Pharoahe Monch has been ripping mics for over 15 years, first as part of lauded hip-hop crew, Organized Konfusion, and then as a franchise solo artist on Rawkus Records. He released his debut album, Internal Affairs, in 1999 and followed that with a national and world tour in 2000 and 2001 as part of the Spitckickers. But then Monch disappeared. His label, Rawkus Records merged with MCA Records which subsequently folded, having most of its artists end up on Geffen Records. The label politics stalled any follow-up albums that Monch was planning.
Although he was hard to find, Monch appeared in spurts by doing songs with Mos Def and Nate Dogg (“Oh No”), Styles P (“Life”), and recording his own singles (“Agent Orange”). He even managed to stay in the news with rumors of him signing with Shady/Aftermath Records. Last year Monch finally secured a deal with SRC/Universal Records and plans on dropping his long-awaited sophomore album, Desire, in March. HiphopCrack.com caught up with Monch to get the official word on his hiatus, the new album, and his controversial video for “Guns Draw.”
What should people expect from the new album, Desire?
Production-wise, we got Mr. Porter, Denuan Porter, The Alchemist, Lee Stone, Black Milk and I produced three cuts myself. And I just think, to describe it it’s real soulfully based, funk, political record.
Are you singing on it at all?
Definitely. Some of the music, which I think people will get when they listen to it in terms of why vocals are placed where and how it moved me.
When did the singing start to play a part in your creative process?
I did some for Internal Affairs and when I did, I pulled it off the record because it didn’t fit. It’s something that was always there. When you listen to the “My Life” record with Styles P or the history of the Organized Konfusion stuff, like “Black Sunday”, a lot of the stuff on the Equinox album, even on the “Oh No” record with Nate Dogg and Mos Def, I incorporated a lot of vocals like that.
The video for “Gun Draws” isn’t censored for television and instead you released over the internet. Why did you decide to go that route instead of shooting for MTV or BET?
I really can’t answer that question in terms of why it would have made the video better. I think things of that nature is why artists like myself who haven’t even gone Gold before, and keeps a certain edge or a certain integrity is why I have a valid place in the market place. But the response has been just incredible, I don’t know how much these stations would have played it and I don’t know if would be getting to people in
The song itself is reminiscent of “Stray Bullet” off of the Organized Konfusion album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda that you dropped in 1994. Why did you decide to broach the topic again?
Yeah, I was calling it a Part 2, but it’s more like a spinoff. But because I know it would be a challenge to do that, and people don’t usually do that in hip-hop. I want to stay out of the box and stay doing what people don’t expect you to do. And it was a big challenge for me because “Stray Bullet” was really respected.
So what have you been up to since Internal Affairs dropped in 1999 until now? Why so long for a new album?
The main thing, the hiatus was because of label politics and working on getting off of the label, the Geffen situation. That was the biggest reason for the hiatus. But mostly I went on tour, got a publishing deal, write records, produced records. I wrote two songs on the Diddy album and tried to stay busy here and there. But most of it really, was just enjoying my time off and not being involved in the hypocrisy and the BS, to be quite honest with you. It felt good, but its back to work now.
There were rumors you were signing to Aftermath/Shady Records, was that deal close to being done?
Definitely. The contracts were in the bag, but due to a lot of label overrides and what have you, it didn’t go over well in terms of the transfer of me going over from Geffen to Shady.
Did you get to record at all with the Shady Records crew?
Yeah, all of the Mr. Porter stuff on my album was going to be a part of that project, definitely.
Are you still down with the Spitkicker crew and planning on any tours?
Yeah, definitely. Funny you should ask, I just met with Kweli’s manager last night. And we were going over some tour dates for this Spring.
Of course, everytime there is an interview with you; everybody wants to know if there will ever be an Organized Konfusion reunion. Will there be?
And the answer to the questions is……. Who knows what the future holds!
Do you still talk to Prince Po, O.C. and them cats?
Yeah. And I just spoke to O.C. a week ago.
The hot topic for this season right now is the statement, “Hip-Hop is dead”. What’s your take on the whole situation?
It’s obviously not dead, and I don’t think it was meant to be literal. There are definitely aspects that hold true in terms of culturally and the different things that were implemented and aspects of hip-hop that are missing. But for the most part, what does Nas call the brand of music that he’s putting out? And what do I call the brand of music that I’m putting out? You know what I mean? So by virtue of that, I understand the statement but I don’t take it literally.
Who do you think is upholding the standards of hip-hop right now?
The one album that I’m blown away by now, is the Georgia Anne Muldrow album. She’s a jazz balladeer singing over Jay Dee, Sa-Ra and her own production.
Do you have a mixtape or anything coming to holds people over until the album drops?
The mixtape is out now, called the Awakening and you can get it from Clinton Sparks.com.
What’s the next single and video?
“Desire”, the title cut produced by The Alchemist. But the next video I;m going to do is going to similar to Gun Draws, kind of that feel. I also did a remake of Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” so I might do a clip for that.
Why did you name the album Desire?
Because that’s what I had to have to get through the industry BS. It was just the desire to continue through all the politics in the industry and the waiting and everything that goes on as well as a lot of everyday life stuff, that’s why I chose that title.
Did you ever feel like throwing the towel in on this rap stuff?
Never that. I think it’s apparent for the most part, and I think it will be apparent by virtue of why I waited so long to uphold integrity and just be patient shows that it’s not about… I could have put things out here and there but I didn’t. It’s not about king of New York or the commercialization, it’s something that I really love to do. If I didn’t love it so much, then I wouldn’t have a waited so long. I would have put my own records out.
So what do you hope people get from this album?
It’s really layered man, it’s like one of them records that implements itself and something you can buy into. I think you’re going to want to get the t-shirt and involve yourself in the whole vibe. I think it’s just not a good album that you listen to and you’re like “Yeah, that album is good, I like number 14, 8 and number 7” I think people will learn the titles, and I think when you go on a road trip, you’re definitely going to be like “Don’t let me forget my Pharoahe CD…”
That’s about it. Anything else you wanted to mention?
Just thanks to the fans for being patient. I know I’ve been stalling and pushing the dates back, but it’s for a good reason. I think they’re going to appreciate the record.