To have Pharoahe Monch's reputation precede him would be a discredit to his long-standing body of creative achievement. Pharoahe Monch's legend precedes him like few lyricists committing words to wax in hip-hop today. After eight years as half of one of rap music's most revered and enduring underground duos, Organized Konfusion, and contributing two highlights ('WWIII' and 'Mayor') to 1999's acclaimed 'official mix tape', Soundbombimg II, the mighty Monch now delivers his inaugural solo album, Internal Affairs, on hip-hop skilltrade haven, Rawkus Records. Featuring guest appearances by an all-star cast of vocal luminaries -- Busta Rhymes, Canibus, M.O.P., Common and Black Thought of The Roots -- and production from esteemed boardsmen DJ Premier, DJ Scratch, Diamond D, Baby Paul, Lee Stone and Pharoahe himself, it has rapidly become one of the most anticipated releases of the year.
Anyone remotely familiar with Organized Konfusion's much-lauded triumvirate of albums --1991's self-titled debut, 1994's Stress: The Extinction Agenda and 1997's The Equinox -- will readily attest to Monch and partner Prince Poetry's penchant for sophisticated, relentlessly expressive wordplay and grand, state-of-the-art production. While Internal Affairs never strays far from this provocative musical foundation, the album also provides a personal narrative line that, as indicated by the title, counts several emotional stops amongst its varied travels.
'It's kind of like the movie Good Will Hunting in terms of somebody trying to probe into me personally,' Pharoahe explains of the LP's concept. 'There's a big opening where I've been committed for psychological evaluation and through the rest of the album I'm letting the songs answer the questions that people are asking me. That's how personal I want people to feel about my project. It's an accumulation of all the knowledge and feelings that I've experienced in the business for all these years that I'm able to let out.'
The album's first single, 'Simon Says', exemplifies this catharsis with typical Monch fervor. Already garnering frequent spins on New York City radio's nightly buzzmaking showcase, the Funkmaster Flex Show, the song combines a party-generating command-and-response style chorus and hypnotic horn stabs devoted to the passionate pursuit of unadulterated pleasures. Studded with lines like, 'Ignorant minds, I free' em/ If you tired of the same ol'everyday you will agree, um/ The most obligated, hard and R rated/ Slated to be the best, I must confess/The star made it,' it's a rowdy club anthem with brain.
By contrast, 'Simon Says' ominous B-side , 'Behind Closed Doors', is a moody piece that describes close encounters of a darker kind. While warnings like, 'You should never in your wildest dreams/Shit on a brother who resides in the borough of Queens,' set the tone, the song's undercurrent of despair finds musical manifestation in its arrangement of minor key pianos and clarinet swells.