Review: @PharoaheMonch At @TheJazzCafe

There are some things in the world of Hip-Hop that are as good as guar­an­teed. Wu-Tang will always be for the chil­dren, DJ Premi­er will always be the king of the scratched hook, and Phar­oahe Monch will always deliv­er a mem­or­able show.

Regard­less of how many times you may have wit­nessed the gif­ted Queens, NY emcee rock a stage, you nev­er leave feel­ing like you’ve simply watched an artist going through the motions, or that Monch hasn’t given a per­form­ance his all.

Pharoahe’s latest sold-out gig at London’s Jazz Café was no dif­fer­ent.

Backed by turntable titan DJ Boo­gie Blind and tal­en­ted UK band Ezra Col­lect­ive, with Kam­ron of Young Black Teen­agers fame act­ing as an enga­ging hype-man, Monch expertly nav­ig­ated the mixed crowd of older heads and young­er fans through six­ty-plus minutes of intric­ate verbal gym­nastics, pound­ing beats and bril­liant show­man­ship.

Arriv­ing onstage with min­im­al fan­fare, the Organ­ized Kon­fu­sion lyr­i­cist spent a few moments silently pacing back-and-forth like a box­er on fight night, focus­sing on the task at hand before launch­ing into an urgent blast of the Black Thought-assisted “Rap­id Eye Move­ment” from his recent “PTSD” album.

Closely fol­lowed by spir­ited per­form­ances of the synth-heavy”Agent Orange” and police protest song “Clap (One Day)”, Monch took the oppor­tun­ity to com­ment on the recent Stateside events in Fer­guson, encour­aging every­one in the packed ven­ue to clap their hands as he pas­sion­ately rhymed acapel­la, res­ult­ing in a poignant moment of inter­ac­tion between artist and audi­ence.

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Pho­to­graphy by @GlobalFaction

 

Whil­st the sweat­ing emcee exited the stage for a short break, it was left to Boo­gie Blind to enter­tain the crowd, with the X-ecu­tion­ers rep­res­ent­at­ive drop­ping a quick-fire routine which found LL Cool J’s time­less “Rock The Bells” being skill­fully decon­struc­ted and recon­struc­ted at breath-tak­ing speed, once again prov­ing that turn­tab­lism is some­thing that really needs to be seen as well as heard in order to be fully appre­ci­ated.

As the lights were turned down low and a single chair placed centre-stage, Phar­oahe made his return to dra­mat­ic­ally deliv­er two of the darkest tracks from “PTSD”, the moody “Time2″ and som­bre “Broken Again”.

Sit­ting down, head in his hands, Monch com­mu­nic­ated the raw emo­tion of each track’s sub­ject mat­ter via his body lan­guage and facial expres­sions as much as he did through the actu­al lyr­ics, at one point using a toy gun to sim­u­late his own death.

After a brief dis­play of skin-tight musi­cian­ship from the mem­bers of Ezra Col­lect­ive, Monch lif­ted the mood, encour­aging the crowd to sing the hook of his Rawkus-era single “My Life”, which then led into the intense gos­pel-feel of the Alchemist-pro­duced “Desire” and the radio- favour­ite “Oh No”, with Phar­oahe paus­ing to pay a sin­cere trib­ute to the late Nate Dogg.

Tak­ing a moment to give Kendrick Lamar props for his latest album, the bound­ary-push­ing word­smith encour­aged the crowd to respect the craft of lyr­i­cism and help “pre­serve the cul­ture”, as right-hand man Kam­ron stood to the side nod­ding intently.

With the horn sec­tion who had arrived onstage moments before then replay­ing the open­ing Godz­il­la sample of Monch’s sig­na­ture late-90s banger “Simon Says”, the audi­ence was imme­di­ately turned into a rowdy mass of jump­ing
bod­ies, as the grin­ning emcee glee­fully delivered the track’s infam­ous instruc­tion­al hook.

Return­ing for a brief encore which included the Organ­ized Kon­fu­sion clas­sic “Bring It On”, the vet­er­an micro­phone fiend gra­ciously thanked the crowd for their con­tin­ued sup­port, leav­ing the stage to the sound of Keni Burke’s 80s quiet storm anthem “Risin’ To The Top”.

In a rap world which finds here-today-gone-tomor­row acts con­sist­ently receiv­ing undeserved accol­ades and atten­tion, Phar­oahe Monch con­tin­ues to stand as a shin­ing example of genu­ine tal­ent, cre­ativ­ity and artist­ic authen­ti­city.

Organ­ized Konfusion’s 1994 single “Stress” found Monch pos­ing the ques­tion, “Why must you believe that some­thing is fat just because it’s played on the radio twenty times per day?”

Over two dec­ades later, Phar­oahe is still provid­ing a worth­while altern­at­ive to the redund­ant and shal­low pro­duct which is repeatedly being pushed and pro­moted by the main­stream music industry.

Thank­fully, if the capa­city crowd at this par­tic­u­lar show was any­thing to go by, there are still plenty of people out there who’re will­ing to listen.

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Gata Malandra

Gata Malandra

Edit­or / Research­er at No Bounds
Gata is a music and arts lov­er, stud­ied anthro­po­logy, art man­age­ment and media pro­duc­tion ded­ic­at­ing most of her time to cre­at­ive pro­jects pro­duced by No Bounds.
Gata Malandra

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About Gata Malandra

Gata Malandra
Gata is a music and arts lover, studied anthropology, art management and media production dedicating most of her time to creative projects produced by No Bounds.

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