Pharoahe Monch @ Oobleck, The Custard Factory, Birmingham, England. Thursday March 12th 2015

Show Review

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Pharoahe Monch
Oobleck, The Custard Factory
Birmingham
England
Thursday March 12th 2015

The Problem

A funny thing happened to me when I woke up March 12, 2015. I hit the barber shop to get a trim, my barber is into all sorts of music, when it comes to hip hop, he knows artists like Public Enemy, Nas, Naughty by Nature, Wu-Tang, Gangstarr etc. I told him I was going to see Pharoahe Monch live. He asked me: “Who’s he?” I was gob smacked while he was putting the part in my hair.

Later that same day, I arrived at The Oobleck half an hour before doors opened. I can’t remember how the conversation sparked between me and the security, he sounded oblivious to what was even happening, I was like ‘Yeah come to see Pharoahe Monch tonight’. He’s like – “Who’s he?” my jaw dropped again. I asked him… what music he likes, he said ‘rap music’. I said okay, what artists you into? He said ‘Yukmouth’. I’m like WHAT? You heard of Yukmouth but NOT Pharoahe Monch??

On both occasions I had to explain to guys that if they were in an R&B club, surely they must have heard the song – Simon Says Get the F**k Up, throw your hands in the sky – BO! BO! BO! BO! BO! I had to near sing the song out – I’m not a singer, and Simon Cowell would say – ‘it’s a NO from me!’ But they would hear the first verse because that song is deemed ‘violent’ for an R&B club, they’d play it like they would play ‘Hip Hop’ by Dead Prez. They was like – oh yeah I heard that tune… Oh THAT’S Pharoahe Monch???

Seems like I identified a problem. Causal fans, party goers, who go to places like Soul Society, Southport Weekender, places of that nature, have heard certain hip hop songs but don’t know the artist. On this day I learned that particular tune has been out from 1999, and 16 years later people still haven’t heard of Pharoahe Monch? 4 consistently stellar albums plus his Organized Konfusion material in the early 90s and he’s ‘unheard of’??? Something is wrong. DJ Zombies and radio are held accountable here.

The Answer

As I walked into the venue I noticed how compact and intimate it was, Immediately I thought: Something special is gonna happen in here.

Warming up the set was the man putting in the Main Ingredient himself, Dee Jay Kingstun. I’ve known this man a long time, and this man defines ‘Old School’. Not just in the tunes he played, but the way he played them. Kingstun was UNREASONABLE on this night…he put a near capacity crowd in tears when he literally Dug In The Crates for that VINYL…not a laptop in sight, and he held the party down for two hours straight, no rest period, spinning records from the 80s & 90s. Not ONE SCRATCH was heard on those records unless Kingstun was mixing.

pharoahe-monch-kingstun

The crowd had no alternative, they had to salute him, Kingstun brought people back to the point where even the supporting act (Redbeard & Kosyne – EatGood) were thinking twice about coming on to perform.

Credits due to EatGood, they held their own in the Oobleck… but then they brought their secret weapon: A new artist that tore the mic up with his vicious flow over Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Rigamortis’ instrumental.

Coming out later than scheduled, but breaking the Oobleck’s curfew without mercy, Pharoahe Monch was introduced on the stage with the Pete Rock ‘Tru Master’ intro. I’m just being picky here, as good as that was, I would have prefered if Monch came out to the intro from Internal Affairs, still up to this date, one of the most banging intros ever heard in Hip Hop.

But like I said, that’s a minor, when you come out with an assault of ‘Rapid Eye Movement’, ‘Assassins’ and ‘Got You’, to an assisted live band behind you, it was nothing short of EPIC. The drummer, rocking a Wu-Tang skullie and all, smashing the hell out of those drums! DJ Boogie-Blind on the wheels of steel showing off his scratching and mixing skills! To Pharoahe’s right, one man rocking the electric keyboard wrapped round his shoulder, Pharoahe is putting rock bands to shame here!

Highlights of the night include his storytelling on stage when he performed his PTSD cuts ‘Time2′ and ‘Broken Again’ as he talks his battles against drug addiction. In the former, a ‘paranoid Pharoahe’ is walking around frantically with a water pistol but no prizes for guessing what the pistol was supposed to represent. In the latter, a chair is laid out in the middle while Monch sits down and contemplates. Superb.

Pharoahe also addresses the current police brutality situations in the states, before going off on KRS-One’s Sound of the Police, and NWA & Dilla’s renditions of F**k The Police, which leads in to his performance of ‘CLAP’ taken from the W.A.R. We Are Renegades album. The Oobleck crowd clapping in unison and rhythm was amazing.

All this, plus memorable blessings from ‘My Life’ from the Styles P album ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, his tribute to Nate Dogg in the form of ‘Oh No’, no disrespect to Mos Def at all but everyone knows Pharoahe ran away with that one, and he had the capacity crowd singing along to ‘Agent Orange’. At this point… NO track from Internal Affairs album was dropped and Pharoahe looks like some one threw an ice bucket over him!

Another minor gripe was even after sound check, there were times where either the mic was turned down so you couldn’t hear Pharoahe, or the music was too loud, I’d like to believe it was the former, you had Boogie Blind and the hype man telling Oobleck management to turn Pharoahe’s mic up.

If you were expecting me to record ‘Simon Says’, I’m afraid I’ve got some baaad news! Put it this way, The Oobleck was packed with real hip hop heads who knew the art of mosh pit martial arts, which was endorsed by Pharoahe holding the mic stand high in the air as if to say ‘THIS MEANS WAR!!!’ My friend next to me nearly lost his glasses, it was too late to retreat to the corner, and even when I did take pictures/video, there was one occasion where RePPiN4U’s DJ Miss C Brown deliberately knocked my elbow and the camera nearly met the concrete! There was even a moment where Pharoahe looked like he was gonna jump in the crowd only to fall into the arms of RePPiN4U’s very own J-Law so that made her night considering she was celebrating her birthday.

That track should have ended the show. It didn’t. Pharoahe returned to the stage after a minute and the ironic thing was, as he performed ‘The Light’, he specifically told management to keep the lights off to set the tone. The last track he performed on the night had heads shedding tears into their beers. Monch answered a twitter user’s request to perform an Organized Konfusion track, namely ‘Bring It On’. This is the part where I began to realise how humble this man is.

#GiveBirminghamAChance

This should be trending on twitter worldwide. I say this because promoters show a lack of interest when it comes to artists like Pharoahe coming to Birmingham UK. They will go to London, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow, but hardly Birmingham. It built frustration for fans in the Midlands who want to see their favourite artist and a lot of the time it’s simply not cost efficient. But Sip The Juice and Heducation got this one right. Think about this: Pharoahe has performed around the world for 20+ years, headlined some of hip hop’s biggest shows, he comes to Birmingham for the first time in 2015 and this is his response on twitter:

pharoahe-praises

Just seeing that, made me realise not just how humble Pharoahe Monch is but also if promoters send such like-minded artists to Birmingham they would see the overwhelming love they get. After a drought in 2014, and with artists like Jeru The Damaja, Mobb Deep and Nas still to come all in the first half of 2015, Finally promoters will see the light.

He told you on his album: “You WILL feel me, You WILL admire, (my) hustle, (my) struggle, (my) soul, DESIRE!” and boy was he right.

Salute the man call Troy Jamerson… he knows he is welcomed back anytime.
(Michael Grant of RePPiN 4U)

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Photograph courtesy of Dee Jay Kingstun

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