Reign of the Pharoahe Continues
Hip hop was honored Wednesday, June 8, at the WOW Hall when Pharoahe Monch stepped to the stage. Smash-mouthed unabashed microphone-murdering lyrics had the crowd jumping (literally, the WOW Hall floor felt like a trampoline) to songs that Monch wrote ten years ago ã he is that type of legend in the hip hop world, creating music that has what industry booking agents call "replay value.” The songs off his new album, W.A.R., though not as iconic as his previous work, offer the same reality check that hip hop heads need ã and that they were given when Monch first hit the scene. Back then the declaration was one of defiance in the face of mainstream bullshit ghetto-fabulous rap made by studio (wanna-be) gangstas giving suburban white boys who play too much Grand Theft Auto San Andreas wet dreams. Now that same declaration sparked and owned by Monch and his (few) peers is one of pure existence. "Is hip hop in the building?” Monch asked. It was. He was answered by a screaming horde of true underground heads who knew his lyrics and shouted them back to him.
Monch is a throwback, a hip hop dinosaur from a time not long past that seems to be lost and forgotten by everyone who stopped coming out to "conscious” hip hop shows ã which is exactly the reason such shows ceased coming around. We were fortunate to have an MC of Monchs talent come to town, and it was a testament to his stature how off-the-hook his show was.
The self-proclaimed "most obligated" MC sat in the green room after his killer performance, looking like a man whod just walked away from an explosion. I told him I got his first album when I was 17 years old, and he told me hed just spoken to a man who said the same thing, but the age was 14. Monch smiles. "Thats some amazing shit,” he says, then tells me he always wanted to make something people would remember, like the music he grew up on: Coltrane, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Hendrix. His genre is not as all-penetrating, but his influence in that genre is.
Though visibly haggard from a hard tour, the Queens-raised Monch continued to give an enthusiastic interview. He sounds a little like Mike Tyson in cadence and pitch ã a far cry from his commanding stage-voice on the mic, which sounds like some big spooky fool that would stomp you out in the parking lot of a Dodger game. Monchs intellect is sharp, he breaks down the underground hip hop scene (or what is left of it) in succinct language: "The failure to sell records has caused people to revert back to the basics,” those basics being a sick beat and an ill verse. It was Monchs showmanship that won the crowd; it is this same energy that will continue to carry him into the minds and boomboxes of those who know, remember or just found out.
ã Dante Zu¿iga-West
Pharoahe Monch, Wednesday, June 8. WOW Hall. Photo by Todd Cooper. More photos at blogs.eugeneweekly.com.