th1rt3en with Pharoahe Monch Drop “A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism” (Review)
Pharoahe Monch’s super-group th1rt3en recently released their debut album entitled “A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism”. The title accurately describes the mind-meld and destruction of preconceptions that happens after one listens through the LP. This album is undoubtedly an end-to-end burner that requires multiple listens to dissect the vocal mastery that is Pharoahe Monch. The complex storytelling and visuals set over the dark instrumentals are like watching a slasher feature film, but hoping there isn’t a knife-wielding maniac in the theater while you do.
Who is th1rt3en?
The band first got on my radar when the “Palindrome” single surfaced in 2019. Pharoahe Monch however had been a familiar lyrical assassin in my rotation since he teamed up with Prince Po to let us know that we have to “Crush, Kill, Destroy…Stress” as part of Organized Konfusion. News soon dropped that th1rt3en was working on a full-length debut which had me curious about the direction they would take.
The name of the band is inspired by the stylization of Megadeth’s 13th album titled “Thirteen”. The band is comprised of Pharoahe Monch on lead-vocals, Daru Jones (drummer for Jack White), and accomplished guitarist Marcus Machado (Anderson .Paak). The pedigree and skills of the trio shine on this dense, detailed, and multi-layered work of art. Despite the complexity of the album, none of the three artists crowd each other out. Allowing for one another to breathe life and direction into the project.
Another Rap/Rock Combo or Something Different?
Hip Hop and Rock combos go back a long way. In the 1980s Run DMC teamed up with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” and the rest was history. Since then we’ve seen some other successful collaborations between the genres such as the Judgment Night soundtrack, Public Enemy and Anthrax, Cypress Hill “Rock Superstar, and maybe even Jay Z and Linkin Park.
However, for every successful Hip Hop and Rock collab, there are dozens of others that seemed forced and fraudulent. I wasn’t concerned this would be the case based on the “Palindrome” single, but this release refuted every aspect of my fears.
Often times, rap and rock combos mean the rapper needs to fit into the construct of overpowering rock music. Essentially drowning out the emcee and any message he’s sending. In the case of “A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism” the most overpowering part is Pharoahe’s fearless and dizzying lyrics.
Pharoahe Monch recently told Spin that “This has been a passion project of mine for over 15 years. Conceptually, I was thinking about it and putting it together from over 10 years ago and during the culmination realized that I would need 2 assassins, two accomplished musicians, that would help authenticate the sound that I desired.”
“A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism”
The album’s cover showing a man being bound at the eyes by the weight of a television set is enough to give me nightmares. Nonetheless, the album content itself is not for anyone looking to do the Diddy dance in shiny green pants. If you want music that comforts like a fleece blanket during New England winter, you might want to check elsewhere.
The macabre theme of the album is reinforced by songs titled Cult 45, 666 (Three Six Word Stories), Fight, Scarecrow, Kill ‘Em All Again, Kill Kill Kill. Despite the dark theme, the album explores some of the most relevant topics in society through amazing introspection about the human condition. Mass shootings, hyper-consumerism, racism, white supremacy, and the alt-right are all targeted in the puzzling wordplay that Pharoahe Monch delivers.
“The darkside of the truth, no apology
Carbon monoxide in the booth, DO NOT FOLLOW ME— Pharoahe Monch on Cult 45
Pharoahe has always been a rapper to go deep into the minds of characters through first-person storytelling. I think back to Mayor on the ‘Soundbombing II’ compilation and how it felt more like a movie than a song. Monch is no stranger to exploration and detail in his lyricism.
On the track The Magician, he delves into the perspective of a would-be mass-shooter. Presenting the background of the antagonist as a victim of bullying, only to eventually fantasize about walking into a theater and making people “disappear”.
Racist is a deep look inside the mind of a sinister racist, that involves a splash of time travel. There’s a lot to unpack on this one, and the amazingly seamless beat changes throughout give the listeners enough to chew on during multiple listening sessions.
As always, Pharoahe Monch schools a master’s class on delivery, technical flow, word-play, similes, metaphors, entendre, puns, and the kitchen. While many might not know his catalog as much as someone like Eminem, I would certainly argue that Pharoahe Monch is easily in the conversation for the greatest technical rapper of all time.
The beauty of his highly developed style though is he always maintains a story or a message. Every rotation allows the listener to slowly peel back the onion on a mosaic of words and ideas, only to be rewarded each time. A ceiling most rappers from the battle-ridden 90s hip hop scene could never quite breakthrough.
The trio does an amazing job ensuring the music maintains a grimey hip hop sound. The mixing of the drums and the calculated heavy guitar usage creates one of the most hard-hitting rap/rock albums of all-time. In fact, I still consider this a pure hip hop album in essence. The album is a balanced mix of hip hop, rock elements, and effects which includes the panning of creepy whispers, backward lyrics, and reverberating distortions to make your skull vibrate. Pharaohe Monch’s vision and decision to wait for the right 2 musical assassins to “bring the noise” could not have been more prescient.
The debut by th1rt3en should be carefully studied for its socially relevant content and insights, but also celebrated for its soundscape, and the artistic accomplishment that it is. “A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism” will leave you in a reframed mindset, and it will be for the better of everyone involved.
Overall Loud Rating:
We recently did a piece on the best of NPR’s Tiny Desk: Raw Hip Hop Edition. Don’t forget to check it out and catch Th1rt3en’s performance which made the list!