Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #2 – PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Pharoahe Monch

Artist: Pharoahe Monch

Album: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Produced by: Pharoahe Monch, Guy Routte, Lee Stone, Marco Polo, The Stepkids, B.A.M., The Lion Share, Boogie Blind, Jesse West, Quelle Chris

Released: April 14, 2014

Pharoahe_Monch_PTSDAside from this record coming in as #2 on my list, this is no doubt the best hip-hop album of the year.

First hearing of Pharoahe Monch off a name drop in Talib Kweli song a few years ago, I checked him out. W.A.R. was out at the time. I liked it, but it didn’t grab me as much as PTSD has this year.

This album is a beautiful diamond in the rough – Inspired by true events in Pharoahe’s own life, PTSD is a work of art that must be listened to in its entirety to be truly appreciated. We start off at “The Recollection Facility”, a place where traumatic experiences can be extracted and then we immediately get catapulted into “Time2”.

The PTSD narrative emphasizes a very real issue that exists within the black community: The sentiment that mental health or to seek help for mental health is more aligned with white access and privilege, not something that is advertised or seen as accessible to anyone else on the outside of that community. There are also many lyrical parallels that no doubt speak to post-9/11 war veterans and the overall pharmaceutical abuse which is still rampant in everyday America, regardless of race or class.

Another reason why this album trumps all others is because it stands out from its contemporaries. I can’t help but notice that subjects of current hip-hop songs and albums are about smoking weed, being promiscuous, going to clubs, self-toasting to the point of redundancy. Not to say, that hip-hop shouldn’t have any of that – I believe it in fact should and it has since its inception. But anything in excess gets tiring real quick. In PTSD I feel like I’m learning something, becoming slightly enlightened. On this record Pharoahe talks about suicide, losing his grip on reality, nightmares, how his own mental state affects his relationships, even talks about the importance of eating organic in “The Jungle”.

As a privileged white female who grew up in the suburbs a few miles outside an inner city, I am nearly blind to everything Pharoahe is talking about. But by listening to this record and others like it, I can step in his shoes for a hour or so and get outside my own defined sense of reality. Hip-hop like this is my window inside – and I hope by saying that, that doesn’t make me seem ignorant or insensitive, but hopefully compassionate and caring. In fact I think hip-hop works this way for many others. Just because Pharoahe Monch is a lyrical wordsmith who utilizes killer beats and speaks in vibrant metaphors, does not make what he’s talking about less real than anything else that occurs outside our own empirical reality. It in fact brings it more to the forefront that the 6 o’clock news ever could.

I’ve seen Pharoahe talk about the record on MSNBC with Melissa Harris Perry and on NYC hip-hop radio programs. All videos are available on YouTube and I suggest checking them out if you wish to learn more from the creator’s mouth about this incredible record.

Production is dope, Pharoahe Monch is one of the greatest MCs of our time…If you have any love for hip-hop and/or socio-political commentary of anything, please bump this record ASAP.

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Day 23: Publish a Roundup

Today’s challenge: Publish a roundup post that links to posts on at least three other blogs, and tell us why you love the posts — and why we should read ‘em”

Coachella is probably one of the biggest festivals in the US to date. Personally I’ve never been, nor have I felt an innate desire to go. In all honesty, I prefer singular shows to festivals. Festivals wipe me out and I’m not a huge crowd person. I like the intimacy of a singular venue, one show, a few bands, a few drinks – I’m good. Festivals are just overkill. Too many people, too many lines, not enough bathrooms, etc. I’ve been to Bamboozle a few times, I went to Projekt Revolution in 2005, Governor’s Ball in 2011, I plan on going to Warped Tour this year, but that’s really my limit.

A few days ago I got an email via Bob Lefsetz (I’m a Lefsetz Letter subscriber) entitled, “Insightful Article Of The Day”. Inside the email was a link and the title of the article, “Why It’s EDM’s Fault Outkast Flopped“. It piqued my interest. I’ve never been a huge EDM fan. I listen to dribs and drabs, but it’s not really my thing. It’s not something I believe in, unlike others. I’m not much of a die-hard Outkast fan either, but I got into some of their tracks; I knew classic jams like “Hey Ya!”, “Ms. Jackson”, “Rosa Parks”, “Aquemini”, “So Fresh, So Clean” , “The Way You Move”, “Morris Brown”, etc. I used to be quite an MTV junkie back in the day and they played Outkast videos all the time, but that was really the extent of my Outkast education.

So this article is on no less, so now I have to read it. In my mind not only is this official, but almost a ballsy statement. The title itself is basically insinuating EDM is to blame for Outkast’s poor performance.

I urge everyone to read this article because it really is well written (by Tim Hirsh) and thoughtfully organized; In short, the first day of Outkast’s reunion set didn’t go as well as expected.

Live hip hop was the most exciting game in town, and your average festival-attendee would…more likely to buy their ticket not with a “music festival experience” in mind, but with particular artists in mind. With the advent of the modern music festival, driven by dance music, this sentiment has shifted dramatically.

Yes! Just yes! To all of that. Personally, I only go to festivals if certain artists are playing. That is the experience to me – Seeing those specific artists playing songs because I want to see them play. A lot of the music festival experience is now enhanced by drugs, which of course go hand-in-hand with music (and insane light shows) but that’s not my M.O. I don’t like all that artificial junk. If I can’t enjoy the music sober, it’s really isn’t worth my time (IMO). If I can enjoy the music sober, that is usually an indicator of its authenticity and musicianship, two things which I value highly when it comes to any kind of music. (And I’ll probably enjoy it more if I do decide to partake in drinking and the like) And not to say EDM doesn’t have that; Some of it does. But if the reason why you’re going to a music festival is to get fucked up, you’re just a different festival-goer than I am. At present, there is a shift in values at hand.

You can plop down hundreds of dollars without knowing a single artist and still know you’re going to have a blast. The needle has slowly shifted away from “music,” towards “party.”

To reiterate, music is no longer the main course, it is now a side dish. The new main course is the reaching the limits of individual sensation. How high can you get?; The feelings enhanced by certain substances bring this to the forefront and then is accompanied by the music. Otherwise, why go? Broadly speaking, of course.

When you’re accustomed to thousands of perfectly synced strobe lights and the energy-building peaks and valleys of a common electronic dance music set, suddenly, watching a guy pace back and forth on stage uttering halfway-audible lines isn’t as entertaining anymore.

As much as I love Hip-Hop, I have to say this is true. Lyrical Hip-Hop translates best when it’s up close and personal. When it gets put into an arena or festival type format, words get lost and aside from the beat or hook, that’s the whole point – for you to hear the words. I saw Big Boi at Governor’s Ball about 3 years ago and honestly, from what I remember of his performance was eh. I wasn’t blown away, I wasn’t wowed. It was okay. I applauded at the end of each song. Though I hate to admit it, EDM is just easier to follow: 4 on the floor, maybe a few samples, a rhythm, a beat, the bass drops, little to no words, and you dance. Hip-Hop is intellectual, Hip-Hop is about a message. EDM is about moving your body and losing your mind. (Conversation vs. Sensation)

[There]…was a generational disconnect, mixed with a mismatch of expectations…The bar for energy and excitement has been set too high, and the mainstream interest at attending music festivals, driven by the proliferation of EDM mega-fests, has brought in a wide swath of people who simply aren’t what readers of a site like this would consider music fans…You can’t expect someone who just staggered away from getting their brain rearranged at an explosive, confetti-filled…performance is going to respond in any meaningful way to lyrical hip hop, unless they’re already a fan.

And this is what gets frustrating when attending these massive festivals with (dare I say it) too diverse of a lineup. It gets hard to locate your hardcore fans, your main demographic, you have no idea which person is there for what act. Are they buying their ticket because Outkast is playing or because Skrillex is? Or do they not care and just wanna pop Molly and have a good time? It’s an interesting discussion to have, especially when many core values and expectations are in flux.

Consequence of Sound posted an article today reporting that Outkast’s second performance was much better than the first.

Big Boi and Andre 3000 seemed to take…criticisms to heart, as they unfurled a revamped setlist that featured shorter solo sets, more hits in the middle portion of the set…and much more energy.

I think that was a smart decision on their part. Some artists could stubbornly protest the problem is with the crowd, not them. But in any customer service field as well as in music it’s important to realize and accept, the customer (or crowd/audience) is always right. It’s a difficult battle to sway a crowd, get them to move, dance, pay attention. But thus is the  21st century entertainment industry. I’ve struggled with it myself (of course, on a much smaller scale).

If you want to peep Outkast’s 2nd Coachella setlist and their upcoming tour dates, definitely check out the COS article.

To those who want to read more on Molly and EDM, this is another great article: Finding Molly: The Most Popular Name in EDM. It gets real.