Considering that Pharoahe Monch is the type of emcee that comes along once in a lifetime, having to wait some eight years between solo albums is inhuman and cruel. After splitting from Prince Po and their too often overlooked Organized Konfusion union, the southside Queens native finally got the shine he deserved...well sort of. At the height of Rawkus Records' popularity and on the strength of his smash single "Simon Says," Pharoahe was on his way to a platinum plaque. That is until an uncleared sample forced them to stop all promotion and pull every record from the shelf. Internal Affairs ended up fizzling out around the gold mark, Rawkus soon folded and Pharoahe went into hiatus.
A couple years of rumors that he was signing to Shady, an eight month delay from his original release date and here we are with Desire. Despite signing with Steve Rifkin's SRC rather than with Marshall, Monch still has Mr. Porter (bka Denaun Porter of D12) executive producing the album. Don't get it twisted, there are no "Purple Pills" here, Desire is Pharoahe doing what Pharoahe does best - rap.
Funny enough, the album may become best known for the track where Pharoahe does as much singing as he does rhyming. "Body Baby" has drawn some comparisons to Gnarls Barkley, but its P's Elvis swagger in the hook that will really catch some attention. While it's a great song and single, it isn't where he shines brightest. Those moments come in a few other places. His chops on "Body Baby" may get more notice, but it's "Desire" where Pharoahe really brings the soul over some equally expressive horns. His triumphant return on the album's title track is one. Over Alchemist's best production in a minute he brings the lyrics: "I embody antibiotics, you are infected by germs/rap's fatally ill, please get the serum." Then again, when it comes to lyrics you've really gotta point to "When The Gun Draws," the sequel to his classic "Stray Bullet" (where do you think Nas got the idea for "I Gave You Power?"). "Let's Go" may lack the conceptual brilliance of "When The Gun Draws," but it hardly lacks P getting stupid with the wordplay; "listen man, stop snitchin man/you use to sex to sell, and your next to tell/to sprint, everything you represent is immoral/singular, not plural/you and your sidekick get rid of that wack trio/I freeze emcees zero degrees below/the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice."
All the jaw dropping moments above still don't measure up to the apex of "Desire": the three part, nine minute, twenty-four second epic called "Trilogy." With the help of Mr. Porter, Dwele and Tone respectively, Pharoahe weaves a story of love, friendship, infidelity, revenge and murder - in reverse - with exquisite execution. They may not be the cream of the crop, but the album is still rounding out by a handful of dope tracks, most notably his excellent cover of Public Enemy's "Welcome To The Terrordome" and the bedroom music that is "So Good."
A title like "Desire" can be taken in any number of ways. One way is to assume he is alluding to his desire to create timeless art. When so much music is just churned out in the interest of making a quick buck, it is impossible not to take notice when an artist of this caliber displays their craft at the highest level. Whatever Pharoahe's aspiration was, let's just hope it inspires other rappers to step their fucking games up and try and compete with his Desire.