Pharoahe Monch is man who needs no introduction. From social commentary and raw unabashed lyrical content with Organized Konfusion to his highly slept on album “Internal Affairs”, Monch has constantly made us hit rewind. On November 28th a new chapter is written in the Pharoahe Monch legacy. “Desire” hits stores on SRC/Universal records. Not so concerned with first week sales but with the slow grind, Pharoahe is not only trying to put out great music for himself, but also for his fans. Enlisting old friends and some surprising new ones, “Desire” is definitely one of the most anticipated albums to come out this year. I got a chance to chat with Pharoahe about the album, the state of hip-hop, and what he’s trying to accomplish with “Desire”. Sit back listen and enjoy the ride.
What’s up with you man, how are you?
I’m really really good and I’m really excited about the new record. It has really exceeded my expectations and I set some high ones on this record.
We don’t know a lot about the record, the title is “Desire” and the single is “Push”, correct?
There is a video for “Push” done but we pre-released it in the UK first same as we are going to do with the album. Universal has a label over there and they were so excited about the record, they wanted it first, so it wouldn’t be an import. Europe has always supported great music, in terms of jazz and great artists in general. The response to “Push” over there has been crazy.
Tell us a little about “Desire”, who did you work with as far as producers and guest emcees.
I worked with a lot of different producers from the last album but also worked with some new people to branch off in a new direction. I worked with Lee Stone who I worked with on the last record and also have a joint with Alchemist. In the new direction I decided to bring on Denaun Porter from Detroit. I met him some years ago as far as listening to tracks and we started working on tracks even before the deal was in place. I think we really had a connection and a marriage of the minds. It doesn’t feel like Premier and Guru but the connection and the marriage is there. Denaun is also co-executive of the album. Denaun laced me with joints that are so soulful. He is just the illest diverse producer. To go from the mainstream 50 Cent stuff to invoke some of the emotion that is coming out of this record is just bananas. We also have Black Milk from Detroit and this kid Bo who is an upcoming producer out of Virginia.
Before you did the deal was in place with SRC/Universal a lot of labels were bidding for you and your talents, how did SRC become the place for Pharoahe Monch?
Basically the Shady thing happened while I was still in contract with Geffen/Rawkus. We were going to move the record to Shady, but during the interim Geffen came up with astronomical numbers to make the deal work. I didn’t feel comfortable moving my situation for all of that garbage and negativity. The business side of Rawkus as terms of the figures was so far out there, it made no sense at the time. They were talking 3 or 4 million that they had spent on me and even the people at Geffen didn’t believe they spent that kind of money. I would be walking into a beautiful situation with Shady but this would still be hanging over my head and I just couldn’t do it. I tried to clear it up so I could go there with a clear slate. It just took too long, they had to move on and I had to move on and the situation just fell through. The main reason it feel through was it just took long for me to clear that up.
So the offer was definitely on the table?
Oh yeah, I could have went over there but being in the business for a number of years I wanted to get the situation clear. Eventually, Rawkus let me go and I became a free agent. As you know with the music that I do or my comrades do there is a forum for us to go on the road. So in the meantime during free agency I went on the road. I toured with M.O.P., Kweli and Mos and other tours and it felt good. I was doing new songs that nobody had heard before and people were rocking it even though they had never heard it before. One thing I learned about being on the road, you do get an honest response and when you get back to the studio it forces you to make not just dope records for yourself, but to make dope records for the fans that support you. So I was doing all these records and I came to a point of knowing that this is not my music to hold on to. This is a gift that is given to you by a higher source. You get these ideas and you get these blessings and these labels are hearing it, like where do I sign. I was selfish and was like; I don’t know if I want to do this label thing again at least not on a major label level.
At this point do you feel like you have to be on a major label?
Right, what happened was I did a couple of joints. People say that my face looks like a wear the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am bothered by a lot of worldly issues, things that go on the hood, socially and politically. Those are the ideas that help conjure the ideas for some of those songs. I wrote some songs and was like yo, I need to get this music to as many people as I can. I started paying attention to labels that were paying attention to me again. A friend of mine was said to me, your music will leak out and kids are going to get it because it’s not yours to hold on to. Universally and spiritually it’s for the people. I had some people at Sony really loving the record and during this time I got the writing job with Puff and he was feeling it really big and offered me something. At the same time I want to implement some new songs, some heartfelt songs, some dirty lyrical songs, and to try out some new things. I really tried to challenge myself on this record. Everybody was feeling the 3 “big” records and I think there are 5 solid singles on this record. One in particular all labels were like this is the one, this is the one. A lot of the major labels focus on first week numbers and to me SRC is willing to rock with me on a slow grind. I know I have to get out there and get on the grind. I really think that this record is going to be successful on a radio level and on word of mouth. I have to refamiliarize myself with so many people and I have to perform the record, I recorded it like a performance record. We have to show people why it will be worthwhile to have this in your collection
Being in the game for about 15 years, you have seen the golden era and you have seen the rise and fall of hip-hop as we know it. What is your stance on hip-hop in 2006?
I’ll give you two outlooks. I look at hip-hop as a fan and I’m very critical of my material as a fan I see hip-hop as a little bit off right now. It doesn’t seem like a lot of the new cats are doing their music history, not just hip-hop history but music history as a whole. When that happens the culture and the substance gets diluted. We lose our way and we lose our focus. You listen to Kanye, but you don’t know Kanye listened to Kane or you don’t know Jay-Z’s influences or whoever. That being said, when you go back and have as much musical knowledge it helps you to be a better artist. The artist I hear are very one dimensional which doesn’t bode well for their shelf life or for the music in general. One the flipside as an artist I get caught in situations because of that. You could be a round table of business people. Everybody is talking about what they do, some are writers, some are editors then they ask what you do. You say I’m a rapper or an emcee and it’s like ehhâ€¦because it doesn’t represent the same thing that is used to, or what it should represent. You say what you do and say they don’t know me, they throw out a bunch of names that don’t represent this culture and you just wonder is this what it has come to? Is this what is representative of hip-hop?
I will say this; you are a calm dude (laughs). On your records you make me want to jump around and punch things, but in the interview you are real laid back
(Laughs) Wait till you hear this joint. We redid “Welcome to the Terrordome”. You heard it first media wise and when the word gets out people are going to be like I have hear this for myself. It is so crazy, I haven’t been this amped in a long time and the shit gets me amped like the original does.
Is there any song on “Desire” that really sticks out to you? Sounds like this album is really your magnum opus, is there that joint that is really personal?
Right now, it’s the “Welcome to the Terrordome” because it is most recent. There are so many great songs on the album; I really go back and forth.
What’s next for you?
The next biggest thing on mind is shooting a short film for the song called “When the Gun Draws”. It’s a Part 2 of “Stray Bullet” off of the “Stress” album that I did with Organized Konfusion. We are shooting it as a P.S.A. for gun control. The footage is very provocative and someone shocking, so that’s really what’s next.
Alright, we are at the end and you know I have to ask. Are we ever going to see an Organized Konfusion reunion?
My answer to that is who knows what the future holds.
I just want to thank the fans, because it has been a long road to get here and thank you for all your support and love over the years.
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