Pharoahe Monch “We Are Renegades” (Album Review)

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Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

Pharoahe Monch wearing gas mask on album cover to W.A.R.Duck Down/War Media

You often hear MC’s, producers and artists in general trot out the old quote “if you don’t like it, it wasn’t made for you.” Normally it’s a cop-out reserved for projects that just so happen to be tanking with the critics and fans alike. But what do you do when it’s true? When you realize that you’ve been eating fast food so long that Tavern On The Green seems too fancy for your dumb-downed taste buds? Well, when it comes to W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) by Pharoahe Monch, you can either step your taste up or head back to the drive-through, because the Queens native is not in the hamburger business.

If you couldn’t tell from the opening with actor Idris Elba, W.A.R. is ambitious in it’s objective to not only raise the bar, but to include a concept while doing so.  The title track featuring Immortal Technique & Vernon Reid and the Showtyme and DJ Boogie Blind assisted “Clap” set up the visuals for a revolutionary –minded movie that is Renegades.

But the man that still shuts down shows with the Godzilla-infused classic “Simon Says” knows that the beats get your heart and the words get your mind. So whether it’s the organ heavy gospel feel of  “Let My People Go,” the cinematic sound of “Still Standing” with Jill Scott, or the classic rock influence on “The Grand Illusion” the production manages to run the musical gamut but still come together to support a complete narrative.

However, the real dessert for any true Pharoahe Monch fan would have to be in the rewind-worthy lines. Never one to hold back, the lyrical displays on “The Hitman,” (“I make headlines like corduroy pillows”) “Haile Selasse Karate” and the triple threat of “Assassins” with Jean Grae and Royce Da 5’9” throw the average rapper under the short bus with ease. On the latter Monch makes another case for MENSA membership in this verse:

The formula, truth divided by innovative Ebonics/times Goose lime, crushed ice and a splash of tonic/Nigga my past lives are astronomic/Smoking hash in a cathedral with Nostradamus at mass. Discussing Martin Luther’s Free At Last speech/step on my British Walkers, get your ass beat.”

While W.A.R. is only the third LP in twelve years for Pharoahe Monch, it may help open a new chapter in the dumbed-down world of Hip-Hop today.  A veteran artist can make the kind of album his core fans have been begging for while blending skill and with a compelling concept. He even offers a backward warning in the intro to “Assassins,” “stop f*cking downloading music for free and we can save hip-hop.”

In a world of fast food music, We Are Renegades represents the work of a master chef. Step your taste up.

MC (Twitter @MrMecc)

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