No one spazzes on a track like Pharoahe Monch. I’m not sure if there’s a good sports corollary for Monch, so we’ll keep it somewhat wide and amorphous. Monch is like a great player–D Wade or Manu perhaps–who provides consistent output at a high quality. Every now and then he pulls the curtain back and shows you just how bright the fire burns inside and how, if he wanted to, he could burn the whole damn world down. There are some awkward moments in terms of flow as Pharoahe finds his way onto the beat, but he manages to deliver pockets of rhyme so dazzling that the beat doesn’t really matter much at all–but beats have always sounded on the verge of collapse under Pharoahe’s syllabic floods. This couplet highlights one of the reasons Pharoahe stands head and shoulders above so many other rappers:
“Hijackin helicopters to detonate your metropolis
While I’m in the cockpit politickin like Stephanopoulos”
Now, aside from being packed to the brim with poetic devices (internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance), these lines also display Pharoahe’s ability to precisely select words which–even if seemingly unimportant–serve as perfect mortar for the bricks they connect. In the hands of a lesser rapper, the “while I’m” that connects one line to the next would merely be a space filler. In Pharoahe’s hands it becomes a slippery stream of words that is enjoyable in and of itself and serves to fluidly join his images and rhymes. Essentially, he adds value to throwaway words, forcing careful listening because every syllable matters. At the end of the day knowing the technique doesn’t really matter–whether you’re versed in poetics or not (and I fall more in the “not” category than other analysts), the final result of Pharoahe’s work is impressive when placed next to that of most any other rapper.
Even if the freestyle’s images don’t necessarily possess some deep meaning, Monch’s barrage of astrological, religious, and pop culture references keeps the brain moving in a race to catch them all.
The apocalypse back by popular demand? Yes indeed. Eagerly awaiting Monch’s Duck Down debut.