Pharoahe Monch Interview
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Almost eight years since he released his classic introduction into Hip-Hop on the 1999 classic, Internal Affairs, Pharoahe Monch is back on seen with an album in hand. Set for release on May 1st, Desire will mark Monch’s debut album for his new employer Steve Rifkind, and SRC Records. Excited about his new material and the chance to further the growth of Hip-Hop, Monch spoke with DJBooth.net’s DJ “Z.” During their interview, Monch explains his reasoning for titling the album, Desire, how label politics actually forced him into making a good career decision and what his die-hard Knicks must do to resurrect their inept franchise.
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Pharoahe Monch Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big on DJBooth.net and on the phone with me from New York, prepping’ the May 1st release of his long awaited, highly anticipated album… “Desire”. Please welcome, Pharoahe Monch. How are you?
Pharoahe Monch: Yeah man! I’m good man.
DJ Booth: You excited?
Pharoahe Monch: Yeah… I don’t really get excited, but I’m pretty amped about this one.
DJ Booth: Are you going to be excited on May 1st?
Pharoahe Monch: Definitely!
DJ Booth: I read a quote that states you feel “Hip Hop is boxed-in right now,” so what are you doing, on this new album “Desire”, to open that “box” back up?
Pharoahe Monch: All I can do is illustrate all of the musical aspects, and open all the music genres so that I would actually not be ‘boxed in’ on this album. I think I did a pretty good job of it, in terms of my Rock influence, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, just all in the album. I can use all the elements of the industry to make Hip-Hop, to do a good job, and not be ‘boxed-in’ from my background. I just think the topics that I discuss, and the content that I have is well put together. It’s cohesive, but it’s not ‘boxed-in’ and I hope that in some way…this implements itself, today and…just shows in this genre, that you don’t just have to be ‘boxed-in’
DJ Booth: From what I’ve heard, so far, you couldn’t be further from the truth. You touch on love, sex, politics, and survival. So is there any subject that you, as an artist, will not cover—that’s taboo?
Pharoahe Monch: No. The basis of it is being true—being real, the term ‘keepin’ it real’ is real corny, and a moot point, when you tell the truth, and the truth about who you really are, you know creatively what your strongpoint’s are. Topics might not be your strong points, so creatively you might not want to stay there. Some aspects of music are not topic focused; still not everyone is topic strong in their music. You just keep it there creatively. I’m open to makin’ songs about whatever.
DJ Booth: Monch, one of the new songs on your album is called, “Push.” I love the production, and the rhymes, but what really caught my ear was your singing on the single. There’s a really “live” element there, which most newly perfected studio-works have. Did you have any fears about adding a singing element to your arsenal?
Pharoahe Monch: I really wanted to do what the feel of the music was telling me to do, and exactly that sound, you know the vintage sound, was not the first time I sang. I just wanted to give it a run, and have a full verse. I think with the texture in mind, the style and context, it really comes out like a vintage throwback. It’s not 16 bars. I think the song is like a total of 3 minutes. I was real comfortable with it.
DJ Booth: You do a lot of production on “Desire,” but The Alchemist, Mr. Porter, Black Milk and Lee Stone also make their sound heard. Who do you feel complements your style the most?
Pharoahe Monch: I think they all do in their element. Lee Stone and I click a lot. On this project me and Mr. Porter really caught a vibe, and worked well on this project, which is why he’s responsible as the co-executive producer of this project and overseeing my work.
DJ Booth: In the time between this production and your 1999 classic, Internal Affairs, you ghost wrote, you toured, you dealt with label issues. At any point did you question your desire –no pun intended- to continue recording?
Pharoahe Monch: You hit it right on the head. Yeah that’s why it’s called “Desire,” because I had to just to go forward and persevere through all of the conflict, and the label politics. I tried to put that in all the songs.
DJ Booth: Considering the label politics, do you feel you are in a good position to succeed?
Pharoahe Monch: As an artist, I have always been changing and growing. Right now, it’s a beautiful arrangement. SRC [Records] understands who I am as an artist, and the grass roots way that needs to be implemented into the project. In addition to knowing how my project can be commercially successful in the current marketplace. So now, at the end of the day, people could say, “Okay now, I’ve heard Pharoahe Monch. I know who he is now.”
DJ Booth: If Hip-Hop, as an entire culture, was signed to a contract and said contract was up for renegotiation, following the release of your new album; as a head of the culture, what demands would you make heading into the next generation of the culture to insure success?
Pharoahe Monch: Man, I would demand that artist come to the table with better variety. I would demand that musicians know music history, not just Hip-Hop, so that we could understand. The better your ‘listening ear’ is, the better your music will be. You know I would put an emphasis on better performances, and I would fire all the DJ’s at radio [laughing].
DJ Booth: Sounds like you’d probably like to fire the music directors then too…
Pharoahe Monch: Exactly!
DJ Booth: I was reading through you blog, and way back, you mentioned that you are the proud owner of an official New York Knicks Starter jacket; so a two part question: Is it a zip-up, or a pullover, and are you still proud of it?
Pharoahe Monch: I don’t have that jacket any more, and it was a button-up. It was more of a warm-up, but they don’t have that anymore. Now they’ve gone to a throwback.
DJ Booth: Okay, and are you still proud of the Knicks?
Pharoahe Monch: Yeah, I’m still a big big Knicks’ fan.
DJ Booth: Isiah Thomas too?
Pharoahe Monch: Uhm, I don’t know what he can do. They’re so caught up in the cap problems. I will say this… they do have a lot of pieces to trade and if the Knicks’ fans are patient, they’ll be good, in about two years.
DJ Booth: I know all about being patient, too. It’s been a long while since my Chicago Bulls have made it to the promise lands. So I know all abou that!
Pharoahe Monch: [Laughing]…
DJ Booth: Monch, another single off “Desire,” is called “Let’s Go.” In one of the verses, you creatively name drop a bunch of cell-phone carrier companies. I’ve been having a bunch of issues with my service, so who do you use, and are they any good?
Pharoahe Monch: Everybody I use pretty much sucks. I’m with T-Mobile right now, and I don’t know which one of us dropped the call earlier, but…
DJ Booth: It was probably either of us… I have T-Mobile, too. Well, I wish you nothing but the best of luck, with this new album.
Pharoahe Monch: Thank you, I appreciate it!
DJ Booth: Give everybody a web page, and a MySpace address so that they can find out more about your new album.
Pharoahe Monch: First and foremost you need to check out www.gundraws.com which relates to a song on the album, When The Gun Draws, and puts in prospective how compromising the bullet is, and how desensitized we are to violence. Also, they can go to www.myspace.com/pharoahemonch.
DJ Booth: Well thank you again and I hope this album “Desire” does big things!!
Pharoahe Monch: Thank you—thank you very much.
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