It's been 8 years since Pharoahe Monch's first album, Internal Affairs, which included the massive single ''Simon Says''. He had released three critically-acclaimed albums before then as part of the Organized Konfusion but Desire is only his second solo album. The New Yorker is regarded as one of hip-hop's most powerful and technically skilled MCs and this album has definitely been long-awaited.
Label issues are partly to blame for the wait (he's no longer with Rawkus) but you can't help but think that Pharoahe Monch is a perfectionist and wanted to come back with an album that was a statement (including the cover which shows his face covered in bandages like a mummy).
Desire is not one for background listening - you get drawn in from the start. Most of the first half of the album has a big and boombastic sound. There's so much to this album in terms of influences. The title track highlights Pharoahe's soulful vibe, ''Push'' has a gospel slant, ''Welcome to the Terrordome'' is Public Enemy-influenced and ''Let's Go'' has a big sound matched with old skool scratching. The claustrophobic ''When the Gun Draws'' tackles gun crime, once again backing up claims that Monch can be one of hip-hop's most provocative and outspoken lyricists.
The mood changes with the single ''Body Baby'', the most radio-friendly track (which comes complete with an Outkast-style video with Pharoahe dressed like Elvis). If this fun number gets people to pick up this album then good, but there are better tracks. He hits gentler notes with slow-tempo tracks ''Bar Trap'', ''Hold On'' featuring Erykah Badu (the only big name guest on this album) and ''So Good''. The album ends with the eerie ''Trilogy'', which highlights Pharoahe Monch's strength in story-telling and the cinematic angle of the whole album.
While comparisons with Kanye West are justified in parts, it's mainly because Desire is the first hip-hop record in recent years that can actually stand up to The College Dropout, in other words it is a near-masterpiece. --Ilka Schlockermann
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window