Pharoahe Monch

W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

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With the 2011 release of his third album, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), rapper Pharoahe Monch halved the eight-year wait fans endured between his first and second efforts. This strong, satisfying, often stunning third release proves he can deliver the goods under this tighter release schedule, and when listening to lyrics that are topical for 2011 (“Calculated Amalgamation” is inspired by the recent Egyptian revolution), one begins to wonder if it’s been three years off for Monch, and then one very strong year back on. Whatever the process, W.A.R. is worth it, chock-full of those wickedly smart Monch lines (“Even my reflection disrespects you like a freshman during hazing”) and Armageddon productions from the likes of M-Phazes, Diamond D, and Samiyam. These beats seem generally as mad and driven as the man himself, although “The Grand Illusion” with Citizen Cope adds some alternative rock to the mix while the closer, ”Still Standing,” is as elegant and soulful as its guest, Jill Scott. The socially concerned singles “Shine” and “Clap (One Day)” make for a decent intro, even if they are best heard in context, as this conceptually sound album uses linking dialog and a sensible running order to guide listeners through Monch’s war story.

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