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
Aside 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.