1999’s Internal Affairs thrust underground veteran Pharoahe Monch into the spotlight, imbued with the might of Godzilla and a vocabulary like none other. Twenty years on, we’re looking back at the Organized Konfusion emcee’s classic solo debut, exploring the feud that all but erased it, and celebrating the anniversary that brought it back from the brink!
There’s a hell of a lot going on inside Pharoahe Monch’s head.
Hell may just be the operative word here: from the album cover, which shows a blood red Monch cradling flames in his hands, to the record itself, an oft-startling and vivid illustration of hardships and nightmares, there’s a whole lot of unholiness at play. That’s not to discount the range presented throughout the record, testament to the Queens emcee’s decade of nigh-unparalleled artistry.
Whilst The Equinox proved the death knell of Organized Konfusion, it provided a unique opportunity for both Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch, who’d long toiled as the underground’s finest purveyors of concept tracks and heady bars. The amicable split, though itself a loss, was tinted with possibilities: new directions, new collaborations, new approaches and a new millennium stretched out before the former duo.
Monch’s solo contract with Rawkus positioned him alongside artists such as Company Flow and Black Star, and appearances on lauded compilations such as Lyricists Lounge, Volume One and Soundbombing II helped cultivate a solo fanbase in preparation for his debut. No lowkey inclusion could prepare the world for “Simon Says,” Monch’s debut single, which hit #3 on the Hot Rap Singles chart whilst peaking at a modest #97 on the Billboard Hot 100. That chart position betrays the impact of the heavy-hitting anthem, a hip-hop staple and Monch’s definitive pop culture contribution.
The LP arrived on October 19, 1999, just as “Simon Says” was reaching critical mass; one week after another Rawkus-released debut, Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides. “Ms. Fat Booty,” Def’s breakout single, was similarly climbing the charts. Though it may have been a debut, Internal Affairs fuses the old and the new, running with the work of Organized Konfusion and continuing their cerebral mission whilst delving into heavier sounds and darker palettes, an impressively unconventional route to chart success.
“Rape,” one of the boldest and most relentless concept tracks in hip-hop history, is reminiscent of OK cuts such as “Stray Bullet,” in which Monch spits as a wayward shell causing chaos in an inner-city neighborhood, “Invetro,” in which Monch and Po give voice to unborn fetuses, and “Hate,” where the pair channel the psyches of white supremacists. “No Mercy” moves with the antiquated dramatics of a Hollywood thriller, a la The Equinox cut “Chuck Cheese,” whilst “The Ass” toys with the playful irreverence of a call-and-response hook, an attitude reminiscent of OK’s lighter 1991 debut.
“The Light” is a genuinely affecting love story, played out over a soft-spoken riff and propped up by Monch’s own commanding melody, a skill perhaps best displayed on Stress: The Extinction Agenda closer “Maintain.” Even “Simon Says,” a raucous and heaving club anthem that’s unmistakably the record’s ‘radio song,’ channels the same unrestrained chaos as the darkest and heaviest of his preceding work, using his animated and charismatic voice to incite moshpit rebellion. Internal Affairs isn’t as much a new beginning as a thrilling recap, adapting the tenets of Monch’s long-standing game into a pithier, more concentrated blast of microphone mathematics.
The record, however, was a pyrrhic victory for the veteran emcee. “Simon Says” incurred a copyright lawsuit from Toho, the creators of Godzilla, which resulted in Rawkus pulling the track from the record and destroying all pressings of the single. That was only the beginning: after Rawkus was acquired by Geffen Records, Pharoahe found himself in a stalemate with his new label, one which would all but scrub his acclaimed debut from history, rendering it unavailable for almost two decades.
We’ll talk more about that later. Now, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary – and long-awaited re-release – of the classic solo debut, we’re diving into the samples that underpin production from Lee Stone, Diamond D, The Alchemist, DJ Scratch and Monch himself. As is always the case, I’ll be writing about commonly identified samples (ie. those listed on WhoSampled) so not to out any unidentified and potentially uncleared flips. If anybody’s had a hard enough time with clearances, it’s Pharoahe.
“Intro,” and therefore Internal Affairs as a whole, opens with the sampling of a horn riff from Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth.” That track, included on 1964’s More Blues and the Abstract Truth, was produced by then-Impulse! Records head Bob Thiele. This marks the one and only time it’s since been sampled.
Nelson is best remembered for his famed 1961 LP, The Blues and Abstract Truth, which featured musicians such as Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes, Eric Dolphy and Paul Chambers. Though the 1964 sequel bears a similar title, the lineup is substantially different, the music similarly divergent, and the entire conceit far removed, as Nelson himself contributes only arranging and conducting. Nonetheless, it remains one of his more significant releases.
The voice at 0:10 heralds the arrival of “the star of the show” – in this case, Pharoahe himself. That introduction originally referred to none other than James Brown, and was recorded in a Cincinatti studio, despite the live ambience and overdubbed applause.
The song – and the album as a whole – features Brown’s most legendary lineup at the height of his heyday, so it’s no surprise that Sex Machine is often held as the greatest example of the Godfather’s compelling funk. This track features Bootsy Collins on bass, Catfish Collins on guitar, Jabo Starks on drums and Bobby Byrd on organ, though the greater album also stars Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, St. Clair Pinckney and Clyde Stubblefield.
This rendition has only been sampled 16 times, whilst the original two-sided single has garnered over 200 flips. In an inspired throwback, Diamond D flipped the very same element – “the star of the show!” – for his 2019 Monch collaboration, “OMG.”
The subsequent vocal sample – “bring it on if you think that you can hang… represent one time!” – isn’t sourced from Jay-Z’s “Bring It On,” as you might have expected. The two tracks instead share a common sample, one sourced from D&D All Stars‘ 1995 single, “1, 2 Pass It.”
The hip-hop supergroup was conceived around D&D Studios, a notable hip-hop recording venue at 320 West 37th Street, right in the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District. The studio played host to artists such as Jay-Z, Nas, Rakim, KRS-One, the D.I.T.C. Crew, and DJ Premier. It was Premier who bought the studio in 2003, more than ten years after being introduced to the space by Showbiz. Preemo produced “1, 2 Pass It” as a member of the All Stars, with emcees Mad Lion, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One, Fat Joe, Tek and Steel of Smif-N-Wessun, and Jeru the Damaja contributing verses. It’s Fat Joe who drops the oft-sampled bars.
Monch’s own introduction comes in the form of an iconic quote. There’s almost no need to introduce Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the most iconic of the Civil Rights era and one of the most immediately recognisable speeches of all-time. King delivered the oration during the March on Washington of August 28, 1963, and elements of that speech have been sampled prolifically by Michael Jackson, Common, D.I.T.C., Grandmaster Flash and Wu-Tang Clan.
Monch’s interpolation features an understated transition to his own bars: “I have a dream, one day we will get to the promised land…”
Though he’s famed for his charismatic delivery, the maniacal inflection of “heads high, dealing with the low” at 1:26 hints towards an interpolation. Monch is recalling Mr. Vegas’ “Heads High,” a minor 1998 hit for the then-up and coming Jamaican singjay. It seems strange that an artist as unrestrained and debaucherous as Pharoahe Monch would invoke a track that’s all about reinforcing the taboo against oral sex, but he’s not the only one to do it. Artists such as Nicki Minaj, Action Bronson, BEP and Da Beatminerz have also flipped elements of the track.
That booming, authoritative voice that cuts through the horns at 1:55 – “refuse to lose!” – is courtesy of hip-hop legend and defiant pro-black figure Chuck D. The sampled phrase is lifted from the opening of Public Enemy’s “Welcome To The Terrordome,” an explosive response to criticism of Professor Griff, the Security of the First World member and PE ‘Minister of Information’ who said “there’s no place for gays” and “if the Palestinians took up arms, went into Israel and killed all the Jews, it’d be alright” in a series of interviews in London. Though those quotes came just before the release of It Takes A Nation…, “Welcome To The Terrordome” was released as a single from Fear of a Black Planet.
“Behind Closed Doors”
On “Behind Closed Doors,” Monch – serving as producer as well as emcee – juxtaposes two distinct elements of Quincy Jones’ “Aftermath,” a cut from his 1966 The Slender Thread OST. The score to the Sidney Poitier film was amongst Jones’ first, and though it only included 26 minutes of music, it was one of many efforts that helped solidify Jones as a rising talent.
The first element is taken from 1:38, whilst the second – which first appears at 0:06 – is taken from 0:06 in Jones’ composition. “Aftermath” has also been sampled by Sauce Money, Cypress Hill, Artifacts and Buckwild, all in the mid-to-late ‘90s.
“What is a scorpion? An animal that stings, I’m like a bat with blood coming out the wings,” rhymes Monch, the central conceit reminiscent of a decade-old diss track from a curiously family-friendly soundtrack album. LL Cool J rapped a similar bar – “what is a panther? An animal that kills, I’m like a shark with blood coming out the gills” – on 1990s “To Da Break of Dawn,” included on the House Party soundtrack.
Also launched as a single from his (not a) comeback album, Mama Said Knock You Out, the track references his association with the panther whilst coming for rivals such as Ice-T, Kool Moe Dee and MC Hammer.
The synthy four-chord passage that underpins “Queens” is lifted from mid-’90s slow jam “…Til the Cops Come Knockin’” by R&B stalwart Maxwell. Though since eclipsed by artists such as Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, Maxwell proved an influential figure in the R&B revival at the turn of the century, and has since released a string of widely acclaimed records.
It’s worth noting that the melody placed atop the progression isn’t sampled from Maxwell’s track and, as of right now, the source of those sounds remains a mystery.
You definitely wouldn’t expect a lyric like “there’s a place I know, where the bitches go” to be interpolated from The Flintstones, but hip-hop is full of surprises. Monch emulates the sing-song phrasing from the opening of “Bedrock Twitch,” a fictional hit performed by Rock Roll in the ‘60s television staple.
The Twitch, a 1962 episode, was itself referencing the then-recent cultural boom surrounding the twist, a dance move popularised by Chubby Checker’s era-defining 1960 hit single. Though that rendition was a cover of a lesser-known Hank Ballad and the Midnighters b-side, the twist has been a staple of music for more than 150 years, appearing as an element of minstrelsy performances as early as 1844. This isn’t the first time the practice was given shine by hip-hop, either: The Fat Boys released their own rendition in 1988, featuring Chubby Checker himself.
The scream that opens “Rape” kickstarts one of hip-hop’s most visceral personifications, a vicious illustration from one of the mic’s meanest metaphorical masters. The scream itself, courtesy of The Hollywood Edge Sound Effects Library, is formally labeled “Screams 7; Woman, Three Screams, Exterior Close Perspective,” though it’s perhaps best known as the “female Wilhelm scream.”
It’s appeared on more than a handful of tracks, including OutKast’s “Aquemini,” Dre’s “Big Ego’s,” Prince’s “Pussy Control,” Wu-Tang’s “The City” and Eminem’s “Murder, Murder.” That’s not even including appearances in films, television shows and other forms of multimedia!
Monch recounts his tale of beat-oriented perversion atop the work of a young Quincy Jones, someone he previously sampled on “Behind Closed Doors.” This time, he flips elements of “Candy Man,” a track included on Jones’ 1971 Dollars OST. This particular project fell just two years after Jones and his writing partner, Bob Russell, became the first African-Americans nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but still came seven years before Jones first met Jackson on the set of The Wiz.
Monch’s insistence that other emcees “ain’t fuckin’ it right” is underpinned by female moans, sourced again from The Hollywood Edge Sound Effects Library. The microsamples are taken from the aptly-titled “Sexy Female Moans, Groans and Deep Breathing,” and the same track has been sampled by OutKast and Wu-Tang, both of whom also flipped the feminine screams from earlier. The work of these groups is famed for incorporating sound effects in the pursuit of narrative, so it’s unsurprising that they’d share such samples.
The virtuosic scratching at 1:12 is the handiwork of DJ Total Eclipse, best known as a member of acclaimed turntablist posse The X-Ecutioners. The scratch in question makes use of Syl Johnson’s ad-lib from the opening of “Different Strokes,” a 1968 cut from his debut album that’s since proven a popular source of samples.
Johnson himself objects to unlicensed use of his work. He famously sued the Wu-Tang for their invocation on “Shame on a Nigga,” telling The Village Voice that his house was “was built with the Wu-Tang money” in 2010. Soon thereafter, he sued Kanye West for sampling “Different Strokes” on 2010’s “The Joy,” despite the fact that West had collaborated with his daughter, Syleena Johnson, on “All Falls Down” just seven years prior.
Oh, shit! Here it is – the sample so huge, the thundering bass reverberated across hip-hop, incurring a wrath much more menacing than that of Godzilla and effectively levelling Monch’s legacy throughout the 2000s and 2010s. The explosive sample of “Gojira tai Mosura,” lifted from the 1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra OST, posed significant legal issues on release, with Toho’s notoriously litigious lawyers forcing Rawkus Records to discontinue distribution of the single.
Nonetheless, Monch remains optimistic about the whole ordeal: “everything happens for a reason,” he told Vlad TV. “It pushes you in a different direction, even spiritually.”
[no identified samples]
The propulsive sample that underpins “Hell” – first cloaked by radio static, and then independently – is sourced from Margie Joseph’s “Temptation’s About to Take Your Love.” A soul and gospel singer, Joseph experienced her greatest successes in the ‘70s, collaborating with artists such as Blue Magic and Donny Hathaway, as well as successful covers of tracks by Paul McCartney and The Supremes.
“Temptation’s About to Take Your Love” was included on her debut, 1971’s Margie Joseph Makes A New Impression, and has been sampled just this once!
The sole beat on Internal Affairs contributed by future legend The Alchemist, “No Mercy” is built from two juxtaposed passages from Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Trap.” The piece – composed for and included on The Last Run OST – is both another sample of a score and another sample that had never before been flipped.
Alchemist built the beat from two distinct sections. The first can be found at 1:39 in Goldsmith’s original, whilst the second, which enters at 0:16 in “No Mercy,” is taken from 1:02 in the original piece.
[no identified samples]
“The Next Shit”
Lee Stone and Pharoahe himself produced the beat for “The Next Shit” using an inspired sample and not much else. There are many ways to approach the art of sampling, and searching for ready-made loops is a technically simpler approach hinged on a more elusive kind of passage. The pair sample “Españi Cañi,” a 1972 Moog rendition of the 1923 pasodoble piece, included on Sid Bass’ Moog España.
Though the track seems tailor made for a savvy sampler, this remains the only time it’s been sampled. J Dilla sampled “Malagueña” – a cut from the same record – on 1999’s “Track 43 (A Day at the Races),” and again on Jaylib’s 2006 outtake, “Beat #4.”
Only Monch could flip the Wu-Tang’s classic materialistic ode into “my dick rule everything around me, D.R.E.A.M.,” sullying a phrase so immortal that it’s tantamount to hip-hop blasphemy. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, though, given the flame-laden album art, the song explicitly titled “Hell,” and the grimy illustration of Queens, that Monch treats nothing as sacred. You can hear the interpolation at 0:54.
Monch’s uncharacteristically tender (yet fittingly charismatic) love song is built atop an intricate guitar lick from Wes Montgomery, an influential mid-century jazz guitarist. Purportedly inspired after hearing a Charlie Christian record, Montgomery taught himself the instrument, and though he knew no music theory, he played alongside famed artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro and Paul Chambers. He died suddenly of a heart attack aged just 45, at the peak of his career.
“Mi Cosa,” included on his 1965 Verve Records release, Bumpin’, has been sampled just twice. Monch was beaten to the punch by French hip-hop collective Mafia K’1 Fry, who flipped it on “Je Désolé Mes Parents” just one year earlier.
The eerie vocals that open “God Send” are pulled from a brief passage at the beginning of Chico DeBarge’s “Iggin’ Me.” A popular R&B singer and youngest brother of the DeBarge family, famed for the Motown five-piece of the same name, Chico only briefly served in the family band, breaking out in the late ‘90s after some minor successes in the ‘80s.
“Iggin’ Me,” included on 1997’s Long Time No See, failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100, and has been sampled just this once. This seems to be a pattern, with Monch inaugurating a number of samples from largely contemporaneous singles.
The sound effect at 0:20 ushers Monch to the fore, a psychedelic guitar strike from zany experimental legend Frank Zappa. “Excentrifugal Forz” was included on 1974’s Apostrophe (‘), Zappa’s biggest commercial success in the States, filled with his signature fusion of satirical comedy and prog rock composition. “Excentrifugal Forz,” the shortest track on the album, opens the b-side. Once again, this marks the sole sample of the song.
Producer Diamond D laces Monch’s closing statement with tender orchestral swells, sourced from Harvey Mandel’s “Cristo Redentor.” The title track to Mandel’s 1968 debut, “Cristo Redentor” was recorded during his stay in counterculture-era San Francisco, a period which aligned him with figures such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Elvin Bishop of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and DJ Abe Kesh, who signed and produced for the young Mandel.
Lee Stone: The Lynchpin
In my recent piece for the 25th anniversary of Stress: The Extinction Agenda – an album that is, in my opinion, amongst Monch’s greatest achievements – I waxed poetic about how Organized Konfusion eschewed their once-insular approach in favour of collaboration. It’s a trend that continued with The Equinox, a record that featured six external producers. Internal Affairs finds Monch synthesising these two approaches, embracing a slighter roster of four producers whilst himself earning credits on six of the album’s fifteen tracks.
The most essential of these collaborators is undoubtedly Lee Stone, the sonic architect behind “God Send,” “Official” and “Hell.” Though he musters just three outright production credits, Stone also co-produced the Busta Rhymes-featuring “The Next Shit” and earned writing credits on all his productions, as well as the Def Jam-heavy “Simon Says (Remix).” Indispensable though he may be, Stone is far from the most prominent name in the liner notes. If anything, he’s the most esoteric of the producers, a small name shouldering a large weight.
As Stone himself tells it, he and Monch first met in the lead up to The Equinox, and whilst the fledgling producer didn’t contribute any beats to that record, he did play bass on “Hate,” also flexing his voice acting skills as one of the record’s key characters, the bouncer. Interestingly, both Monch and Stone contributed backing vocals to O.C.’s Word… Life, another OK-aligned release, in 1995. In a rare interview with Illmuzik, Stone revealed that Monch co-produced a track for his own group, and though there’s nothing in the way of liner notes, it seems likely it appeared on the self-titled Left Mood EP. The pair kicked around together after the dissolution of Organized, collaborating on a solo project as labels courted the verbose emcee. Stone stayed in the mix as Monch signed with Rawkus, and his first official credits came on Monch’s Soundbombing cuts, “WWIII” and “Mayor.”
Indeed, Stone’s relationship with Rawkus came through Monch, and not the other way around. Their shared background meant that Stone’s home studio, Grandma Hands, was nestled in Monch’s beloved Queens, and a mutual interest in homegrown talent led to Stone producing for Queens-born OK protege, Mr. Complex. Following the success of Internal Affairs, he scored some one-off gigs for Screwball, Scarface and Royce Da 5’9”, helming two cuts for Method Man, with whom he’d worked on the “Simon Says (Remix)” five years earlier.
Twenty years on, it’s easy to see Internal Affairs as the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The subject matter may be oft-challenging, and the beats heavy and bleak, but the rapport between the duo was anything but: Stone earned writing and production credits on 2007’s Desire, and though he didn’t contribute to W.A.R., he returned on 2014’s P.T.S.D.. In a refreshing display of collaborative longevity, Monch released “Yayo,” a single produced by Stone, in January.
The Toho No Go: Simon Says [Pay] The Fuck Up!
The infernal nature of Internal Affairs – the flame-heavy cover, the shocking “Rape” and the vivid “Hell,” to name a few – pales in comparison to the demonic contract dispute that derailed Monch’s own ascension. One could see his flame-laden debut as an escape from the musical purgatory of revered obscurity, a long-overdue chance for commercial as well as critical success. That’s not to say that the album makes creative concessions, but cuts such as “Simon Says” and “The Light” toe the line between the accessible and the abstract, fusing radio-ready hooks with Monch’s signature flair. How, then, did it all go so wrong for Pharoahe? The first of the two issues – undoubtedly the better-known of the two – came in the form of an uncleared sample.
By 1999, Godzilla had been one of Japan’s greatest pop culture exports. Forty-five years had brought forth twenty-two Toho-helmed films, spanning two distinct eras, and a third would soon begin with Godzilla 2000: Millennium. Americans had helmed their own adaptation with 1998’s Godzilla, more of a diplomatic incident than a reaffirmation of international cooperation. “Its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog,” said Japanese Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima, foreshadowing Toho’s decision to write the American incarnation out of continuity. Whilst not exactly related, it’s fair to say that Toho had good reason to be skeptical about American invocations, which might go some way to explaining the monster lawsuit they threw at Monch on the release of “Simon Says.”
The Billboard Hot Rap Singles Chart, featured in Billboard Magazine on October 16, 1999
Furthermore, sampling left the ‘90s far differently than it entered them. The once-burgeoning craft, limited by little more than technical abilities and the scope of imagination, had been undercut by precedent and litigation. The trials and tribulations of De La Soul, sued by The Turtles for 3 Feet High And Rising skit “Transmitting Live From Mars,” and Biz Markie, sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan for I Need A Haircut track “Alone Again,” had scared labels away from the indebted artform, and clearances – now all but necessary – were often expensive. The result was a craft pushed underground, relying on obscure sounds and esoteric releases from little-known artists. Once a form that toyed with familiarity, sampling had become a game of discovery, and by 1999, the age of the crate digger was in full swing.
It’s for these reasons that Monch and Stone’s sample of “Gojira Tai Mosura,” the variant of the “Godzilla March” used as the theme to 1992’s Godzilla vs. Mothra, was particularly inspired: it seemed to fly in the face of conventional sampling by taking a cue from Japan’s most famous and enduring film franchises. That colossal franchise was backed by suitably litigious lawyers, who’ve been known to sue wineries, rock bands, authors and bloggers, as well as companies such as Warner Brothers, Honda Motors, Subway, and even Yankee Stadium. It should come as no surprise, then, that the uncleared sample at the heart of the heaving hit came under fire.
A Vibe article from December ‘99, just two months after Internal Affairs dropped.
TOHO CO. v. PRIORITY RECORDS came to the fore in 2002, when a summary judgement was issued. The case – available to read online – seems to exonerate Monch himself, who claimed to have submitted the sample to his label heads in keeping with his previous understanding of clearance procedure:
Jamerson even claims that, prior to releasing the album, he informed the owners of Rawkus Entertainment (Brian Brater and Jarrett Myer) that he sampled “Godzilla’s Theme.” He did this so that they could “clear” the samples (presumably meaning to obtain a license), which Jamerson claims was the common operating practice to which he was accustomed.”
Monch himself didn’t file opposition to the Toho suit, leaving Rawkus and Priority to fight the uphill battle. The case was unambiguous and, on Toho’s victory, they demanded that all copies of the record be destroyed as part of the settlement. There’s nothing that could undo the impact of Monch’s foremost single, but the unavailability of “Simon Says” certainly did damage, rendering his greatest hit all but unavailable for the better part of two decades. As recently as 2014, Monch said that “life hasn’t been the same since” the lawsuit.
Organizing Konfusion: A Deal with The Devil
The ruling against Rawkus and Priority was just the beginning of Monch’s label issues. In 2002, the very same year as the suit, Rawkus signed a new distribution deal with MCA, leaving Priority after three years. MCA folded in 2003, and the label signed a distribution deal with Geffen in 2004. Monch, now half a decade on from his solo debut, was restless, eyeing off his dream label: the Eminem-helmed Shady Records.
In one telling, Shady were interested in acquiring the emcee, but refused to cough up the money required to buy out his contract. The resulting stalemate left Monch trapped in an unfair deal with a new company, and so he went on strike, refusing to record his own work whilst continuing to feature on a swathe of tracks. Geffen stubborn, and Shady unwilling, a bidding war erupted, drawing parties such as Sony and Bad Boy into the fray. One of hip-hop’s most impressive poets toiled away for two years, trapped in self-imposed purgatory, courted by label reps.
The fruits of this labor impressed music mogul Steve Rifkind so much, he christened the then-unreleased effort “the album of the year.” It wouldn’t be released that same year, though Monch did sign with Rifkind’s Street Records Corporation in 2006, dropping the long-awaited sophomore LP the following year.
Rifkind, the former head of Loud Records, had famously signed the Wu-Tang to their unprecedented 1992 deal. “Everything that I know and try to do now, I learned from being on Loud,” said Prodigy of Mobb Deep, another revered Queens-born emcee. Rifkind’s legendary business acumen, combined with his love of genuine artistic expression and down-to-earth personality, made him the perfect match for an artist as vibrant and individualistic as Pharoahe.
On signing with SRC, Monch released a press statement detailing his long-awaited return. “I’ve had the time to work on this album, and being a perfectionist, it’s really come to fruition. It’s very soulful, very gospel, a fresh, new sound for me. It shows so much growth spiritually, almost as if I’m a new artist. When I play the record for people, that’s how they hear it.”
Who Told The Truth? Time Did––
The 20th anniversary rerelease of Internal Affairs does little to right the wrongs that maligned one of hip-hop’s most dextrous emcees, but it does open the door to a new generation of fans.
Those born in the midst of “Simon Says” are now twenty themselves, coming of age in a world where emcees are rockstars, pop singers are favouring Young Thug features, and hip-hop reigns supreme. In a world where emcees are everywhere, it’s about time that Pharoahe Monch – one of the greatest to ever pick up a mic – gets his due, and Internal Affairs, whilst far from his only brilliant record, toes the line between accessible and nightmarish with incredible poise. His versatile command of language; his peerless beat selection; his charismatic inflection and captivating vocals; all of these help make Pharoahe Monch a rockstar in every sense of the word. When Pharoahe spits, you can’t help but listen, his captivating presence the ingredient that elevates his tracks just that bit more.
Don’t believe me? Go check it out for yourself: for the first time in 17 years, you actually can.