It’s not every day that one gets two opportunities to see one of their favourite artists perform live. When Pharoahe Monch performed in Cape Town during the city’s International Jazz Festival in 2012, I was cornered by exams and couldn’t attend. So when it was announced that he would be performing at Zula Bar on the 6th of August, I thought: “There’s just no way am I missing this!”
To get the night started, DJ Eazy was dishing out some golden era classics on the decks prepping our minds and ears for Pharoahe Monch.
The curtain was raised by Cape Town band, The City. Thanks to Pharoahe being a rapper’s rapper, the band’s efforts fell on uninterested ears. A crowd that consisted mostly of backpackers and die-hard hip-hop heads was just ready for bars and nothing else. Nonetheless the band which went on to back Brooklyn-born Cape Town-based emcee Whosane alongside Cape Town’s DJ OnQ, did a great job.
Whosane took us through his Brooklyn to Cape Town project with a stage presence that made him difficult to ignore. He roared eloquent rhymes, demanding attention from the near-full Zula. Towards the end of his set, a legion of Cape Audio College students were pacing up and down the stage disconnecting The City’s musical contraptions, and vexing everyone in the process. Brevity would have done Whosane’s set some justice .Overall, he gave a solid performance.
One would expect the sound which took close to 30 minutes to prepare before Pharoahe went on, to be crisp. But no, the legion of sound students was, we later learnt, busy fucking it up. The sound was horrible when Pharoahe finally took to the stage to infect the whole venue with an existential euphoria. I’m sure this is how the Holy Ghost makes Christians feel. I didn’t give a flying fuck who saw me making an ass out of myself by rapping (and sometimes mumbling) along to one of the best lyricists’ rhymes. And judging from the nudging I experienced from those around me, not many seemed to care either.
The few hip-hop legends I’ve had the luck to witness usually shine on their classics. Mos Def, who performed in the same venue on the 1st of January this year only managed to impress when he walked us down memory lane. Talib Kweli, two years ago at a venue called Trinity, was the same. Pharoahe Monch, backed by DJ Revolution and a dreadlocked hypeman, however, crossed that barricade of convention with utter ease. He actually impressed more with his recent material. And the fact that he would jump from old to new material and vice versa was a clever move. He went through all his key songs from Internal Affairs, Desire, W.A.R, and PTSD. Hey, he even did the hook he lent to Styles P’s “My Life”.
His energy, zeal, and stage presence were captivating. But the catchment of all that energy was when he performed the hard-hitting “Simon Says” to conclude his set. Everyone caught the Holy Ghost. The fervour in the venue was surreal! The crowd yelled for him to return to the stage. He obeyed and did the Talib Kweli-assisted “D.R.E.A.M.S” off his latest offering PTSD.
The fact that the sound was awful but he still delivered and left everyone pleased leaves me with this question: “Who put these pussies on top?”
Written By: Sabelo Mkhabela
Images By: Andiswa Mkosi