Pharaohe Monch <img src="" alt="fourstar"/>

Desire (Island)
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The Independent Culture

Since his 1997 debut Internal Affairs, Pharoahe Monch has been in label limbo. Desire proves well worth the wait. The range and quality of Monch's raps provide a much-needed transfusion of intelligence and eloquence to a hip-hop scene that he calls "just so boxed-in right now". His opening salvo "Free" sets out Monch's stall, in which conscious rappers like himself are elusive revolutionaries who have to be smuggled into the genre. "You can clip my wings, shackle and chain me," he asserts, but he'll still be free, "back straight, standing tall, a child of God." From there, he runs through a variety of issues. He puts Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome" on a new war footing; boosts the morale of teased black kids in "Hold On"; channels Marvin Gaye on the nine-minute revenge epic "Trilogy"; and tackles music industry travails in the title track: "I'm the poetical pastor, slave to my label, but I own my masters." Weirdest of all, though, is surely his Elvis impression on revivalist gospel-funk groove "Body Baby".