The Okayplayer Interview: Pharoahe Monch Talks Mental Health & New Album 'PTSD'
After a few years away Pharoahe Monch—almost universally recognized as one of hip hop’s most skilled lyricists and technically gifted MCs–is set to reclaim the spotlight in 2014. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Organized Konfusion LP Stress: The Extinction Agenda, as well as the 15th anniversary of his debut solo effort on Rawkus Records, Internal Affairs. Most importantly, however, Monch is set to drop his first album since 2011’s W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), a follow-up titled PTSD.
PTSD is only Pharoahe Monch’s fourth record in 15 years, but each of his albums have maintained a consistent level of excellence. PTSD shows Monch at his most personal, and is arguably his best crafted and most focused effort to date. The album focuses heavily on mental disorders and follows a loose storyline centered around a man dealing with post-traumatic stress. Guests on the album include Black Thought and Talib Kweli, while the production is held down by Marco Polo, Lee Stone, Quelle Chris and others.
Okayplayer recently had the opportunity to chat with Monch during a haircut to talk about mental health issues, including his own bout with depression; why he decided the make PTSD a full-length LP instead of an EP; his opinion of Nas’ “I Gave You Power”; and more. PTSD is set to drop April 15.
OKP: First off, congrats on the new album. I’ve been playing it quite a bit the past few days.
PM: Thank you, man.
OKP: When you first announced the title for the project it was slated to be an EP, what made you decide to make it a full-length album?
PM: I recorded the title track and “Broken Again,” and I was like, ‘this deserves to be an album.’ So I was like, let me keep going and make it a full-rounded thing. Those two songs kind of hit me really strong, so I didn’t want to just stop there.
PM: We were just still recording. We wanted to put something out because I hadn’t released any music in a long time. We had a bulk of the album completed, but a lot of the hesitation was waiting for features and engineers. I could block out a month of time in the studio and mix the album as well. So a lot of the stuff is contingent on other people’s time.
OKP: “Damage” revisits the theme of you rapping from the perspective of a bullet (as on 2007’s “Gun Draws” and Organized Konfusion’s 1994 single “Stray Bullet”), what made you decide to stay with that concept?
PM: I think “Stray Bullet” is a classic, and I followed that with “Gun Draws.” I heard the music (to “Damage”), that chorus came to mind, and I was like, we should just complete it from my perspective, you know, from my writing because it’s a trilogy. Let’s just go ahead and finish it up, and make it be the last song from that perspective.
OKP: What were your thoughts when you first heard Nas’ “I Gave You Power” which has a very similar concept?
PM: I thought it was dope, man. With Premier on the beat, and the whole concept to what we had done – I’m a fan. So I thought it was dope.
OKP: Did you ever get to talk to Nas about that track?