Pharoahe Monch: Desire

Pharoahe Monch
SRC/Universal Motown

To get it out of the way—the comparison between Rawkus's (and by extension, the entire rap "underground" of the late '90s) twin saviors, Pharoahe Monch and Mos Def, is unavoidable. Both released amazing debut solo albums for that NYC outlet and then largely disappeared from the retail map as their label self-destructed. Last time I checked, Mighty Mos had scattered a couple of disappointing LPs and is currently off in (Burn) Hollywood (Burn). Fortunately for us castaways from that once so-hopeful era, P.M.'s absence was nothing more than label-bumbling. He never fell off, oh, no.

When he's not still constructing ill concept songs like "When the Gun Draws," or stand-up(!) anthems like "Free," P.M. is focused on grown-man shit—love and sex, political and artistic responsibility, and cultural preservation. There're still traces of his trademark post-apocalyptic cyborg soundtrack, but dude's getting older and going back to his roots. The gospel-tinged and juke joint-soaked sonics will be hit-and-miss for most older fans (especially the grimy kids); but as it is, his vocals even now never fail to captivate, with references biting/clever/topical, and still "sick wit' it/with a ridiculous flow."

In the end, it's best to let the man who made both "Stray Bullet" and "Simon Says" explain why he's still relevant: I'm the principal rhyme kid/And any line of mine is Criminal Minded/I blind 'em with original rhyme shit/Fall in line with the sick cynical grime shit/Clinically approved for you to move your behind with/Timeless/All-world, girls wiggle their spine with Pharoahe/Do you need to be reminded now?

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