I am probably one of the biggest Pharoahe Monch fans on the planet. I listed Organized Konfusion’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda as my favorite album of all time in the recent blogger poll and have long considered Monch to be my favorite MC. I have gone on and on about him to various people who stare at me like I am fucking Chris Burke because according to them Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and their grandma are all better than Monch.
This is why I am so upset with his new album, Desire. Eight years for this? I was in college when Internal Affairs came out. I finished college, went back to college, worked a few years and Pharoahe still didn’t have a new album. Little did I know I would have to wait even longer to get a twelve track record with a cover song on it, which infuriates me to no end. More on that later.
Desire is a huge shift in style for Monch, who on previous albums displayed his ability to do more than rap, but the soul/R&B vibe goes wayyyy overboard for my tastes. The album’s leadoff track, “Free”, displays an excellent balance as Pharoahe rips tight lyrics over a track that still has an edge to it. “Desire” suffers from a weak hook by a singer that tries too hard, while “Push” just wanders around aimlessly dying to find its way. It comes off as something that would serve as a break in a live set, not an album cut.
Next in my mind is the biggest misstep, the “Welcome To The Terrordome” cover. Why? Pharoahe gives us twelve tracks and wastes our time with a cover of a song he can’t possibly outdo. I have heard it Monch and I loved it the first time. Yet again another song that I would love to hear him do live, but not when I have been salivating on myself for the last 8 years as I prayed for Monch to get motivated.
“So Good” makes me think of a R&B Dilla outtake while “What It Is” features trademark Pharoahe lyrics and flow, but comes off like one of the weaker moments off Equinox due to the beat. “Hold On” features Badu. ‘Nuff said. “Bar Trap” has decent production, but is a song that any rapper could write. Pharoahe is not just any rapper.
Now to my favorite moments of the album- “Let’s Go” and “Body Baby.” At first I thought “Body Baby” was trying a bit too hard to be like Gnarls Barkley, but it has grown on me with its energy. “Let’s Go” is easily the strongest track on the album by far. It is fairly obvious that Black Milk should have produced this whole album. If Monch was looking for something that was a bit more musical and less raw, Black Milk could have come to the rescue. “Let’s Go” has scratches, a hook that doesn’t make you wince, and great flow from Pharoahe. Oh, what could have been.
What else is missing from Desire? Prince Po. Come on, Monch. It looks like you are finally going to get some shine and possibly get that Gnarls Barkley attention and you can’t let Prince shine on one track? Rather than have a fake ass K-Ci on “Desire” moaning and groaning, the track would have been better off even havin Po simply rap the hook. “When The Gun Draws” could have been greatly improved if it had the OK flavor.
When I interviewed Prince Po for the last issue of my magazine he stated that we could look forward to a Monch appearance on his album and perhaps even an Organized reunion. The second time I spoke with him he explained that Monch had great difficulty writing to the beats he had provided him and said he was not used to writing to something hard. Filling your CD deck with nothing but Badu and Jill Scott will do that ish to you.
Despite me expressing my disappointment with this album, I would still recommend it because I can imagine the trash that most people have been listening to this year. My anger most likely comes from the long wait I had to endure for a product that is not up to par with what Pharoahe has shown he is capable of putting out. Unfortunately, a new direction does not always mean a better direction. The production and structure of the material are the weakest parts of this album and will prevent a majority of Organized Konfusion and Pharoahe fans from getting into it. Unless of course they boned a chick like Badu and are into that kinda shit. Ooohhh baby I like it raw.