Pharoahe Monch Pharoahe MonchW.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
W.A.R. MEDIA-DUCK DOWN RECORDSWith that sleeve, that title and that content, it’s hard to think of a better time to release “W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)”, the much awaited return of the very gifted Pharoahe Monch, five years after the acclaimed “Desire” followed up “Internal Affairs”, one of the best hip-hop debuts at the end of the nineties. Three albums in over ten years: quite a low average and a rarity in a world of fast-food releases, but a perfect reflection of the Monch’s personality, a meticulous, strict and conscientious rapper who invests time, effort and energy in the confection and development of his records, most of all because to him, ideas, the concept and the perfect execution are more important than hit singles or not very elaborated excuses to go on tour.
“W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)” launches from a fascinating idea. There’s a background of science-fiction and an almost apocalyptic future for two parallel story lines that end up generating their own links and connections along the album: the debacle of conscience, integrity, morality and values of the real world, on one hand, and the music industry, more particularly the rap universe, on the other. Monch links one thing with the other in a demonstration of highly poetic and intellectual lyricism, merging, like no other rapper can these days, the social-political with the fervour and devotion of the genre. With rage and splendid arguments, he intertwines his disdain for a soulless scene without creative pride with a disenchanted and alarmist look at a society in decline. It’s brilliant, lucid, daring and virtuous.
As if the plentiful lyrical baggage weren’t valuable enough, Monch has surrounded himself with a team of producers and MCs who help the consolidation of the concept and project even more. Marco Polo, Diamond D, M-Phazes and Exile feed the concept, orthodox but with clear and praiseworthy extensions of the battle field, with their wise fuel: the excellent introduction of instruments between the loops and beats, naturally, with a lot of sense; wise incursion of soul by Jill Scott and Mela Machinko; even some rock, by Vernon Reid. Except for the coarse and silly “The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)”, one could say nothing is too much on this record, as if this sequencing, and generally every detail on the album, had gone through a severe process of purification and testing in order to guarantee the highest quality of the product. Serious stuff. David Broc