectations his different audiences set for him, or that he wasn’t able to capitalize on Simon Says. As soon as Desire begins, Pharoahe is determined to unify a fresh, new sound and conceptual goals with little compromise compared to most rappers out there right now.

Desire is very much an “album” album, weaving parts of the album together thematically and/or musically, leaving Pharoahe like a kid in a candy store. Long known as one of hip hop’s most technically skilled and all-around developed MCs, he shows a harnessed versatility and diversity never seen before. The first couple of tracks start off the album with a triumphant celebration of freedom and ambition, with lines like, “I’m slave to my label, but I own my master” and the chorus to the horn-blasted Free “spit in my face, hold me down/I keep my feet firm to the ground ‘cuz I’m free” Monch not only shows scorn against the labels that held his career back, but also foreshadows the many social issues he dives into as the record progresses.

With Pharoahe Monch’s string of positive opening tracks the earthly, old school feel of the album comes head on. Free kick starts the album after the gospel choir intro to the album with a kick of horns and scattered guitar string bends, but what really gives the authentic feel is the handful of singers Monch employs for the hooks and chorus (including one appearance from Erykah Badu.) However, as the album kicks into Welcome to the Terrordome, Pharoahe becomes more of his motor-mouthed self, and the album begins to equilibrate between the glimmer of hope that the beginning of the album, and the stark realism and conspiracy theories. Though the near schizophrenic mood of What it is eschews bouncy horns and R&B croons for a monotone synth and mechanical noise blurbs, reminiscent of his older, menacing tracks like Hell, even the most old-fashioned tracks feature some modern computer farts Pharoahe’s fond of. Body Baby is an Elvis-esque rock jaunt with vocal samples and a synth riff playing off the traditional sounds of the honky-tonk piano, reverb loaded organ, and even a Chuck Berry-like breakdown and guitar solo.

Pharoahe shows his mastered skill at characterization and metaphor mixed with cold humour like never before on When the Gun Draws, rapping in the point of view from a bullet. Resembling some sort of fucked up fable, reminisces about all the death he’s caused, discusses “what really happened on the grassy knoll,” with the clinkering piano and gunshot sounds giving an increasing nightmarish feel. His lyrical magnum opus on the album, however, comes with the three act, nine minute Trilogy, a story about a best friend’s betrayal that ended up with both the main character’s wife, and the best friend dead. As it begins in Act 1, Pharoahe raps about the bodies being taken away in a disheveled, broken manner as if he has no idea what happens. From there he steadies himself a bit and recollects everything that happens in the following two acts, the scenes range from his insane confrontation with his best friend to surreal musings of his destiny, and actions. The transitions of mood and scenario are tempered with soulful, swirling, and ghoulish instrumentals that almost mirror prog rock.

Desire is unencumbered by skits and filler that plague many hip hop albums, making its steadily paced vision of ambition, insanity, and justice easy to sit through. There are occasional missteps, though, like letting the musical side of the album overreach and doddle at times. The overbearing presence of the vocalists in the beginning songs of the album makes for a slower pace compared to the rest of the record. Pharoahe blunders on Bar Trap, a typical rapper picks up a girl at a bar and “gets wit’ it” track, and the beat doesn’t interlock with Monch as well as the other songs. Still, the mummified rapper breaks new ground and delivers one of 2007’s best.



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user ratings (189)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
June 26th 2007



2806 Comments


I was going to take a listen to this. I think I will now.

Tyler
Emeritus
June 26th 2007



7924 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for doing this. I planned on it, but I've been too busy. I agree with the rating but I have to read the review still.

edit: Agree 100% with the review. Pharoahe is one of the most gifted and underrated MCs in the scene right now. This Message Edited On 06.26.07

pulseczar
June 26th 2007



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

heh, I was actually wondering if you were going to beat me to this. You're the only other prominent reviewer on this site that regularly tackles hip hop. Kind of sad really.

La Revolucion
June 26th 2007



1060 Comments


This is in the top 10 hip hop albums of the past 10 years. Seriously fantastic stuff. Push and Welcome To The Terrordome are awesome.

blackmilk
June 26th 2007



584 Comments


Yeah.

jrowa001
June 26th 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i want to check this out, since i am getting into more hip hop. great review. what other MC's is he similar to or does he stand as his own?

blackmilk
June 26th 2007



584 Comments


Three 6 Mafia are a little better.

LF96
June 28th 2007



97 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review and great album, but I wouldn't rate it that highly. Lyrically this album is fantastic, but as you said, the production sometimes doesn't quite match the lyrics. A few little adjustments and the album would have been much better. Still, one of the best recent hiphop albums, it'll probaly grow on me some more.

jrowa001
June 29th 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i just got this album, holy shit tis good! thanks for this review or else i probably wouldve never heard of him. i watched the video for "When the Gun Draws", now thats a great video, pretty sad though in the beginning...kinda f'ed up but stuff like that do happenThis Message Edited On 06.30.07

Iai
Emeritus
July 3rd 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm wavering between a 4 and a 3.5, but I'll be generous. Great album.

samthebassman
July 4th 2007



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sounds good, I will look into this.

MeowMeow
July 4th 2007



662 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I still haven't gotten this, but I'll get to it eventually.

EDIT: Wonderful album.This Message Edited On 07.06.07

jrowa001
July 7th 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i love Agent Orange, the beat in that song is intense

Zebra
Moderator
July 8th 2007



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I finally got around to checking this out and it's a quality rap album but nothing amazing. The biggest problem I have is that the first half of the album is just so much stronger then the second half making it slightly difficult to sit through.

samthebassman
July 8th 2007



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, I agree 100% with Zeb.

Hatshepsut
July 12th 2007



1997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I find this brilliant. The lyrics are outstanding. Free, Desire, Terrordome, Agent Orange, and probably the rest of them will grow on me.

MeowMeow
July 16th 2007



662 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nobody has given love to Body Baby, that song is awesome.

antihippy
July 16th 2007



696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pretty good album.

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2007



6073 Comments


Yeah, this is great.

corb
July 18th 2007



59 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I saw this at the music store the other day, but didn't buy it, though I was sorely tempted to. After reading this I'm going to go back and get it.



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