Pharoahe Monch has had a career of mixed success. His 1999 solo debut Internal Affairs gained the New York rapper a place on every hip-hop party playlist, with the shout-along classic ‘Simon Says’. Unfortunately for Monch, he was sued over one of the track’s samples, and since then, despite a few quality releases, has failed to really make an impact on the scene. Now promoting his forthcoming album PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – due for release April 15 on his own ‘indie’ label W.A.R. Media – Monch visited Southampton, to make sure Roxx was ready to get the f*ck up.

Not being able to regularly break the mass market or become a public figurehead of the genre, Monch has been left a humble man. The rapper recalled stories of meeting Busta Rhymes (complete with hilarious incomprehensible impersonation) and the advice he’d given, alongside his own tribute to J Dilla: a performance of the legend’s version of ‘F*ck The Police’. Later came yet more shout outs, with Monch repping Alchemist for the beat to ‘Desire’ and sending out a heartfelt R.I.P. to the late, great Nate Dogg, before launching into Mos Def’s ‘Oh No’, which originally featured Monch’s own vocals alongside that of the deceased.

Monch’s own brand of hip-hop is all about crowd participation, from the massive hook of the afore mentioned ‘Simon Says’, to the angry repetitiveness of ‘Fuck You’; even new single ‘Bad MF’ (which sounds decidedly better live) is written to get the audience off their backsides and yelling at the top of their lungs.

With his ability to write such crude but effective, sing-a-long stompers, it’s a wonder how Monch hasn’t made more of a name for himself. There is an argument of course that going ‘indie’ has had a negative impact, but unless aiming for the ego-inflating heights of Kanye West or Lil Wayne, the majority of successful rappers don’t need a ‘major’. Then again, not everybody needs mainstream recognition to be happy, and after his performance at Roxx, it is clear Pharoahe Monch is content to simply raise some hands and the roof along with them.

Ben Hindle

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