Diggin’ Through the Crates: Pharoahe Monch “Agent Orange”

Artist: Pharoahe Monch
Song: “Agent Orange”
Album: The Awakening (2003), a mixtape that preluded his second studio album (Desire). Free download here.

Before we begin, let’s just start out by introducing a lot of you to Pharoahe Monch, as not many I’ve spoken with have had the pleasure of listening to this hidden star of Hip-Hop. While not achieving a lot of commercial success, anything that comes out of Pharoahe’s mouth is lyrical gold. Starting out as half of the group Organized Konfusion, Pharoahe quickly gained the reputation of being a cerebral and entertaining emcee. Since his solo debut in 1999, Internal Affairs, Pharoahe has blown up the independent scene, tackling social and political topics with such clarity and hilarity.

Lyric: “It’s not a Game Boy, X-Box or PlayStation/It’s Resident Evil when every President’s a mason/ Robbin’ y’all fools like Dick Grayson”

Meaning/Character Reference:

Holy “Agent Orange,” Pharoahe Monch! That sure sounds scary and intense. In the mixtape leading to his second album, Desire, he reminds listeners that he is not only a wordsmith but is quite comic savvy, as well. “Agent Orange” is a song portraying the horrid war-time nature the United States government has been proved to display, referencing the US’ use of herbicidal warfare in the Vietnam War that left hundreds of thousands civilians starving and/or permanently physically deformed. When Pharoahe Monch starts listing off the game systems of our past, present, and future, he is basically throwing a brick through Congress windows with a note attached saying, “NOT TODAY, GOVERNMENT! DO I LOOK LIKE A BRAND NEW MORTAL KOMBAT VS. DC UNIVERSE GAME? BECAUSE I AM NOT TO BE PLAYED WITH” – sassy finger snapping ensues. Gloriously, Pharoahe Monch reaches out to the comic book world and pays homage to a superhero that only seek one thing – justice. Don’t lie; you said justice in your best Batman voice, didn’t you? What he is saying is that the system is robbin’ knowledge, power, and all that other good stuff from We, the People. For those of you out there who are wondering who Dick Grayson is, he is the only dude who can look badass in a red speedo, green gloves and a yellow cape, ROBIN! Boom, there is that AHA moment!  Pharoahe Monch is similar to Robin because they are both underrated and underestimated. If Dick Grayson can evolve from Robin into Nightwing, then maybe, just maybe, Pharoahe Monch can turn into Ra…sure, let’s go with that.

dtc pharaohe agent orange robin

Fun Fact: In Eminem’s “Rap God,” which we featured on last week’s “Diggin’ Through the Crates” piece, actually references Pharoahe Monch, a heralded Hip-Hop artist in the underground community. As a lifetime fan of both, it’s refreshing to hear that even a pop legend like Eminem knows who the real artists are: “I know there was a time where once I/Was king of the underground, but I still rap like I’m on my Pharoahe Monch grind.”

That does it for this week guys! Check back next week for more nerd-infused Hip-Hop. Also, if you’re interested at all in learning more about the artist or the subject matter in our posts, don’t hesitate to ask. Pharoahe Monch’s fourth solo album, entitled P.T.S.D., is slated for a release January 2014. Be sure to check us out for a comprehensive review on that! Til next time, nerds…

Written by Evan Lowe and Sherif Elkhatib

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