Ever since his Organized Konfusion days Pharoahe Monch has been making crowds move, but it was when he first uttered the phrase “Simon says get the fuck up” that he really started receiving attention on a national level. It’s been nearly eight years since “Simon Says” was in regular club and radio rotation, but come April Pharoahe Monch will finally be back. Desire is the album’s name and with Pharoahe Monch just putting the finishing touches on it we sat down with him to discuss the record, his hopes and goals for 2007, and where he feels he fits in in the current Hip-Hop landscape.
Adam Bernard: You released two drastically different singles, “Push” and “Let’s Go,” to lead into your latest album. Is that kind of song to song dichotomy something we should expect from the entire album?
Pharoahe Monch: Nah, I think the album is a little bit more consistent and I think that one thing that needs to be noted is that the approach to this project is pretty unconventional in that that title track, “Desire,” which his produced by Alchemist, has a straight soul vibe with a heavy hardcore twist on some Alchemist shit, and then “When The Gun Draws,” which is the online campaign, is very eerie, dark and political. So I think those four songs (“Push,” “Let’s Go,” “Desire,” “When The Gun Draws”) together answer your question in that those four songs embody what the album is about.
AB: It’s a bit of a different direction for you stylistically, right?
PM: I would say overall, yes, but the core of it is embedded in what Pharoahe has always embraced. I mean if you listen to Organized Konfusion records like “Black Sunday,” I’m singing the chorus and one of the songs on “The Equinox” I’m singing the chorus and on the “My Life” record with Styles P I’m singing the chorus.
AB: So it’s really just a small adaptation then.
“I think people see the integrity, but at the same it’s like I have a desire to crossover, or have a hit record…”
AB: You had massive success with “Simon Says” a handful of years ago, what kind of pressure did you feel to follow it up with another crossover hit? Were the labels getting at you like “c’mon, give us another ‘Simon Says!'”
PM: Of course that’s what you’re gonna hear, but that never was why I do what I do. Just looking at the history and looking at other artists who made similar records to what their hits sounded like, I personally never liked those records so that was never my intention. And I’m just so all over the place, which I think keeps me relevant without going gold. I think people see the integrity, but at the same it’s like I have a desire to crossover, or have a hit record, on a whole nother level like “OK, that wouldn’t work this way, let’s try it and do it another way,” or else it wouldn’t be a challenge to me. I could definitely honestly say that being successful with the wrong records would make Pharoahe Monch a dull and depressed person.
AB: But that wasn’t the wrong record.
PM: No, “Simon Says” is everything I wanted it to be.
AB: With this latest album, what were your goals going in and how well do you think you’ve accomplished those goals?
PM: Aw man, I don’t get excited easily, but I’m truly truly excited about this record in that I know where my integrity level is and I know I’m a perfectionist and I’m first and foremost really really feelin the record and I think that’s important on a lot of different levels for a lot of different reasons. It’s so layered. A lot of times you get a good record now and you run through it and you put it down and you’re like “yeah that was great. I don’t need to listen to it again,” and I just feel like this record has a longer shelf life than what people are putting out right now, not by virtue of every song being bangin but by virtue of it’s a well put together album that at the end, at the last song of the album, I’m feeling like people are going to want to hear it all over again.
“I will consider this album a success if… I see people walking around with Pharoahe Monch t-shirts.”
AB: Complete this phrase: I will consider this album a success if…
PM: I will consider this album a success if I implement myself into the marketplace and I see people walking around with Pharoahe Monch t-shirts.
AB: Now are you going to make sure they get made in a size other than XXXXXL? Cuz every time someone hands me a damn Hip-Hop shirt it’s so freakin big it’s a bed sheet. I’m 145 pounds, so that ain’t happenin.
PM: Exactly. I lost a lot of weight, too. I can’t wear double X anymore.
AB: You came up during a time when the socially conscious Hip-Hop movement was hot. In 2007 things have changed a bit, a lot of people want to know if their chain hangs low, or they want to snap their fingers. Where do you feel your music fits in in Hip-Hop’s current landscape?
PM: I’m right in the thick of it. I think it’s important and I think your posturing is how you make yourself relevant and how good the record is. We talk about the declining sales of Hip-Hop or just the music industry in general, but there really haven’t been any groundbreaking records people can buy into and feel like they want to buy the t-shirt and just buy into it. A lot of it is the industry, a lot of it is the digital age and the internet, and a lot of it is the artists themselves putting out mediocre, at best, work and to answer your question I think the better the political song the more the people feel the song the more you carve out a place in today’s music.
AB: And you’re doing that with Desire?
PM: Yup. It looks really good, man.
“I think that the most important issue right now is the decline in the record sales and how the music industry is going to adjust…”
AB: What do you feel is the most important issue affecting the Hip-Hop community right now? Be it musical or non-musical.
PM: I think that the most important issue right now is the decline in the record sales and how the music industry is going to adjust and how we’re going to look at it differently in terms of the number one record in the country Billboard a few weeks ago sold 66,000 copies.
AB: Year, worst ever since they started tracking those numbers.
PM: I think that affects everybody and how they view how they’re going to market and everything.
AB: Where do you see yourself going next in terms of your music?
PM: I’ve already started working on some music in terms of other artists and other people outside of my project, so right now we’re gonna ride this visual. The “Gun Draws” video is an online campaign and the response to that has been ridiculous so we’re really just incorporating that into the whole project.
AB: I know you said you lost a ton of weight, what else have you been doing outside of music?
PM: That’s pretty much it, man. Pretty boring, to be quite honest with you. Get up, go to the gym, go back home, watch TV, watch Regis, wait for my manager to call, come into the city, go back home, do the same thing the next day.
“Pancakes are my weakness, that’s why I stay in the gym.”
AB: Alright, well tell me something about yourself that people may not know already.
PM: Probably might be the pancake thing. I’m a pancake fanatic. Pancakes are my weakness, that’s why I stay in the gym.