Pharoahe Monch: Desire

Who could ever forget “Simon Says”? The Godzilla-sampling anthem was arguably the biggest hit of Pharoahe Monch’s career but to remember him solely for this commercial success would be doing a great disservice to one of the most unique lyricists to emerge in Hip-Hop. Let’s not forget about his scene-stealing appearances on the Rawkus Soundbombing joints (“WWIII” ring a bell, anyone?). Or better yet, anything released by Organized Konfusion (shout out to Prince Po), the group that introduced Monch to the world, is worth mentioning when you run down this emcee’s resume. Whether he’s blessing an Amy Winehouse remix or ghostwriting for Diddy, Pharoahe Monch has always straddled the fence between slept-on backpacker and successful underdog. Although Monch has remained relevant during his eight-year hiatus via his collaborations with Styles, Diddy and Mos Def, one still wonders if his sophomore effort, Desire (SRC/Universal) can surpass his 1999 classic debut, Internal Affairs. While the answer to that depends on whom you ask, lyrically and conceptually Desire is worth the wait.An ear-pleasing mixture of rock and soul-influenced Hip-Hop, Desire opens with “Free”, a rollicking epic of drums and electric guitars. Flowing like he never left, Pharoahe speaks the truth, spewing lines like, “I give birth to verses in churches with no confession/So please pardon my post-partum depression/A-List MC to spit in C-Sections/For immature minds to get it with each lesson/Three-fifths of a man-ass-nigga with no plans/How you discussing publishing figures without a band/They got digital codes on the music for them to scan/So even if you sampled a snare you paying the Klan” Pharoahe continues to shine lyrically on the soulful title track and the eerie head-nodder “What It Is”. On the latter Monch asserts, “A shame/They thought I was ‘backpack’/Slept/Didn’t know that he kept inside the knapsack…” summing up why he’s one of Hip-Hop’s best-kept secrets.Pharoahe’s strength has always been his knack for descriptive, conceptual songs that take the listener on journey and there is no shortage of those ditties on Desire. The socially-conscious “When the Gun Draws” (feat. Mr. Porter) finds Pharoahe going inside the mind of the bullet. And while the hypnotic “Bar Tap” doesn’t come close to Monch’s previous “The Light”, it’s still a sensual ode to the mating rituals between the opposite sexes. Rounding out the eclectic album are the beautifully inspiring “Hold On” (featuring Erykah Badu) and mellow yet sexy “So Good”.Aptly titled, Desire manages to make your head nod while being intellectualy-stimulating, politically-aware and fun at the same time. Overall, Pharoahe Monch’s creativity and diversity make Desire a welcome respite for those seeking substantial Hip-Hop music.