I don't even think it's debatable that Pharoahe Monch, a member of Organized Konfusion (the other member being Prince Poetry), is one of the most underrated and underappreciated rappers in history. He is, in my opinion, a top four lyricist to ever do it, with only Canibus, Chino XL, and Ras Kass measuring up to him in terms of raw lyrical ability. I guess the main reason why Monch does get overlooked is for the simple fact that he has only dropped two solo albums, and those albums were eight years apart.
After enjoying a critically acclaimed period with Organized Konfusion (which put out three albums as a duo), Pharoahe launched his solo career in 1999 when he released Internal Affairs, an album where the cover art alone would make one want to hear what in the world Monch had to say (well, as a solo artist, anyway). Then, one would look at the liner notes and see that Monch not only produced a bunch of tracks by himself, but also had help from renowned beatmakers such as The Alchemist, Diamond D, and DJ Scratch. At that point, you couldn't not want to listen to Internal Affairs.
Of course, Internal Affairs' biggest hit was "Simon Says," a hard-hitting cut that utilized the theme from Godzilla vs. Mothra. However, the album's biggest hit also turned out to be its biggest downfall, as due to the fact that Pharoahe Monch did not clear the sample on the song, Internal Affairs was pulled off the shelves and is now out of print.
Anyway, Pharoahe's debut album was looked upon very favorably by music critics, and it even sold a decent amount of copies (200,000) before being shut down. For this reason, I have never been able to understand why Pharoahe Monch does not get more love in the hip-hop world, as people obviously saw the talent and were willing to open up their wallets to support it.
Although the track is titled "Intro," this is actually a song. DJ Scratch lays down a horn-driven beat for Pharoahe Monch, and while Monch certainly spends this track introducing himself, he does it in rap form and establishes a niche for himself that he would continue for the rest of Internal Affairs in the process.
2. Behind Closed Doors
Pharoahe laces a dark beat for himself to spit over on this, and he effortlessly (and I italicized that word to emphasize it as much as possible) flows over it while laying down some incredible bars and a great hook, as well. And how sick is this line: "Even with doorknobs, you couldn't handle this." Great record.
Both Pharoahe and Lee Stone produced the beat for this cut, and I especially dig the dusty drums on it (the piano is nice, too). Once again, Monch demonstrates impeccable flow, so impeccable that it seems like he could rhyme over the instrumental endlessly. As per the title, Pharoahe talks about the harsh street life of Queens, New York on the record.
Let me say immediately to those who may be creeped out that the song's title is a metaphor, although Pharoahe Monch's "sodomize the bassline" line was a bit disturbing, and the female orgasm noises on the hook didn't help matters much, either. However, once again, this is a metaphor for how Monch has fully mastered the art of rap. His beat is pretty damn good, too.
5. Simon Says
Regardless of the fact that this was Internal Affairs' most popular song, I was never too fond of it, although that isn't to say that I don't enjoy listening to it every now and then. Pharoahe's beat aside, it is his deft lyricism on the track that brings me to bump this occasionally.
This is probably my favorite song on the album. Lee Stone's beat is ill, and Pharoahe Monch sounds great over it. I mean, how many rappers do you know that would think to make obscure references to Raul Mondesi, Rey Ordonez, Chuck Knoblauch, and Buck Williams in a song? Probably none.
Pharoahe Monch and Canibus on the same track? It sounds like a match made in heaven, and it would be if the production was anything worth listening to, but it isn't, as Lee Stone's beat just sounds awful. However, Canibus manages to grab it by the throat and then tear it to shreds, killing Monch on his own track, and that is quite a feat.
8. No Mercy
If any track on Internal Affairs can challenge "Official" as being the album's best, "No Mercy" is it. The Alchemist gets his lone production credit on the project here, and he doesn't disappoint, laying down a banger of a beat for Pharoahe and M.O.P.. The hook on this cut is sick, too. If you're looking for a good pump-up song, "No Mercy" is definitely one way to go.
9. Right Here
DJ Scratch produces his second and final beat on the album on this record, but, unfortunately, I found "Right Here" to be fairly boring. That's all I've got.
10. The Next Shit
Pharoahe Monch samples Sid Bass' "Espani Cani," a song that is played at pretty much every sporting event you could possibly attend, on this track and manages to make it work. I know this cut is a lot of people's least favorite on Internal Affairs due to the "commercial tone" of it, but I dig it, and I really liked Busta Rhymes' contribution.
11. The Ass
It took 11 tracks to finally see a Diamond D production on the album, but here it is; the first of three Diamond D beats on Internal Affairs. He doesn't bring his A game this go around, though, as his reggae-ish instrumental just does not grab me at all. Not only that, but the subject matter on this song is especially cheesy, and it might seriously have the worst hook I've ever heard. Female rapper Apani B. Fly drops a guest verse, and, as I'm sure you already inferred from her name, she only knocks this record down a few pegs (if that was even possible). This crap is by far the worst song on the album.
12. The Light
Diamond D gets a chance to redeem himself on this cut, and he does, but let's face it; he could have recorded himself smacking his cheeks (the cheeks on his face, you sickos) and came up with a better instrumental than he did on "The Ass." That aside, this song is really good, as Pharoahe Monch goes from incredibly sleazy topical matter on the previous track to a legitimate love ballad on "The Light." Definitely one of the best cuts on Monch's debut.
13. God Send
Pharoahe's Organized Konfusion partner Prince Poetry joins him on this Lee Stone and Monch-produced track, and while both rappers do the song justice lyrically, the beat leaves much to be desired, making this one of the most boring records on Internal Affairs.
14. The Truth
Monch teams up with Common and Talib Kweli on this Diamond D-laced song, and while the lyrics are unsurprisingly top notch, the production isn't too engaging, and I also found the female voice on the hook to be a bit irritating. At first glance, "The Truth" looks like it has "best song on the album" written all over it, but that just isn't the case.
15. Simon Says (Remix)
The beat is the same as the original, but this remixed version contains verses from Lady Luck, Redman, Method Man, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Busta Rhymes. I usually find myself skipping this one due to its sheer length (six minutes and fifteen seconds), but if you don't mind long songs, then by all means, check this one out.
Pharoahe Monch proves to the world that he is one of hip-hop's lyrical masterminds on Internal Affairs, as every track (there are even traces of it on "The Ass") contains vivid, outstanding lyrics and spectacular punchlines that can put any rapper to shame. Monch is one of the most talented rappers to ever pick up a mic, and that is made very clear on his debut record.
If there is a problem with Internal Affairs, it lies within the production, as some of the beats are very bland and failed to keep the me interested. That said, a very solid portion of the instrumentals on this album do bang, so it's not like poor production is a running theme throughout the project. Even if that were the case, Pharoahe's seemingly immaculate talent would still make Internal Affairs listenable.
It's certainly a shame that Monch took such a long hiatus, as his sophomore release, Desire (which wasn't even all that good), did not drop until 2007. Had he dropped an album or two in between, I'm sure he would have gained a lot more recognition in the industry and would be looked at by many as one of the best to ever do it. Fortunately, Pharoahe Monch's third album, W.A.R., is slated to drop in late March, so it still seems as if he has plenty of desire (no pun intended) left in the tank.
While Internal Affairs is a very, very good album, it is one of those records that I really need to be in the mood to listen to it all the way through. Don't get me wrong; I love a few of the songs on the project, but as a whole, I find myself zoning out at certain points when bumping it in its entirety, especially (with the exception of "The Light") toward the end of the album (never a good thing).
My conclusion? I think Pharoahe Monch can do a bit better than this; he just needs better production behind him. Let's hope he gets that on W.A.R., and if the album's first two singles ("Shine" and "Clap") are any indication, it looks like that may very well end up happening.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
2. No Mercy
3. The Next Shit
4. The Light