Hip-Hop Wisdom: Pharoahe Monch’s Lyrics Loop the Loop on “Body Baby”

Pharoahe Monch’s Desire somehow evaded 2007’s best-of lists. In addition to a dozen absolutely blazing beats, Monch (a part-time Diddy ghostwriter) sports a spectrum of rhymes, from fun wordplay to left-field philosophizing to good old-fashioned self-hype. Here’s an example of the former, from the gospel-style shout “Body Baby”:

No flash in the pan raps are not flashy
Free at last we, will never recycle
the same songs from last week, we’re free of last week
Thank God almighty we free at last, we
Went back to the ashes raw raps and raspy

Monch’s delivery sputters rhythmically as the backbeat jolts his trains of thought, like Harrison Bergeron interrupted by his in-ear noise machine. This leads him to explore every permutation of a phrase like “free at last,” until the repetition of that phrase becomes a sort of paradox. First he promises not to repeat himself. Then he almost does, but instead he pulls a lyrical fakeout, pulling up out of a nose dive with yet another play on “free at last.”

Meanwhile, “Let’s Go” shows what Monch can do once he gets a theme on his mind: exhaust it.

You use sex to sell, your Nextel to Sprint
Everything you represent is immoral
Cingular, not plural
You and your Sidekick get rid of that whack Trio
I freeze emcees zero degrees below
The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
You need to get loose, to the heat of produce
From Long Beach to Boston
Your chicks text us like Dallas and Austin
I spark tireless illumination
Fire sixteen bars, wireless communication

That a solid eight cellphone references, six of which are brand names. Not the album’s strongest work, but it shows Monch owning a verse, flexing a new muscle, showing us a new trick. And if that’s not your bag, I’ll leave you with a one-liner, from the song “Desire”:

Still get it poppin’ without artist & repertoire
‘Cause Monch is a monarch only minus the A&R

MP3: Pharoahe Monch – “Body Baby”


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