Nas & Pharoahe Monch’s 1st Collabo Unites 2 Hip-Hop Kings From Queens (Audio)

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Nas and Pharoahe Monch each grew up in Queens, New York. While Nasir reps Queensbridge, Pharoahe hails from another section, South Jamaica. Both MCs made impact in 1991. The same year that Monch’s crew, Organized Konfusion, released its self-titled debut, Nas famously appeared on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque.” Both were in circles with Large Professor at the time, who would remix O.K. while also overseeing the production of Illmatic.

Throughout the years, these two MCs have amassed rich reputations for lyricism, storytelling, and inventive concepts. Nas was a rapper rooted in the underground who took his sound to the top of the mainstream. Some years behind him, Monch did the same with “Simon Says” and Internal Affairs (which celebrated its 20th-anniversary last month along with a debut on streaming platforms). While the Organized MC was in attendance for some of Nas’ early 1990s music videos, these men never released a track together.

That all changed today (November 15).

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DJ Shadow, a respected veteran on Nas’ Mass Appeal record label, dropped Our Pathetic Age. Across a double-LP, the Davis, California native shows off his pioneering Instrumental Hip-Hop sound as well as his knack for producing some great MCs—including Killer Mike, Gift Of Gab, and E-40, to name a few. To open the vocal half, “Drone Warfare” marks the first collaboration between Monch and Nas.

Shadow lays out a complex, dynamic drum rhythm, and God’s son wastes no time. “Today’s lessons: / What is the square-mile distance / From me and other MCs with style and persistence?” After repeating the phrase with a new word-flip, he contends, “Know the difference / How I sit in this powerful position / Listenin’ to ni**as claim that they legends / Frontin’ like they Nikola Tesla / Technology changed the game, I’m an investor / But my soul ain’t for grabs / Robocops, they on patrol in the ave.” It’s a dystopian world that Nas paints, fitting for the frantic beat and song title.

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Without missing a beat, Pharoahe Monch enters, explaining why he covers the camera on his laptop and feels Big Brother. “My smartphone’s listenin’ / The climate change conditions when / Just like I’m smokin’  a pack a day, but never nicotine though / Air quality is sickening / For sure, I’ma put it on wax like I’m bickering.” Shadow uses his scratches to make a chorus on the charged-up beat.

Nas returns with a verse of how he survived the streets. He bemoans friends and friends’ children who are behind bars and are becoming surprise-grandparents. Then, he joins Monch in a grim outlook at what’s really going on. “Cameras and rones are watching, they’re stealing our body parts,” he warns. Pharoahe jumps back in, “Check my beautiful matte black Kevlar suit / Suitable for a war with Hazmat / The Nasdaq, and big pharmaceutical / Ex-military military brain, ballistic expert with blood under my cuticles / You already know the issues / The American atrocities, so I do squeeze gats at they drones with shoulder missiles.

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DJ Shadow bends the beat to finish out the track. Our Pathetic Age also involves De La Soul, Run The Jewels, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Pusha-T, Gift Of Gab, Lateef The Truthspeaker, and more.

Earlier this year, Nas released The Lost Tapes 2, including production from Pete Rock and RZA, among others. Pharoahe Monch is at work on a follow-up to 2014’s PTSD. He released new music (“Yayo,” which premiered at Ambrosia For Heads) and “Palindrome,” with band TH1RT3EN.

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#BonusBeat: Today, Pharoahe Monch also appears on Brady Watt’s “Monte Carlo”: