By: Carlos Lima-Lopez
Ever since Pharoahe Monch’s second album, Desire and his subsequent releases, I’ve noticed certain personal themes pertaining to each of his respective albums. Desire, for instance, was about the longing for hope, freedom, optimism, gun violence, and other, slightly darker topics. W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) was him raging against the machine. As a long time veteran in the industry, Monch has consistently taken it to the corporate music conglomerates and unfair police practices. In this fashion, he definitely stuck to his foes with these last two releases.
Now we have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which finds the Queens-native tired, angry, confused, scared and helpless. Much like a war veteran returning home, Pharoahe Monch has done it all and seen it all. Needless to say, he’s not happy.
The intriguing aspect of this new album is how Pharoahe Monch cuts up the album into four acts, each pertaining to the four emotions he feels; he finds himself feeling weary, angry, broken and ultimately, hopeful that he’ll get through his struggle. “Losing My Mind” illustrates perfectly the frustration after returning from war, seeing all the carnage and receiving no aid for his services.
“Scream,” “Rapid Eye Movement,” and “Bad M.F.” amazingly display Pharoahe Monch’s anger and denial as he loses his grip. “Scream”, in particular, is pure guttural funk rock with Pharoahe screaming his anguish. Then he’s lost and confused with “Broken Again”, which is personally one of the most emotionally affecting Hip-Hop songs I have ever heard. You almost have to imagine Mr. Monch sitting on his chair with a bottle of hooch, crying in despair. Then there’s finally hope with “D.R.E.A.M.” Because the thing is, we all need a little hope.
In the end, all that needs to be said about Pharoahe Monch is that he is a master with his wordplay, spitting rhymes left and right, never ceasing to amaze me. But what I really want to talk is how affecting this album can be. I have not heard a hip-hop record since The Roots’ Undun that paints depression and anger so vividly. Pharoahe Monch is as personal as he’s ever been, and for all his tough talk his fans know him for, it’s emotionally striking when he opens up the way he does.
Fame and commercial success has always eluded Pharoahe Monch, but if there is anything he prides himself in, it’s the way he delivers quality and power-packed records for everyone. I honestly think this new album can be used to help anyone who suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in the end, we all need a little help. Help goes a long way these days.