PHAROAHE MONCH – Ready For W.A.R.

PHAROAHE MONCH HAS ALWAYS HELD IT DOWN AS ONE OF NEW YORK’S MOST UNDER-APPRECIATED CONSCIOUS RAPPERS. HIGHLY-RESPECTED IN THE UNDERGROUND FOR HIS ASSERTIVE LYRICS AND PROGRESSIVE FLOW OF WORDPLAY, HE IS ONE OF THE SLIM FEW MCS WHO CAN CHANNEL PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT THROUGH THE MASTERY OF HIS MIC CONTROL.

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PHAROAHE MONCH interviewed @ 14:15 AEST – Tuesday 27th October, 2009
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press

Words by RIP NICHOLSON

[Full Q & A below]

Monch (Troy Donald Jameson) is confirmed for an Australian tour, however catching him in NYC on a night after a big show, took a constant barrage of phone calls until one penetrated through. Jamerson answers the late-night bell to discuss the tenth anniversary of his debut release and the art of W.A.R.

After three albums and a decent stint with Organized Konfusion, Monch signed with Rawkus Records, (home to Mos Def and Talib Kweli at the time) and in 1999 released his solo debut, Internal Affairs. This went harder than anything heard from he and Prince Poetry. Despite releasing the self-produced underground-traversing hit, ‘Simon Says’ and being critically acknowledged in both New York’s cut-throat underground and the hip-hop press, the LP received 4 ½ mics from The Source. Rawkus’ failure to support the recordings left sales reaching a moderate 200,000 units. Ten years on and Monch has made a point of celebrating his 10th Anniversary and recently gave live replay to Internal Affairs in front of an intimate Clinton Hill crowd. On the cusp of what could be his most defining work, the comparison and growth from his first is firmly on his mind as he progresses into 2010.

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“Looking back, we just had a party here in New York where I performed most of the songs from Internal Affairs, It was incredible,” the Queens-bred MC divulges. “In terms of where I’m at right now with the new record, music sensibility and integrity in terms of how we’re working on the album is pretty grass-roots. The concepts are very different to Internal Affairs which is very lyrical, very witty.” He continued, “we definitely have progression. In a way its different, I’m growing. It doesn’t sound like it’s from that era. I’m not working technically on a step to go backwards. I’ve definitely grown since Desire.

A war-inspired track in ‘Agent Orange’ would be the last work released on Rawkus. Unable to secure distribution deals with major labels, Rawkus folded and Geffen Records picked through the remains, leaving Jamerson caught in the middle of a bidding war between label-homes. Runyon Ave Records run by D12’s Denaun Porter, Bad Boy Records and Sony all tried to obtain him. However, he settled on a deal with Steve Rifkind’s Street Records Corporation in 2006 for the release of his follow-up.

Eight years later and untangled from industrial red-tape, Monch returned to business with the long-overdue LP, Desire taking him to further acclaim. This album, like the last was well-received in hip hop truth and press alike, rated XL by XXL Mag but again yielded sub-par sales. He walked away from re-signing another deal, discovering the offer on the table was merely more than what he could do himself. Jameson took a management leap and a bigger slice of his own art.

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“W.A.R. Media (We Are Renegades) is the label,” he affirms, sitting on the other side of the desk now. Pharoahe said of taking ownership of his career, “it’s great. I think we’re actually at eye level now to things I missed last time. In the major label a lot of people weren’t able to see it because they weren’t at the right positions. Just doing the hustle in the way that we’re doing it,” he remarks, speaking of his third and forthcoming album W.A.R. “I think we’re garnering rewards from the extra effort, that you wouldn’t normally get.”

“Art effects me and what I do everyday, everything from painting to sculptures.” The art of W.A.R. attempts to raise disruption to the conformed mainstream, against the grain of the norm, like most thought-provoking creations.

“This record speaks out to people who challenge authority and make their own opinions.” Jameson explains, “Its about understanding what u feel as an individual. This record speaks to that person.”

As Jamerson renews his love of timeless hip-hop pieces, his maturity is now apparent in every facet of the brush strokes of wordplay and brave business moves. This gives the artist an outlook more subjective over his music and the reality of his commercial down play value.

“I can understand how inspirational art can be from all levels. Song writing in general has growth in it over time. Ten years ago I was listening to records and never appreciated it on the level I do now. It applies to you differently over time. A growth in culture, in life and knowledge gives further meaning to the same art. As musicians we understand our songs will be translated in many ways. People will take it this way or that way” sighs Jameson in frustration. “But in art comes such freedoms and that’s dangerous. That’s why I love it, but at the same time I understand why a lot of it is subjugated to such scrutiny. This is why I’ll probably never be very commercial.”

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W.A.R. featuring guest appearances from Styles P, Cee-Lo, Talib Kweli and the soul vocals of Bilal, flips the rug from under the establishment, broaching topics as only a truly independent artist with his own imprint can.

“The album speaks about war against industry, the government, environment and authority. It’s a spiritual album.” Executive produced by Denaun Porter with help as always from The Alchemist, Black Milk and Lee Stone who produced the lead single, ‘Mamma’s Boy’ “which speaks about war within yourself, about evolving into a better human. All the tracks on the album, tackle some sort of issues that we’re trying to be better at. ‘Mamma’s Boy’ speaks about my individual growth, breaking from things that holds us back and going for it.“

Also cutting through the record, Australia’s own M-Phazes caught the international attention of Jamerson who utilised his techniques all over this LP.

“He is very talented. I got to meet him at Good Vibrations and we shared a mutual energy and like-mindedness for seeing certain things achieved a certain way.” M-Phazes must have left a cutting impression on Jameson who recently expressed interest in signing the Gold Coast DJ/producer with W.A.R. Media. “He can mellow down the simplest of hip hop sensibilities over a pure boom-bap sound. He’s very musical and has a profound way of understanding the sound of right now and can implement all those things. That’s what makes a great producer.”

Coming down to celebrate his much anticipated release, the underground emcee will bring affirmative action to the stage this December with six dates across the country.

“We might showcase the sensibilities and the knowledge of my work. We don’t come this way often so we’re probably going to do a lot Internal Affairs, a lot Desire.”

[Full Q & A below]

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Q & A with PHAROAHE MONCH

Congratulations on your 10th anniversary for Internal Affair. What do you see when you look back a decade?

In terms of where I’m at right now with the new record, music sensibility and integrity in terms of how we’re working on the album is pretty grass-roots. In the first album I didn’t have a record deal and now i’m able to launch my own able.

But looking back, we just had a party here in New York where I performed most of the songs from Internal Affairs, It was incredible.

Recently Raekwon put out Part II to Cuban Linx as a way of bypassing the middle albums that weren’t supported too well, do you feel your next album will step over Desire and get back to the way you want it to be?

In a way, its different, I’m growing. The samples and sensibility of the work is very different to Internal Affairs which is very lyrical, very witty. We definitely have progression. It doesn’t sound like it’s from that era. I’m not working technically on a step to go backwards. I’ve definitely grown since Desire.

Is it true you want to take the album back to 93-94 back to the boom-bap from the old east?

Yeah I mean the approach to it, that was brought put up a new challenge.

We Are Renegades new label, how’s the business hustle from the other side of the desk?

It’s great. I think we’re actually at eye level of a lot of things I missed last time. In the major label a lot of people weren’t able to see it because they weren’t at the right positions. Just doing the hustle in the way that we’re doing it I think we’re garnering things you wouldn’t normally get.

The track ‘Momma’s Boy’ tell us about it?

The album is called WAR it speaks about war against industry, the government, environment, authority. It’s a spiritual album. ‘Momma’s Boy’ speaks about war within yourself. About evolving into a better human. All the tracks on the album, tackle some sort of issues that we’re trying to be better at. Momma’s Boy speaks about individual growth, my individual growth and what form of thinking holds us back, and going for it.

Are these topics that you weren’t able to bring out on Desire, or didn’t want to?

I had complete creative control through all my records. I just think this is something I want to address. I feel that the last album wasn’t accepted and promoted as well as it could have been. Art effects me and what I do everyday. Everything from painting, sculptures, As musicians we understand that’s completely not for everybody. People will take it this way or that way. This record speaks out to people who challenge authority and critiques who only carry one opinion. It’s like seeing a five star movie, you might go see it and walk out, like this is the worst movie I have ever seen. Its about understanding what u feel as an individual. This record speaks to that person.

Is art something you are interested in outside of making music?

Definitely I’m an art student, I went to art school. I can understand how inspirational art can be from all levels. In books, live performances, song writing in general has growth in it over time. Ten years ago I was listening to records and never appreciated it on the level I do now. It applies to you differently. A growth in culture, in life and knowledge gives further meaning and new opinions on the same art.

But in art comes such freedoms and that’s dangerous. Some artists That’s why I love it, but at the same time I understand why a lot of it is subjugated to such scrutiny. This is why i’ll probably never be very commercial. They don’t want bring about a new thought in broad music.

Among the amazing producers for the album, you saw something in M-Phazes beats, what was it?

I’m not gonna get complicated or in detail on the answer. I think he is very talented and that was something we were able to discover with technology and the web. I got to meet him at Good Vibrations and we share an energy and like-mindedness for seeing certain things achieved a certain way and he has the ability and cares that much to work hard at getting something both hip hop and external to hip hop, to make it hip hop. What makes him great, he can mellow down the simplest hip hop sensibilities over a pure boom-bap sound. He’s very musical and has a profound way of understanding the sound of right now and can implement all those things. That’s what makes a great producer.”

Recently you worked with Hilltop Hoods, what did you guys do?

About six months ago someone showed me their videos on YouTube and I just thought, they are really good. That’s what’s good about the Internet, it can be a gift and a curse. My man out me on to them and I thought, who the fuck are these guys? And I actually flew out to Australia to lay my verse down on that song. Just so we could be present and work in the studio.

It’s not just me shooting my vocals over an email, it’s more than that. I have a love and appreciation for what they do.

Do you get into any Aussie hip hop? Who do you like?

“Six shows. I think we might showcase the sensibilities and the knowledge of my work. We don’t come this way often so we’re probably going to do a lot Internal Affairs, a lot of Desire.”

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