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by J. Grand
1 January, 1999@12:00 am
0 comments

Mission Impossible for the underground rapper: Create an album that stays true to your core audience, yet still supply the Tunnel banging club hits that the commercial crowd craves without playing oneself. Many have tried, unsuccessfully, yet the unthinkable has now been accomplished. Underground champion Pharaohe Monch has risen from the relative obscurity of …Konfusion to create a name for himself on Internal Affairs. This is the same Pharoahe Monch that used to be down with critically acclaimed (yet, commercially shunned) Organized Konfusion, right? How’d he pull it off? Simon Says it’s “Pharoahe fucking Monch, ain’t a damn thing changed…”

Internal Affairs is an underground album at heart, but it crosses boundaries in an easy-to-swallow manner. Pharoahe spits his usual fast-paced fireballs throughout the album, in similar fashion to his highly-acclaimed Organized Konfusion days of yesteryear. Yet he rarely flips nearly-incomprehensible tongue lashings that may have scared listeners in the past. He also may be a bit more thugged-out than in the early 90′s, but who isn’t these days? Aside from the rougher edge (which sounds authentic), this album is super-saturated with lyrics for the real heads to spend countless hours analyzing, staying true to previous form, but his rhyme style isn’t quite as overbearing.

Pharoahe delivers the bulk of the albums material to satisfy his core following. On the Lee Stone produced “Official”, Pharoahe jacks the names of various sports figures and flips them into analogies (“Se-au like #55 on the Chargers…”). “Rape” is a twisted sexcapade involving the forceful penetration of the track by Pharoahe’s rhymes because other MC’s “ain’t fucking it right…” There is also the reunion of Organized on “God Send” where Pharoahe finishes in typically cryptic fashion (“trail of the octopus…”). “Behind Closed Doors”, “Hell” w/ Canibus, and the “Intro” adequately fill out the album’s underground requirements.

On the other hand, Internal Affairs shows the growth of Pharoahe as a visual MC that is able to capture the mind’s eye of the listener. “Queens” is an interesting journey in Pharoahe’s stomping ground, through the life of a young lad named Donovan. Equally impressive is the “The Truth” f. Common & Talib Kweli , which is not exactly a tale, but is filled with vivid images. However, these aforementioned tracks cannot hold a candle to the album’s crown jewel “The Light”. The Diamond D produced medley is an initially awkward combination of a melancholy string selection and a warm-hearted guitar loop that takes a few listens to appreciate the brilliance of the combination. It’s a love story featuring Pharoahe singing the hook, that melds like melted cheese with the production and flows with emotion (don’t hate you non-fucking nerds). Call me a lovestruck sap, but this song grabbed me like no rap track has in years. Any hetero male over the age of 14 should be able to relate in some way or another (and females will love it too!)

Moment of tenderness aside, Pharoahe’s finest step is his newfound ability to move the crowd. “The Ass” is a brilliantly penned ode telling the tales of how it goes down in the bedroom… (including a groundbreaking verse for Apani B-Fly Emcee - props). Kudos as well to Diamond D (again) for re-emerging on the scene with his first club-ready banger in recent memory on that one. “The Next Shit”, featuring newfound Pharoahe amigo Busta Rhymes, has a captivating latin bounce without sounding too much like a contrived club hit. And the insanity of both “Simon Says” & the “Simon Says Remix” (feat. Lady Luck, Method Man & Redman, Shabaam Sahdeeq & Busta Rhymes) should go without saying, but there are a few bags of kids out there that will hate… The freshest part about all of these club-bangers is that they are still thick with lyrics. No they’re not “releasing hypnotical gases”, but they’re still light years ahead of most MC’s dropping verses these days.

This album has something for everyone. There’s even some straight up thug-shit on the Alchemist produced, M.O.P. featured, “No Mercy” (Nutso!). If people take the time to listen, it will open the thugs up to the underground, the backpackers to the streets, the club-heads to some lyrics, etc. Despite a few mediocre beat choices this album is a work of art that is made for all to appreciate. Take the time out to listen no matter what you usually bang in the whip or walkman and you are sure to be pleased with something, if not the entire Internal Affairs offering.

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