Pharoahe Monch is a unique artist in the fact that he has solid skills and concepts and could have probably built upon his commercial success years ago but instead has maintained an underground king status. Now There are people who have issues with his flow and voice at times but overall he should probably be on the radar of more people than he is. He is slightly more dense in content than Lupe Fiasco for my money with a better ability to convey those points and his stance without be adversarial. His last album built upon a post-apocalyptic war, though it's a more dark take on current life. This new album, PTSD, picks up more where that one left off in tone.
The album starts with "Time2" which has a simple drum track and brooding bass line as spits some generous wordplay off of the concept that we are living in an illusion. It helps that the opening skit plays off of the theme of the movie 'Total Recall'. The second verse has Pharoahe stuttering as if his brain is fighting against the programming of the 'recollection center'. The song described in that way is much more complicated than just listening to it. "Losing My Mind" is about dealing with reality and what goes on in a man's head. Monch talks about finding his own lane and feeling a bit lost. This is a really strong cut.
"Bad MF" is also strong with a tough backdrop of bass and guitar as he talks about what he is. He also takes time to take some digs at the general rap game. Now I don't feel "Scream" as much due to the track which sounds like a bunch of sounds dumped into a bucket but Pharoahe does a decent job of trying to save it lyrically. But it's more experimental a fusion style of track and it doesn't work for me. The same thing goes for "Damage" where he raps extremely slowly and awkwardly.
"The Jungle" is about life in the city and how rough and raw it is. But what might be my favorite song is one which the feature artist, Black Thought from the Roots destroys it, "Rapid Eye Movement". This isn't to say that Pharoahe gets slaughtered but Black Thought really gets busy on this track. "Broken Again" is about moving forward after difficulty. The Title track continues that theme as Pharaohe raps from the perspective of someone suffering who is right there at the edge literally. "D.R.E.A.M." with Talib Kweli is the positive aspect of what's going on. this character being portrayed throughout the album is now experiencing dreams of getting better and working toward those. It's the positive cherry on top of the cake of an album that can seem dark.
Overall this album I think is better than "W.A.R.". The production is slightly better and the concepts are a little bit more clear. While it could have ended up being dark and overwhelming negative and cynical, Pharoahe manages to find a balance between both sides of the coin. His flow can still be annoying and a couple of the more outside of the box songs just don't work but this album is very consistent. The one thing I have an issue with is that too often he seems bored, like I just can't see these songs being performed at any time. It is still solid because some albums are just really good through your home speakers or car or headphones.