Going big with his 2014 release, Pharoahe Monch offers a conceptual album that is somewhere between Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On with a bit of the influence of Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi writer who gave the world Blade Runner and Total Recall. The Dick bit comes from the theme that a company called Recollection can remove anxiety, stress, and other bad thoughts from the brain, but with Monch pulling such inspiration and creativity out of isolation (the Pink Floyd influence) and injustice (the Marvin Gaye influence), the album as a whole is a vibrant argument against the Recollection company's tactics. It's a funky blow against the empire as well, as "Damage" borrows a weird bit of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" to tell its tale of gun violence; then there's the stately and aptly titled "Bad M.F.," which comes on like the brightest, proudest Kanye West production, thanks to longtime collaborator Lee Stone. Speaking of beats, check out the psychedelic kick Quelle Chris puts behind the rapper's cathartic therapy session called "Scream," while "D.R.E.A.M.," featuring Talib Kweli, finds Stone brewing up a sweet and soft funky shuffle over which Monch offers dreams both sublime ("You could benefit from getting off the Internet/For just a minute") and ridiculous ("I dreamed of candy-coated cars and panties that go with bras"). All of it comes together for an album that's deep, attractive, and well-executed, but it's also incredibly wise, as the 40+ rapper turns in a series of age-appropriate rhymes packed with insight and, at times, an "I can see clearly now" sense of purpose.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries