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Album Review

What if Kool G Rap's second album came out approximately eight years after his first? That would be a period long enough to leap from Road to the Riches to Roots of Evil, over Wanted: Dead or Alive, Live and Let Die, and 4, 5, 6. While it's an unfair analogy to make — for many reasons — when talking about the frustrating lag between Internal Affairs and Desire, it's a helpful one to think about if you're approaching Desire with the expectation of hearing Internal Affairs, Vol. 2. On Internal Affairs, a track-to-track strongarm tactic to reach more ears without too many creative concessions, Pharoahe Monch toughened up. It paid off to an extent: "Simon Says" and "Right Here" were loved by plenty of people who didn't know Organized Konfusion from Organized Noize. Pharoahe could've attempted to capitalize on the momentum, but he crept low, releasing the occasional single and compilation track (like "Agent Orange" and "What Is the Law"), and collaborating when the right situation presented itself (like Talib Kweli's "Guerrilla Monsoon Rap" and J Dilla's "Love"). As a result, Desire is a taut and focused work that energizes, packed densely with typically Monch-like quotables that might take a couple listens to catch. Production-wise, it's quite different from Internal Affairs, incorporating gritty gospel, anthemic funk, and laid-back soul (not to mention an ambitious, sprawling, three-part finale), along with a measured amount of material that sounds more like a logical extension of Pharoahe's past. Altogether, it's a brighter, bolder set of tracks. The lone trip-up is a well-intentioned cover of Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome"; despite a relevant added verse, no one can reinterpret Chuck D and the Bomb Squad at the peak of their powers without coming up a little short. This is the kind of album that could only be made by a veteran who knows the difference between running your mouth and speaking when you have something to say, and not many elder MCs can say they were as vital in their mid-thirties as they were in their early twenties.


Born: 31 October 1972 in Queens, New York, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While a member of the New York City duo Organized Konfusion, Pharoahe Monch developed a reputation as one of underground hip-hop's preeminent lyricists, crafting intricate and intelligent raps with partner Prince Poetry. After recording three albums together from 1991-1997, the two amicably split up, and Monch pursued a more aggressive solo style with the terrific independent label Rawkus. He made guest appearances on other artists' records and contributed tracks to the Rawkus compilation Soundbombing,...
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Desire, Pharoahe Monch
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