Friday, April 11, 2014

Pharoahe Monch Week, Day 5: W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

After two critically acclaimed albums in 1999 and 2007, respectively, Pharoahe returned in 2011 with album number three, "W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)". This was also his first album under Duck Down Records.

Release date- March 22, 2011

1. The Warning
This Idris Alba spoken intro leads us into.....

2. Calculated Amalgamation
Produced By: Lion's Share Music Group

"Raised the bar so high that the bar's afraid to look down"

The ONLY complaint I had about this song is that it was a little TOO fast paced. It's excellent, especially on a lyrical level of course, and with another verse or two, this would've been a sure fire "5 out of 5". I guess Pharoahe wanted to keep this one half short and twice strong, which he is certainly good at.
*4 out of 5*

3. Evolve
 Produced By: Exile

"Get used to it, get used to wisdom"

From the first Organized Konfusion album to "Internal Affairs" all the way up to this album, Pharoahe has evolved throughout his career and this song is a testament to that.
*4 out of 5*

4. W.A.R. (Featuring Immortal Technique and Vernon Reid)
Produced By: Marco Polo

This guitar laden joint was tailor made for a guest appearance from Immortal Technique, and I'm still a little surprised he didn't drop a verse on this one. Pharoahe wastes no time delivering his words of wisdom in terms of the injustices of "the system".
*4 out of 5*

5. Clap (One Day)
Featuring Showtyme and DJ Boogie Blind
Produced By: M-Phazes

This banger was not too hard for radio in my view, which sees Pharoahe represent nicely over the tight beat from M-Phazes.
*4 out of 5*

6. Black Hand Side (Featuring Styles P and Phonte)
Produced By: Mike Loe

Pharoahe and The Lox's Styles P previously collaborated and turned up some very good material. This appropriately titled song was no different. Phonte, formerly of Little Brother and who also released an excellent album in 2011 with "Charity Starts At Home", did a good job on the hook.
*4 out of 5*

7. Let My People Go
Produced By: Fatin "10" Horton

It's all about freedom, (more) power to the people, an open campaign for respectable leadership. I really liked the "take em to church" vibe on this one.
*4 out of 5*

8. Shine (Featuring Mela Machinko)
Produced By: Diamond D

 This was not your typical song about "shining", but Pharoahe takes it up a notch but shining a light on a variety or real world issues at the time, which are still present in our communities today in 2014.
*4 out of 5*

9. Halie Selassie Karate (Featuring Mr. Porter)
Produced By: Samiyam

The beat here was slightly all over the place and it's a good thing this song was 2:23, as it would've lost any luster remaining had it been longer.
*3 out of 5*

10. The Hitman
Produced By: M-Phazes

You'll get struck down not with the power of the gun, but the force of Pharoahe's presence on the mic. Another M-Phazes produced banger.
*4 out of 5*

11. Assassins (Featuring Jean Grae and Royce da 5'9)
Produced By: M-Phazes

For anyone, likely from today's generation, who thinks Nicki Minaj is the best femcee in hip hop, I suggest they take a listen to the underrated Jean Grae's verse on this song, which is damn good. Pharaohe and another underrated artist in Royce da 5'9 also come through with damn good verses (the latter definitely knows how to end a song).
*4 out of 5*

12. The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)
Featuring Citizen Cope
Produced By: Fyre Dept.

I had to listen to this one twice to try and get the meaning. Good song, and my take is that Pharaohe is time traveling, all in the mind of progression and analysis from birth to the present day in 2011.
*3.5 out of 5*

13. Still Standing (Featuring Jill Scott)
Produced By: M-Phazes

This apply titled song was a great way to close the album and it challenges "Assassins" as far as the album's best song goes. Pharoahe has clearly been through a lot and seen a lot, especially in hip hop, and this is another testament.
*5 out of 5*

I like this album, however, it's clearly different from "Internal Affairs" and "Desire". Speaking of the latter, I do like that album a bit more than "W.A.R.", which I'll give 4 stars to. Much like "Desire", this fell under the radar completely in 2011, but it doesn't change the fact that overall it was one of that year's best albums.

In closing, I just want to say thank you to Pharoahe Monch for all of his contributions to hip hop since 1991 and it was great to dedicate a week to him. I'm looking forward to his new album next Tuesday, "P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)" and hopefully you'll be checking it out too. I already got my pre-orders in for the album as well as Nas' "Illmatic XX!" Much props and respect to Pharoahe Monch!!!

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