Thursday, June 16, 2016

Still An Essential Monch Innovation

You're just going to have to take my word for this, millennials, but there was a time, back in the day, when a guest verse by Pharoahe Monch was a really surprising and exciting thing. This was before he was doing guest spots all the time and before he'd even released any solo records, let alone started experimenting with styles and spreading himself thin. The Rawkus thing hadn't even started yet. Organized Konfusion had just broken up and everybody was wondering how we were going to hear from those guys again. "Metal Thangz" had dropped, but that was about it. This became, in a weird way, a sort of sequel to FT's "Metal Thangz."

So in 1998, it was pretty exciting when 2 Rude released his "Innovations" 12" featuring Monch and rising indie star Saukrates. I mean, nobody even knew who on Earth 2 Rude was, but it didn't matter. New Monch record! Monch and Sauk may've been the guests on a 2 Rude record, but in the hearts and minds of everyone who ordered this record based on low-fi RealAudio sound clips online, 2 Rude and Sauk were guests on Monch's new record.

And it was an extra bonus when 2 Rude turned out to not even be a rapper but the producer, because that meant the little opening verse from Monch in the clip wasn't going to be his sole contribution. he track's a nice 'pass the mic back and forth' lyrical trade-off between Monch and Saukrates. And 2 Rude's track was pretty nice. He wound up recording a whole album and like five more singles - I think he won a Juno? - but I don't know how many heads followed him. We were following Monch, and the next stop for us was "WWIII" on Soundbombing 2.

So yeah, this was one of the top indie 12"s to have in 1998 even though nobody knew the artist. And revisiting it almost twenty years later, it still holds up. Even without its initial buzz, it still packs a lot of energy. It's got a cool, subtle instrumental, simply alternating light little guitar strum loops; but it's a great counterbalance to Saukrates dense backpacker rhymes and particularly Monch's hectic staccato flow. And those two energies are gently fused into one cohesive song on the hook, which is surprisingly but effectively sung by Saukrates himself. It sounds dope.

The only weakness is that it's a bit of a word salad. You know, it's just a freestyle song, and that's pretty much what we fans would've asked for if asked, but it does feel a bit like we're listening to nothing: "May God bless my very last breath to be Allahu Akbar, for narcotic cops to mark me inside of The Shark Bar. Spiritual sparks and lyrical darts adapt the visual. One nation under this rap shit indivisible." Um, what? It's like both MCs are constantly bouncing onto new thoughts before finishing their old ones. Like I know what all of the little pieces mean - I've even heard of The Shark Bar - but I don't see how they form any cohesive thoughts. But the whole song is like that, interspersed with very 90s punchlines like, "I get ya at your Bar Mitzvah leavin' you mentally circumcised," "this expert who could keep niggas alert in a school for narcolepsy" and "even Ellen and Martina Navratilova's comin' over 'cause they're trying to get with it."

So its best if you take it with a pinch of "it was the 90s" salt, but they still sound great by today's standards. And it's just the one song, but it comes complete in Club (uncensored), Radio (censored), Instrumental and Accapella mixes. 2 Rude did include this on his follow-up album, Rudimental 2K; but it didn't have many other MCs as dynamic as these two. Plus, I don't think there was a vinyl version. So really, this 12" is all you need. But even in 2016, I gotta say it still deserves a spot in anyone's crates.


  1. Great review... of an even better 12". Monch and Sauk really sound great together!

    Peace, Smoov