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Pharoahe Monch – PTSD (Post Traumatic Distress Order) | Album Review

The Queens pre-eminent lyricist Pharoahe Monch is back with his fourth album, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Check out what we thought of it inside here!

Pharoahe Monch PTSD Cover

Source: Official Website

There has been a colossal and fierce battle transpiring within the realms of hip-hop over the last few years. On one side you have the industrial machine with its dollar signs for eyes and its intense ability to suck the soul out of artists and their music. On the other side you have the eloquent linguistics professor moonlighting as a rhyme serial killer terrorist, Queens native Pharoahe Monch. He has narrated literally and metaphorically the story of this battle, and in his previous album ‘W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)’ he exposed what he learned about the music industry and what he believes is wrong with it. Now however, his forthcoming fourth studio album ‘P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)’ is the results of this conflict and the struggle of the black male experience in America. The album follows a veteran through combat experience, his return home, relationship dissolution, drug addiction, painful depression, and, finally, a triumphant but realistically rendered decision to keep living and struggling. Everyone knows how Monch has become one of underground hip-hop’s pre-eminent lyricists, therefore the anticipation is enormous.

“Hello, welcome to recollection, if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia…we’ll be here at recollection to help you. Over the years we’ve developed a unique technology that allows us to extract traumatic experiences from your memory restoring healthy life. Our treatments are painless and non-invasive.”

This is how the album is kicked off with an introduction called ‘The Recollection Facility’. It announces what this project is about; dealing with memories of a traumatic event, then attempting to fix these by making you forget about them painlessly. ‘Times2’ is up next and it’s something which you expect from him, a striking lyrical bombardment. He delves into his preliminary perception of these memories as he initially blurts out his immediate thoughts after this ‘traumatic experience’. The production from Marco Polo is sinister and definitely helps make the track so compelling. ‘Losing My Mind’ is slightly more composed from Monch as he starts to dissect these memories after some time alone with them. He discusses how society might initially react to someone with ‘PTSD’; trying to give him harmful prescription drugs and his family not being able to cope with someone with a mental health disorder. It has a provocative chorus from deNaUn which complements Monch’s struggle vividly. ‘Heroin Addict’ is a short interlude which, produced my Monch himself, seems to be a psychedelic peep into a trip of a suffering drug addict. The first single of the album, ‘Damage’ which was released in late 2012 produced by Lee Stone, represents the third chapter of his anti-gun violence trilogy of songs he has written from a bullet’s perspective. The track relevantly accentuates the obvious ongoing gun issue in American society and provides a chilling reminder that bullets have no name. The ingenuity of how he delivers the lyrics is mind blowing.

On ‘Bad MF’ he takes a step away from the ‘tough topics’ for a minute to remind everyone why he is one the truly supreme emcees. After listening to this unsettling beat and his irresistible flow as he attacks “pussy music,” you will not want to disagree with him. “Pharaoh it’s important to remember that you are currently unconscious at the recollection facility and none of this is real. You are not agent 13 and your dreams cannot change reality. Please wake up Troy Jamerson, wake up.” This is what second skit, ‘The Recollection Facility Pt. 2’, proclaims as it tries to keep him within touch of reality and what he trying to achieve on this journey. ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ is a true lucid four minute exhibition of pure lyricism from Monch and Black Thought of The Roots. They trade verses like fire on another Marco Polo produced track, with his trademark menacing sympathised crashes. ‘Scream’ does what it says on the tin as he releases some convoluted rhymes as he starts formulating his experiences and going on the attack. It’s the moment when you start cheering and the drums and snares help reflect the momentum he builds in his rhymes. ‘SIDEFX’ featuring DR. Pete is a parody of an advertisement for Methoxyflurane which is the chief ingredient in asthma inhalers. It is a chemical which has been readily issued across the world until very recently, however it has been long proven of its toxicity to major organs. Another brilliantly ingenious dig at the American administration there. Monch addresses the struggle of the hood on ‘The Jungle’, stating that “sometimes we all feel fenced in.” It almost sounds like he is sat on the block as he dissects the excursions and more importantly the tribulations of the street. However, what is so impressive is that you don’t have to be from the hood to relate, the issues he discusses are so much wider than that. The haunting isolation of addiction on ‘Broken Again’ is extremely provocative, especially as it’s a story rarely told in this manner in hip-hop. The sound of someone finding a vein and the violin in the closing stages of the track really incite the story.

The projects title track brings together some of the struggles, experiences and sentiments which Monch has tried to explore; “F*ck you know about struggle, the boy in the plastic bubble, when I drink away the pain I guzzle, my life is like a complicated mathematical puzzle.”  The best feature on this album has to be given to Talib Kweli for his unsurprising killer verse on ‘D.R.E.A.M.’. It is a uplifting and inspiring track, Monch gives the impression that he has finally recovered, the PSTD has disappeared. However, it seems that it could be a more forced decision to just cope with the struggle. The third and final skit ‘The Recollection Facility Pt. 3’ states; “I’m sorry Pharoahe Monch, 13 alpha, 13 renegade 13, or whatever you would like to be referred to as at the moment. But during your hibernation period here at recollection, ten years have passed. It is now the year 2024 and by government law 00160066 we are sentencing you to life imprisonment for the violation for the world freethinking agreement.”  This really provokes what Monch believes is happening in society and the music industry in particluar. Demonstrating the control the state has over the individual. The project’s final track ‘Eht Dnarg Noisulli’ (a sort of Palindrome for ‘The Grand Illusion’), is just the perfect conclusion for what this project and Monch wants to impose altogether. He fights back as he raps; “There is no mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we are the contestants, life is the game show, the president is the host, the results are painful.” He contributes his final words on what is becoming a more and more common sight within hip-hop, the realisation of what is wrong with the system that contains and oppresses us. As he says, it is just a big illusion, the hard bit is just looking through it.

Pharoahe Monch is someone who’s capability is something which is known throughout hip-hop. His use of word play, metaphors and altogether ingenious almost poetry is what we expect from him. However, this project, album or concept, however you want to refer to it, is so much more stand out because of the tale he is telling, the abstract that he pieces together and the way it leads on from his last album. The struggles, stresses and tribulations of someone suffering with ‘PSTD’ is perfectly told, lyrically and musically. He covers all corners of this experience as the production from people like Marco Polo and Lee Stone really help lay the canvas for such experiences. As well as doing this, Monch lays down his thoughts, beliefs and lets face it realities of what is wrong within the system we live; inducing topics such as gun violence, the class system and how the state is in so much control. To achieve ALL of this while making some sick hip-hop INDEPENDENTLY, which is something people forget, he has to be applauded. ‘PTSD’ is going to be something that is hard to touch this year.

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