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  • Madasa Media

th1rt3en & Pharoahe Monch: A Magnificent Day For an Exorcism

What is it with me and my love of the morbid and deeply disturbing? It apparently extends to my choice of hip hop. Either esoteric and melodic. Or straight-up evil. I mean, the title of the album is a riff on one of the coldest lines from one of my all-time favorite films. But I digress...

This collaborative album of Pharoahe Monch and th1rt3en, A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism is... scary. And I absolutely love it! Very heavy nods to Schoolboy Q's Blank Face LP, particularly in track "Triskaidekaphobia." This cut has the same sinister evil of "Groovy Tone/Eddie Kane." Follows the same story line that speaks of happy murder, the type of song you play when you're in what I call a "groovy mood."

…Exorcism thumps with the same aggressive horrific playfulness. Every single song unfolds a gruesome scene. Right from the album's opening, where we presumably are observing a live exorcism. In the case of "Triskaidekaphobia" (what a clever bit of flexing from th1rt3en himself), we seem to wear the body and mind of the psychopath as he walks into a man's house while his wife is taking a bath (to be fair, they did tell us exactly what was going to happen, so it's not really a surprise. But to hear her voice as our assailant whistles up the stairs is... *shudders")

The next scene gives us the same thunderclap of a guitar riff after the deceptive softness in the opening of Pink Floyd's The Wall. And the nerve... the unmitigated gall of this man to feature a snippet from Quincy Jones' The Wiz (Tin Man talking about the Cowardly Lion staring at them while still ensconced in his statue in front of the New York Public Library). Track "Scarecrow" sets you up for something frightening, creeping up behind you as Nipsey Russell's Tin Man proclaims, "That beast! He's checking us out!" Pharoahe takes his gall a step further by naming himself the scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road. Taking the same tropes of drug slinging, evading 12 and completely turning the cliched imagery on its ear. Yeah, it's blatant, but the metaphor is too luscious, hits too close to home for every Black human who listens to this album.

But it's when the conceit extends to being in this Black body. How it feels to be scrutinized by the white gaze. The absolute evil of the album hits a sinister crescendo with track "Racist." It's subdued enough to creep up your spine, grab it and snap it into pieces. Ghostly, fuzz-warbled production (two notes bolstered by a fuzz pedal and intense banging on a drum). Whispered bars supported by hysterical laughter. Pauses thick with violence, reversed sounds, chimes chopped and looped upon each other. The sound of a record at the end of the vinyl muffled as if someone taped it on a cassette. It's... the oversensory nature of the track and the one that follows, "Oxygen," creates this oppressive atmosphere that pervades the entire album, but for some reason tugs at the ease in your soul like a hand punched through the chest. Unsettling is an understatement.

Listening to albums like this make me feel like I'm in danger in my own home. Makes me want to check the locks on my windows and doors and keep the lights on at night. The fact that the last few tracks are incredibly tender, as if waking up after the demon has been exorcised, makes the entire story th1rt3en and Pharoahe tell here all the more poignant and just damn frightening. Never mind Pharoahe Monch has one of the most immaculately fiendish pens on the planet! The precision of his penmanship, the artistry in the way he crafts his bars. It's a shock to the system when put up against the live band used on the album. Sounds exactly like a threat.

…Exorcism is the type of album one shouldn't listen to before going to bed. The album art alone is enough to conjure up night terrors of the most ravenous sort. It's one hell of a way to wake up, though.

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