Pharoahe Monch is a legendary rapper whose been around since the early 90s. Over the years, he’s built up one of the greatest resumes of all time with his flawless solo catalog and renowned work in the duo Organized Konfusion. Last week, he released his first album in seven years, titled A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism. Teaming up with drummer Daru Jones and guitarist Marcus Machado under the name Th1rt3en, can Pharoahe create another classic?
Being fueled by the recent events we’ve all been living through, there’s a scorching hot fire lit under Pharoahe throughout the entire record. The intro “Cult 45” sets the tone masterfully as the 48-year-old addresses the current political climate in America as he goes for the throat of our corrupt government, specifically former President Donald Trump. As the LP progresses, these disses only get more focused as each track depicts a different tale of injustice. Whether he’s talking about broken devotions on “Scarecrow” or the principles of oppression on the stylistically breathtaking “Racist,” the Queens rapper fills each song with enough intellect to have you thinking for hours. Another one of Monch’s best traits is his ability to tell a story and flip it into a message about something of major significance. “The Magician” shows this at its peak as the veteran MC steps into the shoes of various high school students to form an overlying tale about the cause and effects of school shootings in America. Aside from this powerful epic, the only moment more compelling is “Triskaidekaphobia”. Being a true testament to his all-time great storytelling ability, the Organized Konfusion member raps from the perspective of the number thirteen as he tells a mind-boggling thriller that focuses on a handful of tragedies that somehow all come back to this number. On the note of numbers, “666 (Three Word Stories)” serves as the other digit based track that plays a crucial role in the grand scheme of the experience due to its brutally honest depiction between the two sides of our divided nation. A definite highpoint was “Goats Head”, an incredible moment of sheer dominance where Pharoahe’s abrasive side takes over to warn us of the potential rath he may reign down upon his haters. Hearing him in this rageful mindset is breathtaking, and while it steers away from the message of the record, it only darkens the already morbid tone. Overall, the cohesive display of top-notch lyrical showings sets up Pharoahe Monch’s newest album to become one of his best.
As the project progresses, Pharoahe only becomes more charged up as he pours his blood, sweat, and tears into the philosophical being of this journey. Perhaps the most chilling of these closing moments is “Oxygen,” which is crafted to near perfection with its suffocating vocals and potent emotional struggle that showcases the frightening idea of wanting to die. Throughout these closing tracks, everything seems to get even more hopeless. Monch’s rage only heightens and his weariness too. Echoed through cuts like “Kill Em’ All Again,” the legendary rapper is at his spiritually lowest as he declares that most of the people around him “are a disgrace to existence”. On the sour side of things, the collaboration with the hall of fame rap group Cypress Hill, “Fight”, was honestly underwhelming. Monch’s lyricism was top notch as usual, but its surrounding bridges and choruses from B-Real and crew sounded both outdated and vocally offputting. While at the point of poor hooks, this is surely the LP’s weakest link as a handful of them try to be hard-hitting and unforgettable but instead end up like the rowdy clusters of sound seen on “Kill Em’ All Again” and “The Exorcist”. Still, this is not damaging enough to destroy the whole body of work, especially when going through the final string of tracks. On the second to last song, “Amnesia,” we see Pharoahe bleeding out as he releases his pain by drinking away his frustrations. Coming to the realization that he will never do enough to change the world, we see him lose his will to keep going, and it’s a genuine moment of udder heartbreak. Wrapping everything up, the Smithsonian collaboration, “Kill Kill Kill,” is a fantastic ending that brings everything full circle with its minimal lyricism and one of a kind atmosphere. Despite there being some small kinks on the musical of Pharahoe Moch’s performance, his A+ pen game is more than enough to make A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism worth listening to.
On the sonic side of the album, drummer Daru Jones and guitarist Marcus Machado craft a raw soundscape that rightfully matches the gritty performance from the top tier MC their collaborating with. From “Cult 45” to “Kill Kill Kill”, most of the songs contain either an exciting sample, solo, or structure that makes it memorable. Although I’m not too familiar with his work prior to this, playoffs on cuts like “Goats Head” and “Racist” make it clear Jones is a master percussionist. Out of all these positives, the most memorable element is the many of Machado’s killer guitar solos, which absolutely steal the show in their respective callings. Whether it’s the epic tension breaker of “Magician” or the skull-shocking outro of “Scarecrow”, these lengthy renditions sometimes end up saving entire instrumentals as a whole. With all the previously stated strengths of the soundtrack, the only true negative that can be pulled out comes in the form of a select few beats. None are crafted poorly but instead feel a little too similar to one another to be deemed anything actually remarkable. All in all, there are no sonic walls being taken down here, but what’s presented still manages to outdo hip hop’s current status quo.
In conclusion, A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is another strong statement that only strengthens Pharoahe Monch’s goat case. Through its 50 minutes run time, there’s not a single bad verse, which is a milestone that very few in the game can accomplish right now. Rounding this breathtaking lyrical showcase with a solid soundtrack that layers the project with its astonishing undertones, and you truly have something special. Going forward, I’m not sure how long it will take Pharoahe Monch to come back to music, but given his status in the game and everything he’s given its safe to say he has forever solidified his place amongst rap’s finest.
- One of the best lyrical showcases I have seen in a few years
- Top tier storytelling/narrating
- Powerful ideas presented
- Cool instrumental moments
- Overall the soundtrack is just kind of plain
- The hooks and bridges are terrible
- Nothing really changes in the narrative from start to finish
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop