Pharoahe Monch | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Pharoahe Monch 

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PHAROAHE MONCH

As a member of Organized Konfusion, rapper Pharoahe Monch has been acclaimed by the hip-hop faithful for most of the decade, but not until he released Internal Affairs (Rawkus) a few months ago did he finally get the sales to match his skills. On his current hit single, "Simon Says," he even jokes about his hard-earned cred: "I sold wood in the hood / But when I'm in the street and shit it's all good." Although the album peaked at number 41 on the Billboard chart, Monch is finally a force to be reckoned with, drawing star power from guest cameos by the likes of Busta Rhymes, Redman, Method Man, and Canibus, among others. He remains an agile word juggler, with a knack for breathless internal rhymes like "New York City gritty committee / Pity the fool that act shitty in the midst of the calm, the witty," but success has come at a price: the substance that distinguished Organized Konfusion from the pack is mostly edged out by the usual boasting about sex and skills. There are a few exceptions, where Monch delves into the oppression of poverty and comes back with something more than a justification for violence. On "God Send"--the one track where Monch is joined by his partner in Organized Konfusion, Prince Poetry--he excoriates hip-hop culture for its petty obsessions in the face of more pressing issues: "I seen it all through the eyes of a needle / Depletion of the planet, brainwash of the people / Niggaz'll never learn (shit), we just concerned about / Who's fuckin' who, when time is of significance." And on "The Truth," which features guest spots by Common and Black Star's Talib Kweli, he insists that nobody can hide inside a tough-guy shell forever. But he makes something of a hypocrite of himself on "Rape," beginning with the title: "Grab the drums by the waistline / I snatch the kick, kick the snares, sodomize the bass line / Never waste time, I give the verse rabies / Cum on the chorus, tell the hook to swallow my babies." But at least he didn't sell his soul to Master P. Also on the bill are Rob Swift and New York turntablists the X-ecutioners, whose Total Eclipse contributes some deft scratching to Internal Affairs. Saturday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212. Peter Margasak

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