Pharoahe Monch

(Flow 10, Lyrics 10, Distinctiveness 10, Charisma 8.5, Consistency 7, Longevity 8, Punchlines 9, Subject Matter 10, Quality 8, Influence 5)

Originally, Pharoah Monch didn’t crack the top ten. I think he’s tremendous, but I wanted to make sure the list didn’t just reflect what I personally like. But I talked to a LOT of people before I wrote a word down, and the same thing happened with roughly 90% of them.

Long pause.

“Not a bad list. I can see what you were doing here. But where’s Pharoahe Monch?”


After a while, it started to become obvious that no matter how many raw deals Pharoahe has gotten, hip-hop people were unanimous in their approval. I want to be clear, the only reason Pharoahe Monch isn’t higher is because he’s gotten no major exposure, because as far as skills he lacks nothing.

His flow is exemplary and his delivery is as energetic and engaging as Busta Rhymes. Of course he explains it better:

“Like my man Benny Rat, showed me the rap game
Told me never to act sane on a record or rap plain
Now the name reign supreme, seen major creme
Rhymes, sicker than lyme disease and gangrene”

Lyrically he’s almost peerless, he covers a lot of different and interesting topics with his music, and he’s as good of a storyteller as Slick Rick. A strong statement if you understand the reverence I hold Slick Rick in, but-

“In short was that I had shot him, several times in the head
Mount Sinai, 6:15, pronounced dead
The news reporter said the assailants fled the city
Meanwhile I’m shacked across the street, in some
sh*tty-ass hotel, waitin til things get a little quiet
Dunn I could try to bounce, but now why should I even try it?
The riot that ensued, I viewed bird’s-eye
Fifteen floors up behind the curtains in the nude
Took three-hundred and sixty-five to get close to him
Boast to him, roast, when I put the toast to him
Dangerous, the most heinous crimes have been committed
Through painless means, more famous lives have been acquitted
To hell he went, bent, sent, government issues
with my initial in print, ah, we’ll never miss you
in the streets, understanding that you made it hard to eat
Complete the cypher, or, make ends meet
Twenty-five years my father spent hard labor you suspended him
from the force, placed his head beneath the pendulum
Periphreal vision now, doorknob shiftin
Optical illusion or the coke that I’m sniffin
Think, primal instinct, maybe it’s me
Hit the lights must hit the floor simul-taneously
Seems as though this is manifested through some amazin dream
Dazed cops entered the room with guns and lazer beams
For days it seems we blast at, one another
Bullets hit the chest of this, black undercover
My last minutes on earth, drop say a prayer
F**k it if I’m gonna die at least I shot the Mayor”

Um. Wow.

But he’s been derailed time and time again, one album was dumped for a small sample from Godzilla, the others ignored and undermarketed. The label he was on imploded like the European economy and before that were three underperforming albums with Organized Konfusion.

But what else could he do but make great music? Pharoahe Monch has no flaws musically as far as I can see. It’s harder to figure out how he could personally get better at what he does, although I think the non-commercial structure of his songs and their production has been a problem. But he’s one of the great ones.

Not bad for a guy named after a bad haircut.