Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five taught us that clever wordplay backed by head bobbin rhythmic beats can incite revolution throughout the masses. Mele Mel’s lyrics about his neighborhood resonated with listeners because he was talking about problems that every listener could relate to such as drug abuse, poverty, and crime. This level of “conscious” thought is what solidified Hip Hop’s place in music history, but recently, rappers have replaced that message-driven rap with more self-absorbed lyricism that glorifies the gluttony of material objects like jewelry and cars while simultaneously degrading women. Although this so called “egotistical rap” has helped further the careers of artists like 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, and Juelz Santana one has to wonder about the longevity of their music. When was the last time you heard someone referred to as a “Wanksta?” Probably not since 50 dropped his debut album in 2003. In other words, the phrase that he coined has now become obsolete. In contrast, every Hip Hop fan can still relate to Tupac when he says “a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a warrior dies but one,” off his 1994 classic Me Against The World. We honor the memory of rappers Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) because their words sound just as pertinent to today’s current events as they did in the mid-90’s, when being a gangsta helped artists sell records. Today, artists who write message-driven raps like Tupac, Biggie, or Mele Mel are coined as “conscious rappers” by the Hip Hop community because they have more to talk about then their bling bling. Despite the praise “conscious rappers” receive from fans and critics there is a stigma that surrounds this title because the albums these artists release are often slept-on by the masses despite critical acclaim from Hip Hop enthusiasts. (pull)Queens-born lyrical shapeshifter, Pharoahe Monch, has been composing so called “conscious” music since he teamed up with Prince Poetry to form Organized Konfusion in the early 90’s.(/pull) After releasing three albums, Organized Konfusion (1991), Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994), and The Equinox (1997), Organized Konfusion broke up because, according to a 2005 Prince Po interview with MVRemix.com, they “didn’t want to hear the fans say the same thing like, ‘You’re dope but you are not getting the right promotion.'” Although Po and Monch created three solid albums the “conscious” bug played a small role in the demise of Organized Konfusion, and sent Monch to an indie label known as Rawkus Records, where he came in contact with two other rappers known for their lyrical depth and prowess, Mos Def and Talib Kweli (a.k.a. Blackstar). Monch gained some recognition after several guest spots on albums such as the popular Rawkus compilation Soundbombing 2 and Priority Records’ Lyricist Lounge Volume 2 compilation, but it wasn’t until he dropped the monster hit “Simon Says” off his solo debut album Internal Affairs (1999) that Monch became known as a full fledged solo artist. Despite being sued for sampling the old Godzilla movies on “Simon Says” the song was used in two movies, Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Boiler Room (2000) and, of course, on that unforgettable Dave Chappelle skit where Dave crushes the city of Tokyo in pure Godzilla fashion. After the release of Internal Affairs, Monch spent the next eight years floating throughout the Rap Industry draft as many record labels, including Eminem’s Shady Records, sought to sign the intellectual wordsmith, but could never seal the deal due to Monch’s prior contracts and financial obligations with Priority Records. Even though the legal red tape prevented Monch from signing to a new label he continued to increase his fan base by either touring solo or alongside Def and Kweli. Monch’s tireless efforts on the road helped him create a loyal following in Europe and other parts of the world. Monch also kept himself busy by lending his lingua franca trademark and production skills to a few songs off Diddy’s Press Play album in late 2006. As soon as the label drama smoke finally cleared Monch signed with Street Records Corporation, and in late June dropped his second album, Desire, which he calls “a true reflection of who I am as a person.” Monch confesses to England’s Blues and Soul Magazine how he really cares “about the socio-political state of society, but at the same time after I’ve had a few drinks you might hear me talking about ‘Look at those titties!'” To celebrate the release of Desire Monch teamed up with Live’N’Direct promotions to assemble a slew of talented performers to tear the roof off NYC’s illustrious Highline Ballroom.