Pharoahe Monch went solo after releasing three albums with Prince Poetry as Organized Konfusion. It was when he released ‘Simon Says‘ that the mainstream began to pick up on Monch. Over the years he collaborated with artists like Mos Def, Idris Elba, M.O.P, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, among others.
Growing up listening to ‘Internal Affairs’, Monch’s lyricism always stood out to me. It was his reluctance to conform with trends however, that truly set him apart from the throngs of artists that have come and gone in the genre.
We caught up with the Queens, NY rapper to discuss his openness with mental health issues, and his artistic approach to hip hop.
He plays alongside the likes of Congo Natty, Killa P, Flowdan, Foreign Beggars and more at the The Outlook Orchestra in London this Thursday.
To start, I’d like to discuss the idea of mental health. We’ve had conversations with various hip hop artists on the topic, because it’s not traditionally a genre that’s open about it. You’re quite outspoken and honest about the mental health issues you’ve had, do you feel it’s important to have an open dialogue?
Having an open dialogue is healthy for the sufferer and it multiplies in positivity as it resonates with others as they are able to connect with what their individual is feeling. Dialogue in itself is healthy, whether it’s made public or not though.
Why do you feel modern musicians feel comfortable enough to speak about issues of the mind?
The acknowledgement in itself is therapeutic. What and who we are is even more apparent as we share more of ourselves through social media in today’s world anyway.
Is the stigma gone, or at least nearly gone?
I’m not sure. I am sure I help others because they’ve reached out.
How did you have the will to be so open? Did you seek help?
I did not, my feelings were created from medication side effects, luckily I found the problem and switched medications.
What would you say to people who feel they can’t be open about mental health problems?
It’s not for everyone to be a public advocate. But you do deserve the best for yourself.
It’s clear you take an artistic approach to music, and have done for a long time. Is it difficult to seek out new forms of inspiration, or is does it come from within?
Inspiration is all around us all the time. There are endless angles with something as prevalent as love. Love has so many dimensions and forms. Never a shortage of good love songs. It’s how you perceive the information you’re intaking.
Do you feel hip hop in 2017 is still an ‘art form’?
It’s been ten years since ‘Desire’, and I just have one question I’ve always wanted to as, we’re an Irish magazine so I wanted to know why you mentioned Dublin in the track ‘Free’?
It simply rhymed. And the effects of slavery reached everywhere in some shape or fashion.
What’s next for you? Have you accomplished everything you want to accomplish, or are you aims fluid?
Produce music, book, photography, script and a new album.
Pharoahe Monch will perform at Outlook Orchestra show at London’s Southbank Centre on Thursday January 12. Click here for tickets and more information.
Photo by Florian Gallène