Album Review- Pharoahe Monch- W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

So sometimes you get an album title that you cannot help but love and have high expectations for. Sometimes however, you look at the artist and know that they cannot pull it off. Pharoahe is a bit of an enigma, I know he has the ideas to pull off an album with a good yet ambitious title, but my biggest concern is always his flow and ability to avoid the pitfalls that 'underground' artists can fall victim to, meaning going overboard on trying to force content in certain spots and not knowing how to smooth things out.

The album's intro, featuring a voice over by Idris Elba did nothing to calm my anxiety about this. The set up is so cinematic as opposed to Monch who doesn't really fit that mold. "Calculated Amalgamation" has a big budget album beat and ill cymbal and drum selection, and his oft-choppy flow (i'm trying to define how to describe it) fits perfectly within the song's composition. "Evolve" is a song about the need of today's hip-hop to grow and move beyond where it is at and how his subject matter is above the norm. This sentiment is echoed on "Let My People Go" later on in the album. This is also directed at the church folks, radio programmers, and conglomerates who are  in effect 'holding the people down'. This was also a theme on Saigon's recent album. "The Hitman" is Pharoahe letting everyone know that he is the man to make the massive change needed in the industry.

"W.A.R." features Vernon Reid and Immortal Technique as they talk about how the entire system we live in is screwed up and needs to be destroyed for movement to occur. "Clap (One Day)" features Showtyme and DJ Boogie Blind has a nice laid back beat and Pharoahe's flow is more smooth than throughout the rest of the album but not by much. Mela Machinko is featured on "Shine" with Pharoahe talking about where he is from. He shows some decent lyrics on this song but also has some odd moments that show him trying to do too much. "Haile Selassie Karate" features Mr. Porter on the hook with Pharoahe on his black power flow.

Another song with a huge track backing it is "The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)" which chronicles more of the subterfuge carried out against the people. "Assassins" featuring Jean Grae and Royce da 5'9, is a charcter driven narrative about three individuals meant to bring truth to the masses and the finale is "Still Standing" with Jill Scott where Pharoahe talks about how he has gotten to his position against the difficulties of life. It seems out of place only because it is so personal amongst all of the political and social rhetoric that fills the rest of the album.

I have a friend who once complained about songs having too much of a social commentary from people who seem as if they are observers instead of participants and that is the biggest flaw with this album. Many of the songs end up sounding repetitive and just impersonal like Pharoahe hasn't been involved up until the end of the album. The vastness of the ideas he brings out early aren't really made specific, and to keep hearing about the huge conspiracy becomes unrelatable because of it. the fear i had about his flow and voice were never really issues but the album could have used a bigger audio difference to keep it moving.

Rating: 3/5


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