Pharoahe Monch W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

Pharoahe MonchW.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
Four years after Desire, the former Organized Konfusion MC delivers W.A.R., his most explicitly political album yet. Social commentary has been embedded in the Queens native's vocab since his OK days, but his revolutionary rhetoric has always complemented his groundbreaking lyricism. However, this third solo record finds Pharaohe lashed to a conscious rapper's dictionary with little room to stretch the multifarious rhyme schemes and warped flows that made his name. Star turns from Styles P, Royce Da 5'9 and Jean Grae are appreciated, but don't compensate for our host's lacklustre performances. The author of "Prisoners of War" deserves better production than the turgid soul-thump and overwrought rock he's handed here, while the a cappella and handclap outro of "Clap" comes closest to the free-jazz looseness Pharaohe used to unleash on record. Still, his rapping remains a technical marvel; on "Hailie Selassie Karate," he spits, "my past lives are astronomic/smoking hash in a cathedral with Nostradamus." But Pharaohe is capable of better than this half-baked Che-T-shirt speechifying and hopefully, the next album will showcase this. (Duck Down)