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PHAROAHE MONCH Internal Affairs

The key line of Pharoahe Monch's stunning solo debut, Internal Affairs, isn't some masterly string of words filled with rhymes like "New York City gritty committee pity the fool that/Act sh*tty in the midst of the calm, the witty" (from "Simon Says").

The key line is this: "You sold platinum round the world/ I sold wood in the hood/ But when I'm in the street and sh*t/It's all good." 'Wood' is industry slang for selling next to nothing; no one brags about going wood, but you'd be smiling if your pockets were overflowing with Pharoahe Monch's respect:

This Queens-bred word-sound scientist, late of the duo Organized Konfusion, is widely considered one of the best, if not the very best, MC working today.

Get your rewind button ready for Internal Affairs, which will make you bounce hard to Monch's high-energy, sinister-sounding war-gong beats, or make you sit quietly, trying to digest his rapid-rre flow as it sails through philosophical narratives, crazy metaphors, sex stories and some of the best rhymes you've ever heard.

He has got some guests (Busta Rhymes, Common, others), but you don't watch a Marlon Brando film to see the other actors. And just as you kind of lose the right to complain about government if you don't vote, you can't ever again complain about the state of hip-hop MC'ing if you ain't heard the sublime Pharoahe Monch.