Pharoahe Monch

Beats & Rhymes: Pharoahe Monch’s WAR (We Are Renegades)

Each Monday, Beats & Rhymes highlights a new and notable hip-hop, rap, DJ, or electronic record that embraces independent sensibilities.

Pharoahe Monch: We Are RenegadesPharoahe Monch: WAR (We Are Renegades) (Duck Down, 3/22/11)

Pharoahe Monch: “Black Hand Side”

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Hip-hop veteran Pharoahe Monch is a lyrical force of nature, with an ability to rap complex rhymes with a muscular, rhythmic, and seemingly effortless flow. Even after 20 years, the quality of his three albums with Prince Poetry (as part of Organized Konfusion) hasn’t been diminished.

His first solo LP in 1999, Internal Affairs, was a more thug-inspired record that saw Monch making a significant move towards mainstream success, until legal battles over lead single “Simon Says” and its unlicensed Godzilla sample torpedoed its climb. Monch laid relatively low for the next eight years, releasing occasional singles and guest spots before presenting the soulful and inspired Desire in 2007.

Thankfully, he didn’t make the world wait as long for his third solo album, WAR (We Are Renegades).  On his latest, Monch doesn’t waste time reaffirming his place as one of the genre’s best, frequently employing polysyllabic rhymes and repeated sounds that move beyond the simple AABB end rhymes on which many rappers lean. He boasts about this on the standout “Evolve,” describing himself as “The anomaly / your mama nominated me phenomenal / I dominated without a six-pack abdominal.” The machine-gun assonance on display here is just one example of the lyrical complexity that Monch brings to the record.


Guest Spots: Beans on fiending for a good whodunit novel

Beans: End It AllBeans: End It All (Anticon, 2/15/11)

Beans: “Mellow You Out”

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You probably know longtime indie rapper and producer Beans from his work in Antipop Consortium, a hip-hop group that he formed in 1997 with High Priest, M. Sayyid, and Earl Blaize. You might also know him from his extensive list of collaborations with artists like Vernon Reid, Holy Fuck, and DJ Shadow. Or maybe it’s his recently released album, End It All, featuring contributions from the likes of Four Tet, Son Lux, Sam Fogarino of Interpol, and Tobacco, among others.

What you probably don’t know him from is your local book club. But maybe you should. Beans loves mystery novels.

Why I Love Mysteries and Crime Fiction
by Beans

ALARM, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about reading how an author can depict someone getting cleverly murdered that really fascinates the shit out of me. Ask anyone who has ever toured with me, and they’ll probably say that I drink too much, but I’m also a voracious reader of mysteries and crime fiction.

The more gruesome and menacing, the merrier, I say. Bring it on! Personally, I don’t even remember how I got started reading mysteries. My father was the same way about reading, so I guess it runs in the family. As I was growing up, my dad used to read a book a night, but his genre of choice was science fiction. At the end of the day, I’d kill for a great whodunit.

In my reading taste, I tend to follow various authors and characters in a series that they’ve created. Currently, I’ve been reading Lee Child‘s ex-military, policeman-drifter Jack Reacher series. The series is both exciting and a constant page turner, as the character’s past is always catching up with him.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Q&A: Melvin Gibbs on Brooklyn Roots, Brazilian Inspiration, and Upcoming Album

Jazz bassist Melvin Gibbs is an extremely diverse musician, and this musical diversification is exemplified by his new project, Melvin Gibbs’ Elevated Entity.

Hailed by some as the “best bassist in the world,” Gibbs expands his palette further on his forthcoming record, Ancients Speak, including tastes of Brazilian hip hop and African Yoruba culture.