Pharoahe Monch
W.A.R.


3.5
great

Review

by Deviant STAFF
March 21st, 2011 | 63 replies | 11,979 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: After a slew of recent landmark releases should Pharoahe be Worried About Relevancy?

And the simple answer is yes, but Monch really only has himself to blame for this. Maybe it’s the fickle nature of hip hop fans (hell, fans of music in general), but when any artist displays a penchant for extended periods of silence between releases it’s understandable to expect their fans to want something a little better than simply a “good” album to be at the tail end of nearly four years of relative silence (bar a few guest spots). But Pharoahe has earned the right to be a little more reserved in his approach, in fact I think any artist who gets to spend as many years in the game as Monch deserves to take as long as they wish to get the job done. But despite Pharoaohe’s now legendary status, the world of hip hop can’t just take a break and wait for him to catch up. A lot’s changed in the game since Desire dropped, some four years ago. And to be fair, Phaoroahe has made an admirable effort at keeping up with the times; in fact We Are Renegades boasts some of the greatest beats so far this year, and some of the freshest of Monch’s career. But it all seems just a little bit tuned down, a little under-played. It almost seems that in racing to keep up with the lightning quick pace of the musical scene Pharoahe has lost sight of what hip hop used to ultimately be about, what he used to ultimately be about.

It’s almost funny that we, the hip hop fans, almost have to rely on the artists’ ability to make a spectacle of themselves so we can accurately gauge them, or at least assume that we can properly get a handle on them. Kanye revealed his ultimate motivations without even needing a studio around him, and Eminem did the same by disappearing entirely for awhile before shamefacedly returning in an attempt to reclaim his spoils. Pharoahe is a little bit harder to read simply because he lets his rhymes speak for himself, so in today’s modern hip hop world of jail time and award festival hijackings he’s something of an enigma. One of the last true old-schoolers left, still (moderately) working at a full-time pace. So while adapting this loose concept of a veteran now at war with hip hop’s modern approach (if your imagination is vivid enough to conjure up a tentative link between “renegade” and “underground veteran”), W.A.R. is essentially Monch’s battle cry, his war declaration and battle summons. But he doesn’t really have it in him anymore to be so vitriolic, he’s never really been about that (in his solo career at least), and it seems a little out of place and a touch misguided to be delving into pseudo hip hop gratuity when he’s this long in the tooth. This is really the ultimate deterrent against this album, because while it is still a great album in many respects, it’s also his weakest effort yet.

Take ‘Calculated Amalgamation’ for example. The clattering beat of hyper-intense percussion and rising and swelling chords serve well as a perfect introduction, but the fact of the matter is that it’s all just a little too much. It’s a rousing number but it doesn’t serve as the perfect foundation for Pharoahe’s somewhat laid back flow. Truth be told, he even sounds a little lazy, and occasionally at a loss with how to handle such a visceral beat. But he wastes no time in picking shots at his more famous compatriots by taking a stab at any artist lucky enough to snag themselves an award when he sneers “we are renegades, fuck your gold medals". And it’s a line that sticks out straight away, because it’s a style that doesn’t suit Monch’s smooth delivery at all, in fact it comes off as nothing more than a pointless pot shot at anyone who sold their soul for a little pop inclination. Initial mis-step aside, he redeems himself on ‘Evolve’ with both stunning word delivery and an intense beat courtesy of Exile. But clocking in at under three minutes, the track ends far too abruptly. To be fair, there really isn’t a great deal more that Monch could’ve done with any over time, but you get the feeling that someone just pulled the plug just as he was warming up.

We went from niggers to porch monkeys to negros to blacks back to niggers again, but niggers is still hungry

Despite the fact that ‘Clap (One Day)’ has already done the rounds for awhile now it deserves another mention simply because it serves as the point where Monch finally settles into a sweet spot and starts to regress back to his more on-point musings. Bolstered by another retro pilfering M-Phazes beat Pharoahe delivers possibly his best performance of the album, with the acapella finale remaining one of the album’s most inspired pieces. He almost matches that performance on the Horton-assisted ‘Let My People Go’, where he raps a lyrical and breathless maze over the organ based beat, and drops the gems “If ya’ll are telling me today’s music is suitable and appealing then I’m telling you the feeling’s are not mutual” and “And if you’re wondering what’s under my robe, a old rusty ass 38 snub nose, and just in case you’re thinking my shit don’t work go on and try to rob my church”. ‘Shine’ is a bore sadly, with Monch just seeming lost in the off-kilter beat. He gives just about as much as Diamond D’s beat allows him to get away with, the initially charming background chimes quickly end up as a huge annoyance thanks to any lack of variation or creativity. Monch redeems himself on the mellow and chilled out funk mashup of follow up ‘Haile Selassie Karate’ though, but he doesn’t come anywhere near replicating the success of ‘Clap’ until ‘Assassins’ rolls around. And even though Monch is given plenty to work with thanks to possibly the best beat of the entire album (not surprisingly another M-Phazes joint), and even though Royce da 5’9’ raps circles around the constantly evolving background, it’s Jean Grae who steals the show, and gives off possibly the best performance of the whole album. If there wasn’t any hype surrounding her beforehand, there’s certainly going to be more than a few calls for an album in the wake of W.A.R.’s release. ‘Still Standing’ rounds out the album, and it’s the typical kind of song you could see any hip hop artist bouncing along too while in the back of a convertible driving down any nondescript highway located near any of a hundred beaches in the ever popular identical hip hop music video. It’s inoffensive enough, and somewhat charming in its radio attention grabbing hopes, but it’s also possibly the weakest way to end an album so intent with its blue collar manifesto and confrontational aspirations. But hey, you gotta make money while the sun shines.

So all in all, We Are Renegades has about as much going for it as it does against it. As bull headed as it attempts to be, there’s still something resembling Pharoahe’s illustrious past buried deep inside it. It is his weakest effort, but when you’re working against a career as critically adored as Monch’s you can expect such things. It’s hit and miss more times that I think anyone was really hoping for, but when it hits it still hits as hard as when Monch was cutting his teeth back in the Organized Konfusion days. But he still misses the mark, and a little too frequently to be honest. When as before he sounded fresh and ready to turn heads, here it’s a little more cartoonish, a little too much hot air and swagger. Maybe 20 years in the business didn’t get him to the spot he was hoping to be at by this point? But when you limit yourself to three albums in thirteen years (almost unheard of in hip hop circles) you’re going to have to deal with some blowback, no matter what the name on the album cover is. My only real concern is how long are we going to have to wait for a follow up?



Recent reviews by this author
Burial Rival DealerDeadmau5 >album title goes here<
Mala Mala In CubaFour Tet Pink
Shed The KillerTNGHT TNGHT
user ratings (81)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Jared W. Dillon (3.5)
'smoke kush, wake up, and eat breakfast'...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



31058 Comments


Totally screwed that one up, oh well

Out in NZ today, quite a low 3.5 tbh

Digging: Marcel Dettmann - Fabric 77

Maniac!
March 21st 2011



26250 Comments


Burn in hell.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



31058 Comments


Get over it, this is a disappointment

Maniac!
March 21st 2011



26250 Comments


Oh yeah, one of the best reviews I've read.



But still, burn in hell.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



31058 Comments


Thanks, I guess......

Haha, cheers man. But seriously, why is this a 4,5 for you?

Gyromania
March 21st 2011



15461 Comments


You are a machine! Another quality review.


Sounds at least worth checking out, but this is closer to the bottom of my list.


Hep Kat
March 21st 2011



15300 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah ^^

Digging: Botany Boyz - Forever Botany

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



31058 Comments


You think this is bad, I have 2 more in the pipeline (and a possible third provided a stream shows up)

HighandDriving
March 21st 2011



3276 Comments


Good review and I agree.

I'm not sure why penchant is such a hot word to use when reviewing nowadays.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



31058 Comments


People seem to have a penchant for using it these days I guess

Gyromania
March 21st 2011



15461 Comments


Never used penchant, but I do love the word

Maniac!
March 21st 2011



26250 Comments


Haha, cheers man. But seriously, why is this a 4,5 for you?


Because I am a massive fanboy and I like anything Monch touches. This will go down to a 4 soon enough, most likely.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



28391 Comments


its gotta be sad when really the only real cost is time and bandwith and im still not gonna bother

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Maniac!
March 21st 2011



26250 Comments


You can burn in hell too.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 21st 2011



28391 Comments


tbh the pennywise, your username, and your comment are putting quite a scare in me, brandon

Maniac!
March 21st 2011



26250 Comments


As they should be

Inveigh
March 21st 2011



24879 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

awesome review yet again oh deviant one. i'm with you on all accounts as well, this is pretty disappointing (but still good)

Digging: YOB - Clearing The Path To Ascend

bloc
March 21st 2011



34740 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

:O Same rating!



I heard Desire and didn't like it too much, this is more enjoyable.

Digging: Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Bulldog
March 21st 2011



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

good review dev, posd. i agree with you that this is a low 3.5 (a high 3 for myself, same thing though) but a few errors.

“we are renegades, fuck your gold medals.


needs an endquote.

to negro’s to black’s back to nigger’s again, but nigger’s


negros, blacks, niggers.

‘Clap(One Day)’


'Clap (One Day)'

Urinetrouble
March 21st 2011



5760 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

lowered my rating to a 3.5 check my new sound off. it really is a combination of the best parts of internal affairs and the worst parts of desire



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy