“I swear I’m done with women, swear it’s time to focus.” These are the first lyrics you hear when you press play on the new LP from rising Twin CIties Hip-Hop star, Pharaoh. Following up his fall EP, “Mufasa Is Dead”, it’s still F.B.G.M as the progressive rap vocalist picks up where he left off.
“I Love The Feel” is a hard-hitting banger the reiterates that Pharaoh is ready to go for the gusto for his goals and dreams, and all his desires of hedonistic vanity and vices are going to have to take a backseat. But throughout the song, you can hear the duality in his voice. Sometimes those things are just too hard to let go. The opening track’s commercial appeal is on par with the contemporary sounds of mainstream urban music, as vocals soaked in effects evoke the emotions of a committed artist experiencing life in real-time; the age-old story of the classic identify crisis.
“Shot Of Whatever” finds Pharaoh over a mid-tempo club burner, proclaiming his affinity for liquid courage, as the chaser for his braggadocio-worthy lifestyle. He’s in a zone, led by his drunkenness, that allows his ego to be fully exposed. It’s as brash and honest as it is vulnerable.
“J. Lo” slows things down a bit, as Pharaoh croons over a dramatic, slow-burner, about his lady of affection, with the “J. Lo hips”. It’s the late night, emotional and alcohol-evoking tune that’s perfect for 2am, riding home from the club, understanding at that point, the party is really about to begin. The melody-driven tune defines a story of finding someone special while submerged in one’s vices.
“Cash Out” is a full-on attack of aggressiveness, as Pharaoh lets loose with all his feelings about his city, his scene and everything that’s just been pinned up inside. His connection with his personal story and his consciousness of his juxtaposed and ever-evolving identify really shines in lines like “Back in the day, I would praise dance…”
The following track, acting as a halfway point in the album, takes a smooth turn. “The Dream Sequence (Prelude)” finds Pharaoh easing in over a melodic, atmospheric bop with autotuned crooning. It’s main melody line is instantly addicting, making this “interlude” the stand out song on the tracklisting thus far. It’s a proclamation of self-discovery. Pharaoh has unearthed the understanding that he is special, and that sends him for a spiral of falling, that leads into the following song.
““Avocado/Morning Fast”” seems to segue into another realm of the album stylistically. Similar the approach taken in double or two-part albums, the second half of Pharaoh’s latest effort delves into a more sing-song, R&B driven scope. The emotionally-driven masterpiece touches on intimate feelings of affection, mental health and cognitive dissonance. It’s the epitome of “heart on my sleeve” music; a very relatable avenue of content for late Millennials and Generation Z’s alike.
“Escalate” contains the albums sole featured artist. Kyle Skye joins Pharaoh as the two trade between confident flows and sung lyrics about not needing cosigns from their hometown, artistic independence and following one’s artistic energy. What’s very prevalent is that Pharaoh and Kyle share similar sonic aesthetics and artistic common ground; being on the outside of being plugged into their scene’s politics, while still being on the cusp of musical greatness in their own right.
“God Sometimes I Need Help” is the common stream of consciousness coming from most up and coming artists, trying to make things move and shake for themselves with little help from the implemented systems. You ever chased your dreams, but sacrificed them for the security of a regular job and life? Pharaoh delves into a self-testament of needing spiritual guidance when dealing with all the factors that comes with being an artist and creative. This also serves as the catalyst for the remaining focus of the album; mental health.
“CBD” is Pharaoh’s oil to his usage of Cannabidiol. He delves into his experiences with the substance, stark self-reflection, escapism and dealing with anxiety. While Pharoah feels that substance is not quite a drug, he definitely finds it to be a successful coping mechanism
“No More Teardrops” boasts in with a party-ready, 4-on-the-floor, mid-tempo beat. Trading between singing and rhythmic rap chants, Pharaoh creates a melochancy club banger,, equal parts pain and pleasure. It’s these kind of juxtaposed tunes that really show off the genius in Pharaoh’s approach to songwriting – meaning able to tap into mainstream sentiments while still giving a conscious, personal overview of his life experiences and what’s happening to him in real-time. It’s a proclamation to the fact that those good days do come, even during the toughest times in our lives, and we should celebrate them.
The 11-track album concludes with “Flowers”. The first verse is an ode to his mother’s strength during his upbringing. The second verse has Pharoah dedicating it to his father, touching on society’s ousting of people who identify with the LGBTQIA community, and how that affected his understanding and perception of the world we live in. It’s the most honest, straightforward and personal song on the project.
The album is a solid and cohesive representation of Pharaoh as an artist. His ear for appealing, eclectic production matched with his penchant for crafting commercially viable club and radio bangers, while lacing his personal stories throughout is a rare talent that only certain artists can attempt and actually succeed at. “The Headliner, Vol. 1” is available on all major streaming services.