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

Is 2011 the year when the MCs are once again let off the leash? With Talib Kweli already dropping impressive material, Lupe Fiasco readying his project as well as the UK’s very own Hip Hop squadron dominating, has the ‘change’ which many purists finally arrived? To add further fuel to this suggestion, one of Hip Hop’s secret weapons is ready to unleash W.A.R.

Pharoahe Monch for well over a decade, has schooled, shocked and mesmerised lyrically studious fans who fall deaf on the more simple rhyming schemes. Whilst mainstream fame came from the club-shutting “Simon Says,” his legacy still remains as a beast with the bars and flow. Four years on from his last release, what place does Monch have within the ranks of ‘real’ Hip Hop?

A dangerous, intense intro provided by actor Idris Elba builds up the tense atmosphere which would always accompany an album entitled W.A.R (short for We Are Renegades). But it’s the following ‘Calculated Amalgamation’ which places the listener in a battlefield with Pharoahe Monch leading on the frontline, chucking lyrical mines with some ferocity. But this should come as no surprise for long term supporters, as this theme rages on throughout the album.

The moment of glory arguably comes in the form of the self-titled track in which he invites Vernon Reid and (the most politically charged rapper of the previous decade) Immortal Technique to create musical anarchy. Its crashing drums, stirring ‘ooohs’ and unapologetic potty mouthed bars at various hierarchies will be a highlight for future Monch live shows.

W.A.R. isn’t like any emotionally charged album, as it is fuelled with the immense lyrical product of Pharoahe and brilliant production credits from an array of new and established beatmakers, including Exile, Marco Polo, M-Phazes, Samiyam and Diamond D. Even when adopting the cliched ‘pulpit rapping’ formula on ‘Let My People Go,’ Monch delivers remarkably with organs and signature choir to back him up.

Guests on board come at no surprise as the more introspective collection of Styles P, Little Brother’s Phonte and Jill Scott all provide further recollections for the Pharaohe’s enriching concepts. Even when returning to slap emcees upside the head on ‘Assassins’, the former Organized Konfusion spitter rains in on the onslaught alongside Jean Grae and Royce Da 5’9″ who literally crashes into the track.

A welcome return from a highly respected vet of the game, W.A.R. is a mature body of work which is a glowing portrayal of how Hip Hop should sound from a 10 year plus pro. Minus the anthemic rock track ‘Grand Illusion,’ which is overcooked, Pharaohe Monch is a colossus on the empirical, war-torn themed beats. Even when seeking assistance from guest vocalists, their inclusion is relevant in adding much strength to the tracks unlike those who conjure up slushy hooks for mainstream recognition. Pharaohe Monch passes the bar for excellence in 2011 and acts as the ever reliable source for dope rhymes and consistency.

W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) is out on March 14th in the UK [March 22nd in US] through W.A.R Media/Duck Down Music Inc – pre-order from Amazon UK / US.