The other day I was in the barber shop and me and my barber got into the age old debate of who’s better BIG or Pac. And not to beat a dead horse but of course my vote is ALWAYS gonna be for the Notorious One. But the debate brought up my philosophy of what are the attributes of a dope MC. My attributes for a dope MC are (in no order) voice, lyrics, storytelling, wordplay, flow, topics, originality, personality and the old school side of me has to throw in having a dope stage show because how can you be a MC and not rock the crowd? So, to stop a WWF Battle Royale from happening (because the who’s better BIG or Pac argument can always end up with cats coming to blows…I’ve seen it happen) we started talking about who’s the best in each category. And when it came to flow, my answer was probably the easiest of the day…Pharoahe Monch.
Pharoahe Monche is the monster that Ye and ’em were rhyming about. I don’t know how to really explain how nice Pharoahe is. I could talk about his Organized Konfusion days or his solo albums Internal Affairs and Desire but I don’t know if his own discography does him justice because Pharoahe is like Jordan in ’90. The nicest dude in the league at the time but is still getting better. Every time I think I’ve heard or seen Pharoahe at his nicest, I hear something new and I’m like “really?” Which is the reason I’ve been patiently waiting (cause Pharoahe takes a minute to release new music) for his newest release W.A.R. (We Are Renegades).
W.A.R. sets off “Evolve” with Pharoahe explaining to us “pardon if it sounds a little weezy/not Wayne motherf-cker, it’s I got asthma it’s not easy/shotgun lyrical, cock back, squeeze me/woman case my anatomy, touch me tease me.” The first single “Clap” doesn’t need an explanation if you’ve heard it (and if you haven’t heard it, what’s wrong with you?) and “Black Hand Side” teams Pharoahe back up with Styles P to recreate the magic from their last meeting “My Life.” “Let My People Go” has Pharoahe taking us to church, “and if you’re wondering what’s under my robe/a old rusty a-s 38 snub nose/and just in case you’re thinking my sh-t don’t work/go on and try to rob my church” and “Assassins” with Jean Grae and Royce Da 5’9″ has me casting my vote for Jean Grae as the best female mc cause she STAYS banging with the big boys and a lot of times, even outshines them! The album ends perfectly with “Still Standing” featuring Philly’s finest Ms. Jill Scott and has Pharoahe sharing his trials and tribulations of living with asthma, “please do not run too fast, stay off of the leaves/do not play in the grass or climb the trees/you can’t breath, let alone you get stung be bees/Lord Jesus your chest might just freeze up/13 months old with a lung disease/that almost took my life twice, brought me to my knees.”
With “Haile Selassie Karate” I finally put my finger on who Pharoahe reminds me of. Pharoahe Monch is the Curtis Mayfield of this hip hop game. His music, just like Curtis’ is soulful, insightful, intelligent, timeless and last but not least amazing. Pharoahe Monch has been giving this culture so much of his talent, his heart and his soul over the last 20 years and when W.A.R. drops March 22, we need to return that love by coming out of pocket and support him.