Review (Subba-Cultcha.com) (2006)
He may have been a bit quiet on the music front in recent years, but hearing the crowd reaction to ‘Simon Says’, you know that Pharoahe Monch is well and truly back. With the new album ‘Desire’ ready to blow, Pharoahe returned to the UK for a brief visit recently, putting on a show at London venue 93 Feet East, in the heart of Brick Lane.
It was a pretty unremarkable Thursday evening when I got a call to come down. I jumped on the tube and entered just in time to witness Pharoahe Monch enter the stage and captivate the crowd with tunes like ‘The Life’, ‘Oh No’, ‘Got You’ and ‘Right Here’. After all of that, the intro to ‘Simon Says’ dropped, turning the dance floor into a kind of mosh pit, leaving even Pharoahe visibly surprised and chuffed by the reaction.
It felt a bit surreal to witness such a big tune being performed live midweek in a tiny venue to a modestly sized crowd. The lack of air con and space just added to the atmosphere; it was almost as if you were experiencing the real essence of hip hop, being so close to the stage and having a New York native of Monch’s calibre tear it up. No doubt, when Jay Z comes over and plays Wembley in September, it will be an unforgettable show, but gigs in smaller venues somehow feel more authentic.
Monch’s new material gave a pleasing taster of the forthcoming album, from the self produced first single ‘Push’, where he sings and raps about the blue collar struggle, to the Alchemist produced title track. Other highlights included a follow up to 1994’s ‘Stray Bullets’ from his Organised Konfusion days, entitled ‘When the Gun Draws’.
As he left the stage, chants of ‘We want more!’ rang out over and over, until finally Pharoahe Monch returned, driving the crowd mental again to a few more tunes, finishing with another rendition of ‘Simon Says’. That was all we needed, the night was complete, and despite the short length of the show, it’s an experience that won’t be forgotten. Judging by the sneak preview of his new material as well as his ongoing ability to work the audience, Pharoahe Monch is definitely here to stay.
By Anna Nathanson