Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Pharoahe Monch - W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
I was once happy. My life was filled with laughter and good cheer. I had great friends, a supportive family, and work that filled me with pride. For as long as I can remember everything went my way. Scholarships won, opportunities presented unto me, promotions awarded. It seemed nothing could disturb my ever-increasing level of bliss. It never occurred to me to question why my life was progressing so well when other people, some of whom I knew, appeared to be stuck in a cycle of repression or negativity. This all changed the day I received the message.
“July 27, 2023. This is Lieutenant Gaviston of Bravo Command, second division, 13th brigade. While on a recon mission in Kabul, Afghanistan I have discovered classified information that changes everything that I believe about this war. I’m gonna upload this information of grave importance to HORUS, a military satellite which has the technology to transmit information through time. If you are hearing this, you have been ordained or genetically predisposed to receive this information. What you are hearing…is a warning.”
I recall the exact moment that man’s voice exploded into my mind at air-raid siren volume. People occupying cubicles around me must have believed they were witnessing their coworker having a nervous breakdown. When the message began I jumped out of my seat to find out whose computer or speaker system needed to be turned down or switched off. To my astonishment, no one in my vicinity appeared bothered by the voice at all. Everyone just kept working! Blank stares greeted me when I frantically asked my coworkers if they could hear a man’s thunderous voice. At this point almost everyone in the area had stopped what they were doing and were looking at me. I emitted an audible gasp, my hands went to my temples, and I doubled over as the voice continued its mind numbing assault.
And then as quickly as its presence was felt, the message ended and the voice faded away. In the immediate aftermath I was breathing heavily and had broken into a cold sweat. When I became fully upright once again, my boss was standing in front of me with a deeply concerned look on her face. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was alright. Did she need to call for help? Although I had been incredibly shaken I was recovering quickly so I answered that yes I was fine, and no she did not need to call emergency services. After a few more of my reassurances she told me to take the rest of the day off. I thanked her and promised to be back bright and early the next morning. For reasons I can’t explain, I have never forgotten the smile she gave me at that moment. Perhaps because it was the last nice thing I would see for some time.
Briefcase in tow, I walked to the parking garage where my car was parked. I opened the door and fell into the driver’s seat. My right hand put the keys in the ignition while my left hand shut the door. As if on cue, the moment the door shut I was pinned against my seat by an enormous stream of information flooding my mind. I couldn’t move. It didn’t matter if I left my eyes open or closed. Terrible images of war and devastation were all I could see. Along with the images came hundreds, if not thousands of documents dated from the near and far future detailing the causes leading to a massive war, and the horrible aftermath left in its wake. Never once did I question the validity of what I was being given. I knew it was real down to the marrow of my bones. When the stream of information finished, I was no longer the same person. Armed with this knowledge of the future I had a new purpose in life. The rest of my days would be dedicated towards working to avoid this future catastrophe. From that moment on, I was a renegade!
Pharoahe Monch is an upper-echelon hip hop artist who emerged onto the music scene back in 1991 as one half of the duo Organized Konfusion. The group released three full length albums over the course of six years, and then amicably disbanded. Mr. Monch then began releasing solo albums, beginning with his first in 1999. W.A.R. is his third solo release. I won’t pretend to be a longtime superfan that has followed this artist from the beginning. That would be dishonest. No, I’ve only been listening to Pharoahe Monch’s music since I picked up his second solo album back in 2007 upon the recommendation of a friend. I thought that album (which is entitled Desire) was very good. If you could not guess I am stubbornly loyal to artists whom I like, so I kept a watchful eye out for his next release. When it finally arrived W.A.R. was, well….let me branch off on a related tangent for a moment.
I don’t know about you waveriders, but I’ve often entered into conversations/arguments with people defending the music I like. When it comes to hip hop, it is not uncommon for my opponent to claim that anybody can rap. It’s just someone talking after all. Ah ah ahhh, not so fast. While I will concede the basic premise of their point, that is when I bring out an album like W.A.R.. As with any genre of music there are a slew of mediocre wannabes, and then there are true artists. Pharoahe Monch is a true artist. To say that he has a distinctive lyrical flow would be doing the man a great disservice. To listen to his wordplay and not be in awe of the fine craftsmanship on display would be downright criminal. To not be impressed with the plethora of rhyme patterns, sometimes in the same song no less, would be like surrendering the village of Santo Poco to El Guapo without a fight! Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about. These are the lyrics to the song “Haile Selassie Karate”.
E pluribus unum, all seeing eye, ocular exam / The apocalypse, back by popular demand / Innocuous but still leave a stage with blood in my hand for the populous / Put a fist in the sky / "Licensed to kill" italicized into my ID or "Rocky Illuminati" / Haile Selassie Karate, John "The Beast" Mugabi / King Jaffe in the lobby with the fur made of a lion / The eye of hoarse mouths, I am vibrant / Prominent constellations of Orion / The reason why my stars are in alignment / The renegade, Allahu Akbar, rock star / Tossing homemade grenades, CD's at NYPD cop cars / Just to get the revolution to pop off Fraudulent stock, funded with Louis Vuitton knock-offs / Hijacking helicopters, detonate your metropolis / While I'm in the cockpit, politicking like Stephanopoulos / And my esophagus is quite atomic when I vomit / It's bioengineered urbanomics / The formula: truth divided by innovative ebonics / Times smooth lime, crushed ice and a splash of tonic / N**** my past lies are astronomic / Smoking hash in a cathedral with Nostradamus / At mass, discussing Martin Luther's "Free at Last" speech / Step on my British Walkers get your ass beat.
Think you could have come up with that? I know I couldn’t. I can’t even imitate it perfectly and I’ve listened to this song many times at this point! Anybody can rap? I don’t think so.
The bottom line is this. From the word go this album does not let up. Try to find a weak moment. You cannot. From the straight up aggression of tracks like “W.A.R.” or “Assassins”, to the funkiness of “Let My People Go” or “The Hitman”, to the celebratory “Still Standing”, W.A.R. has everything I’m looking for in a hip hop album. I mean for crying out loud, “The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)” is essentially Monch rhyming over King Crimson’s “In The Court Of The Crimson King”! Look out all other albums on top ten lists for 2011. Pharoahe Monch’s W.A.R. is here, and it’s a monster.
Buy here: W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)