In the final part of Hip Hop Hub’s intimate look at Pharoahe Monch‘s “Rapid Eye Movement“, J-J Coyle theorises the idea that the verses are an actual attack on Jay Z’s art…
REM (2014): Raps Like Star Wars (The Jay Z Theory)
Before releasing “Rapid Eye Movement” (REM), Pharoahe Monch announced that Black Thought would feature in a follow up to the track “Assassins” from his W.A.R album. The exclusive was given in an interview to JIGGA Juice radio, which took place on September 11th 2013. The date significantly was also the release date of Jay Z’s Blueprint album back in 2001.
In the opening stanza of “REM”, Monch, like in “The Matrix“, claims his style has been bitten multiple times.
My think tank’s like a piranha tank,
think, multiple bites figure
Mega, reality, tera, giga
Grand Theft Auto,
modern day Mickey and Mallory Small
The innovate lyricism displayed by Organized Konfusion, particularly on Stress: The Extinction Agenda, had a wide ranging influence in Hip Hop, impacting lyricists such as Eminem, Jay Z and Nas.
If the line implicitly pertains to Jay Z, it wouldn’t be the first time the Brooklyn MC has been accused of biting styles: Nas said on “Ether“: “how many of Biggie’s rhymes are gonna come out of your fat lips”, whilst Cam’ron exposed a plethora of bars that had been directly lifted by Jigga in this “Swagger Jacker” mix.
Did Jay Z use everything from Monch’s style, flow, and lexicon?
Jay Z incorporates a chess style in “This Life Forever” five years after Organized Konfusion’s “The Extinction Agenda“(1994) where Pharoahe builds his verse around the game of chess; “check it, check it again.” Was this eluded to by Monch on Ras Kass’ “I See” (Goldyn Chyld, 2002) – “Punks try to provoke chess styles and push me”.
“Bring It On” is not the only title Jigga may have lifted from Monch. On “Soundman” (1997) from Organized Konfusion’s third album The Equinox, Monch rhymes, “See if I represent God, then all my competition is exclusively Lucifer. See y’all used to the N****s who would say devil right?”. “Lucifer“ was used as a title for a Jay Z track on his 2003 release The Black Album.
But I’m sick enough to walk into an art gallery and piss on a Picasso
Crack statues, rub my balls on a Banksy,
shit on it, and throw it at you
So when the beat intensifies
I become emotionally desensitized
The latent: Monch boasts that his rhymes are so ill that he will take Jigga’s art, violate it and throw it back at him.
Like, once I slapped a rapper with mace
Then I spit acid in his face,
after he rinsed his eyes, no wait
I actually grew five times my size
grabbed Ma$e by the thigh
and slapped a rapper with him
Now that’s practicing sacrilegious activism
Attack is for battle, and practical rap with wisdom
Remember when Ma$e directed a diss towards Jay Z, on 112’s “Love Me“: “All we hear is platinum that, platinum this, platinum whip, nobody got no platinum hits”. In this theory, Monch’s lines don’t just become humorous and abstract, we can take a purposeful sentiment, as he grows into a God-like figure and slaps Jay Z for his materialistic content via pastor Mase.
For triceps I do reps with dip sets, but not Cam.
The nod to Rakim also in the final verse of “The Jungle” provokes a series of ideas:
I go to Queens for queens, I eat organic in Brooklyn,
Swing on a vine over the swine and keep ‘em shook
- Rakim (The knowledge akin to Nas) who had subliminal exchanges with, the style over substance, Big Daddy Kane (akin to Jay Z).
- An MC feeding healthily in Brooklyn (Jigga’s hood),
- The rumours of Jay Z being a police informant perpetuated by former partner Dame Dash.
Actually, it’s pragmatic capitalism
for actors that crack under pressure
and collapse when I get ’em
Monch is medicinal man made medical marijuana
With a phase plasma rifle like I’m searchin’ for Sarah Conner
And shorty’s got brains, shorty not playin’
From 40 blocks I’m a killa with 40 watt range
Monch is a terminator on a mission representing 40 projects, Queens. His opponents are actors, aka “impostors… making a mockery of the music to be pop stars”.
With an arrangement of bullets that I’ve arranged
Encrypted in scriptures specific individual names
That shall remain anonymous
Me and the ammunition’s in a relationship that’s monogamous
There ARE specific names on these verbal bullets that Monch is firing but they are going to remain UNDISCLOSED.
It’s like I’m married to the silencer
Until I file for divorce and release my ex-calibers
Do art with your arteries,
place ad for my adversaries
Push your snap back cap back,
cap your capillaries like
In this theory, Monch maybe implying that he’s poetically married to Jay Z, until it’s time for him to break up and kill him. Also in Watch the Throne’s “Otis“, Jay Z ends a stanza with “cock back, snap back, see my cut through the holes,” a stanza which started with Jay Z claiming he invented swag. Anyone who has heard “Bad MF“ and “Assassins” from Monch will know what he thinks about swag.
Woefully twice as magnifying as ever hearing Chewbacca scream
Through a megaphone with the significance of Dr. King
Cause I’m trying to see man united without referencing UK soccer teams
My philosophy prophecy, the opposite of Mephistopheles
inside of isosceles
Sent to Earth to warn of environmental atrocities,
and nobody can copy me
Stop, it’s not possible but probable
that it’s only philosophical mockery,
strange Change copper to gold,
switch properties, bang!
Stay on top of the globe,
flip monopolies, aim
Take stock in the soul, spit properly
Jay Z’s links to the Illuminati have been the subject of much debate, what can’t be disputed is his persistence to produce content that affiliate with the Illuminati’s perceived ideology. In the above stanza, Pharoahe claims to be the direct opposite of this. His logo includes the Eye of Horus -“all seeing eye”- first introduced on his Desire album: the symbol of protection, royal power and good health.
The baton is then passed to Black Thought who repeats the line “Take stock in the soul, spit properly”. The sentiment echoes the bridge from PTSD’s “BAD MF”, as Monch quips:
Who put these pussies on top?
Putting out that pussy music,
call it pussy pop.
It also correlates with the diss levied by Queens’ native Nas, who had said Jay “traded his soul for riches” on the notable diss-record “Ether”, before climaxing with “You pop shit, apologise, n****, just ask Kiss”.
In the third part of the bullet trilogy (“Damage“, PTSD), Monch depicts his rap style as superior to Nas’ “Ether“ as he raps “armour piercing tumblers, more deadlier than Napalm”; Nas had opened “Ether“ with “I embrace y’all with napalm”.
Monch also characterises himself as Avon (loyal to his roots) from the hit series The Wire, ready to kill the corporatized sell-out Stringer Bell:
And I will ring your bell like, Avon,
display various tattoos: Trayvon,
the Oscar award winning Aiyana Jones,
Is Sean a double-entendre referring to both Sean Bell and Shawn Carter? In this theory, the delivery entertains the idea, as Monch alters his voice to greet Hip Hop’s Stringer Bell. Jay Z appears to take his own implicit shots on “Familia” (2013) reciting “Elvis got his records took”, a likely reference to Pharoahe’s comedic “Body Baby” (2007). And on his “Jungle Remix” (2014), Jay makes the implicit boast of a superior flow as he raps:
On training day I go too hard, ask Antoine Fuqua
I am Godzilla of these favelas, new God flow
Of course this is an interpretation of complex lyrics: Pharoahe flipping Bloomberg the bird during “Assassins” may not correlate with Jay Z’s continued affiliation with the former New York Mayor.
Are the lyrics from “REM” even the unconscious thoughts of Pharoahe, a character which met its fate in “The Recollection Facility PT 3” – when sentenced “to life imprisonment for the violation of the world freethinking agreement”?
Or given the continued theme of “Assassins”, does the dream-state of mind reflect that of Agent 13’s? (Monch’s alter-ego: a character lacking the objectivity of Pharoahe, who first appeared on the vicious “Thirteen“ from Stress: The Extinction Agenda.
As time stands still for Pharoahe, only time will tell if the specific individual names shall continue to remain anonymous.The re-emergence of Thirteen however, who is expected to feature in a future “aggressive Metal-Hop” project, indicates that a storm is coming, and so the tide may soon be changing after all.