Listening to Pharoahe Monch’s Internal Affairs is either depressing or inspiring. Y’see, I had Pharoahe’s sophomore effort, Desire, in heavy rotation not too long ago, so it’s still relatively fresh in my musical memory.
Internal Affairs is inspiring because it shows how on top of his game Pharoahe was way back then, at least lyrically. There are plenty of clunky hooks on the album, but that was the fashion at the time.
But it’s funny to hear how geeky Pharoahe really is. I mean, the hook for “Queens” interpolates Rock Roll’s only known song, and he infuses sci-fi in many of his songs. Plus, there’s that infamous Godzilla sample that makes this album so sought after. That notwithstanding, “Simon Says” is a certifiable classic.
But Internal Affairs is depressing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s sad to hear Pharoahe repping Rawkus to the fullest, knowing how that story ended (the album’s ended up out-of-print and is tough to find unless you feel like spending over fifty bucks for a used copy). It’s also sad because having just listened to Desire, you hear how little has changed in the eight years between albums.
This really is one of those albums that captures a moment. Canibus and M.O.P. make appearances, and that makes sense for 1999. It’s also got beats from DJ Scratch, Diamond D and The Alchemist, which fits nicely in the 1999 frame. And allow me to reinforce how clunky those hooks are—they completely disrupt the head-nodding while you try to work through them.
But then again, it also shows how some things never change. Common and Talib drop by for “The Truth”—your typical “conscious” song. And there’s a remix featuring Busta, Red & Meth, the “hot” female emcee (in this case Lady Luck) and a lesser known emcee in fellow Rawkus-er Shabaam Shadeeq (who has yet to earn a Wikipedia entry).
Internal Affairs was a solid debut, but listening to it now makes me see Desire in a completely different light.