#4. Pharoahe Monch | My Top 5 Rappers Of All Time
The number 4 rapper on my top 5 rappers of all time list is Pharoahe Monch. I think that out of my top 5, Pharoahe Monch is probably the most unique and acquired taste. His style is unlike any rapper before him, and the only rapper ever that I can think of that sounds remotely similar is Vakill. Monch is also one of the few emcees with a good singing voice, which has made him one of the top guest features in underground hip hop. I don’t know that the underground label still applies to Pharoahe Monch, because he is so well known by hip hop heads, but even Eminem said:
There was a time when I was king of the underground but I still rap like I’m on my Pharoahe Monch grind
Personally, I’ve been a fan of Monch since I first heard Internal Affairs. I don’t remember how old I was or what year I even heard it in (post 2000), but I know it was before Desire came out. I went back and listened to the two Organized Konfusion albums as well. It’s pretty amazing how well his style has developed over the years, while still keeping that unique delivery that makes him so distinguishable.
So here goes my top 5 songs by Pharoahe Monch. They’re kind of in order, I did feel like these were a little easier to rank than Kendrick Lamar’s songs for whatever reason.
1. The Light [Internal Affairs]
This might sound weird saying about a hip hop song, but I think “The Light” may very well be my favorite love song. There’s a perfect balance of singing and rapping on the song, and the hook is so catchy that it gives the song wide appeal. The lyrics are simple enough, but the way Pharoahe sings it make it so much more beautiful.
And I know you will see the light, baby
Once you understand
What you mean to me, darling
The production was very well done too. Diamond D flipped the Wes Montgomery sample from the song “Mi Cosa”. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this song, I mean it’s fairly surface level. I love the way “The Light” makes me feel and I love Pharoahe’s voice on the hook. This is probably more of an emotional favorite than anything else.
2. D.R.E.A.M. (Feat. Talib Kweli) [PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]
Many have paid tribute to Wu Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.”, but none have done it better than Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli on their homage, “D.R.E.A.M.”. As much as I love the lyricism on this song, and it’s incredible, I think the beat is probably one of my favorites of all time. The hook is from an Allman Brothers cover song by Buddy Miles called “Dream”. I swear, it’s not even possible for me to listen to this song and not bounce around with a big ol’ grin on my face.
Pharoahe Monch KILLS this song lyrically. I like that both he and Talib changed the acronym for each verse. So D.R.E.A.M. can mean:
1.) my Destiny Rules Everything Around Me
2.) my Determination Runs Every Aspect Mentally
3.) I’m Down Right Excellent About My scrilla
My favorite part of the song is in the first verse:
Yo, you know the limericks are limitless, not limited in sentiment
But increments of infinite potential in the scenes
You could benefit from getting off of the internet
For just a minute, it’s a simple song you could sing
3. Broken Again [PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]
“Broken Again” is almost too good for words. It feels like audible drugs. Pharoahe Monch takes the role of a heroin addict and the song follows his journey. The way that Monch tells this story makes it so realistic in my mind. I’ve never done heroin, or even wanted to really, but I’m fascinated with stories about heroin addicts. Monch describes the withdrawals which precede the euphoria of using again. This leads to a loss of friends and family conflict, in addition to the decaying of his body. There is hope at the end of the song that he may become clean, and he is very aware of how difficult it will be. I love this song because it gives you perspective without judgement.
4. Free [Desire]
Fun Fact: my senior quote in my high school yearbook was from this song.
You can clip my wings, shackle and chain me
Back straight, standing tall, a child of god and I’m free
“Free” gets me pumped up every time I listen to it. As soon as I hear “I’m-I’m-I’m-I’m-I’m-I’m-I’m free” at the beginning, I know it’s about to be crazy. Pharoahe Monch goes in on the music industry, comparing it to slavery with the labels being masters and rappers slaves. The second verse has Monch flexing his lyrical abilities with dope metaphors and wordplay. The beat has a rock and roll influence, which I’m not normally a big fan of, but with “Free” it was absolutely perfect.
5. Queens [Internal Affairs]
I love the sample on this song’s beat. If you listen to the song “‘Till The Cops Come Knockin'” by Maxwell, you will immediately recognize the sample. Now, Maxwell’s song is very soulful and a much slower tempo. This is what I love about 90’s hip hop! Pharoahe Monch completely gave the music a new feel with his storytelling and faster paced rapping style. The story itself is great in the way that it evokes emotion, probably because of its relatability in urban areas. Something else that’s interesting about this song is that it interpolates lyrics from a Flinstones song called “Bedrock Twitch” on the part where he says,
There’s a place I know where the bitches go
Where they rob you for your dough and chill on the low
In Southside… Queens, Queens
on the Flinstone’s version, it says,
There’s a place I know where the hipsters go
Called Bedrock… Twitch, Twitch
This was pretty hard to pick 5 songs, especially because Pharoahe Monch has worked with so many other artists and made great music. I tried to keep it to solo songs to better exhibit his skill and creativity. I would love to know what your favorite Pharoahe Monch songs are, and what you think of my top 5.