Pharoahe Monch, Internal Affairs (1999)
Pharoahe Monch is one of the most underrated MC’s in hip-hop. As one half of Queens duo Organized Konfusion, he bridged the gap between the buoyant experimentalism of Leaders of the New School and the somber profundities of “horrorcore” groups like Gravediggaz by infusing his lyrics with detailed imagery, portraying an MC’s self-affirmation as a spiritual, introspective exercise. Though influential, Organized Konfusion’s three albums never sold in large quantities; Monch’s debut single, “Simon Says,” is his first hit in a decade-long career. To those who have followed him, it must be a shock to hear him rap “Girls, rub your titties” over the Godzilla theme, no matter how banging the track is. Still, Monch pulls it off because his eagerness to rock a club joint proves infectious; you can hear it in the rowdy grooves. “All that I wish to do is portray a brand new rendition of style that I have,” Monch announces at the opening of Internal Affairs, his solo debut. Everything hits hard here; the whimsical subtleties of past classics like “Fudge Pudge” are only a pleasant memory. On “Rape,” he imagines himself violently fucking the beat: “Grab the drums by the waistline/I snatch the kit, kick the snares, sodomize the bassline.” Like past efforts, Monch explores the subject of lyrical domination, but this time, there is no doubt, no introspection. It’s no sellout ploy, though. Times have changed, and even the kindest of MC’s have hardened at the prospect of being dropped from labels and ignored by hip-hop fans. As Monch chants on “Hell” with fellow wordsmith Canibus, “This is hell.” He proves on Internal Affairs that he’s as verbally dexterous as ever as the kick drums and bass stand beside him like a massive, impenetrable bodyguard. But the album’s hard-hitting, war-like perspective may not be the most hospitable environment for backpackers. This one’s for the hard rocks. Rawkus.