pHoenix Pagliacci Is Thrillingly Multifaceted on 'Dichotomy'

BY Kyle MullinPublished Jul 2, 2024


Dichotomy is the perfect title for pHoenix Pagliacci's new solo album; the Toronto MC and singer (known for formidable work in groups like the Sorority and TRP.P) showcases her versatility by contrasting artistic extremes again and again throughout these 15 tracks.

On opener "The Intro," Pagliacci wastes no time showing how she can rap dizzying circles around her peers by deftly and creatively rhyming how "the real ones, they know" that she's as powerful as "Thanos," though she's also a "dark angel with a hell of a halo." After delving into the nuances of her virtues and vileness, Pagliacci unveils lyrics about her vulnerabilities and weaknesses, all the while sounding hard AF, especially when switching to a breathless flow, as the percussion clinks like chainmail withstanding an onslaught of shots.

Pagliacci also helps Dichotomy live up to its name by bridging polar opposites in a singular way on "Not the One." It boasts lyrics worthy of the most withering diss tracks, but rather than rap those lines, Pagliacci sings them over an undeniable pop punk groove from the OBGMs. As the guitar solo grinds and Pagliacci belts out the vicious chorus, she reveals just how joyous being a hater can be, teaming the approach of SZA's genre-hopping "F2F" with the spirit of Kendrick Lamar at his most ruthless. The result is surely enough to make that newly crowned Compton battle rap king cheer "wop wop wop" in hateful approval.

Aside from that innovative OBGM collaboration, other Dichotomy guests include Canuck rap vets like Cadence Weapon on the sonically downcast, lyrically analytical "Politics" and Shad on the quietly galvanizing "Up." Both rappers reliably bring their A game, lending lyrics so strong lesser MCs would've hoarded them for their own projects; each track amounts to torch passing moments.

Strong as those features are, Pagliacci has even more potent chemistry with her contemporaries, like Scarborough R&B and hip-hop artist Tamir Holder, fluttery voiced Toronto singer Marley Unknxn and of course Truss on "You've Changed." As her partner both personally and in the duo TRP.P, Truss knows every right soulful note to hit in an instrumental that prompts Pagliacci to not only spit insightful bars about religion, but also sing a brief but potent ad lib ode to Sam Cooke. Equally good is Manitoba's Begonia hopping on "Past Life," a slow burn, self-assured R&B song about staring down an ex.

You'll be hard pressed to choose your favourite Pagliacci iteration — the simmering singer, the honed hater, the insightfully introspective MC, and so many more. That's because each side of Pagliacci is equally compelling, and Dichotomy is just about the perfect showcase.  


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