Pharoahe Monch On Jean Grae’s “Kill Screen,” Pop Lockin’ Wednesdays, And The Freedom Tower


Editor’s note: In Tweets is Watching, Phillip Mlynar will ask local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

The mighty Pharoahe Monch rolls with nearly 80,000 Twitter followers and yesterday blessed his faithful following with a new single, “Damage.” Penned from the perspective of a bullet, the Queens lifer’s song is something akin to the third installment in a run that has previously taken in “Stray Bullet” and “When The Gun Draws.” It also heads up his soon-coming P.T.S.D. project. After stalking Monch’s timeline, here’s his Twitter talk about misquoting Gwen Stefani, his secret Pop Lockin’ Wednesdays, and his very particular eating habits while watching sports games.

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Pharoahe Monch’s Desire

You dropped “Damage” yesterday and already people are quoting lyrics at you via Twitter. Are you ever surprised at the lyrics they gravitate towards?
All the time. It’s a beautiful thing to have people quote something seriously, but I sometimes like to ask back why they went for that and why that stood out. When you’re making hip-hop, and it’s so lyrically-based, it’s fascinating to know what it is about what you said that appeals to someone.

Do fans ever misquote your lyrics?
Yeah, sometimes. I can understand why that is. It’s funny, ’cause I was tweeting about how I am the king of mishearing songs. Like I thought Gwen Stefani said “I ain’t no Harlem black girl” when she said “I ain’t no hollerback girl.” You have to laugh at it. I never get offended by it.

You also tweeted about Jean Grae’s “Kill Screen” video. What do you think about it?
I’ve watched it twice so far and I’m gong to really get into it this weekend ’cause it’s a lot to digest. It’s dope and I know she wanted to do a project with interjecting and intertwining stories that tie-in together and that song’s the start of it. She’s doing a project inspired by the back stories for the characters in [Monch’s] “Assassins.” I’m a huge comic-book fan, and everybody in that song has a power and those back stories as soon going to be their own thing. It’s dope that “Kill Screen” will kick it off.

There are lots of visual easter eggs in “Kill Screen.” Have you found many yet?
Not yet! But I’ve heard there’s a crazy amount.

Are Pop Lockin’ Wednesdays a real thing? If so, what’s on your Pop Lockin’ Wednesday playlist?
That would be like a lot of James Brown, a lot of Mandrill, [Jimmy Castor Bunch’s] “It’s Just Begun,” a lot of old school b-boy breaks, UFO and stuff like that. I think when I’m really really happy I’m busting an electro-boogie move and letting it all out.

Do you think everyone should start embracing Pop Lockin’ Wednesdays?
I think it’s a great idea! Especially for hip-hop fans – just bust a move in the mirror and it’ll brighten up your day.

You used the hashtag BBQSauce on a tweet to Sean Price and Evidence. What’s that about?
It’s not a food thing. I did a song on Sean Price’s album [Mic Tyson] that is pretty controversial and I think that it will be funny, especially to hardcore Sean Price fans. It’s incredible humor and crackin’–which is a huge part of hip-hop culture, like the snappin’ and jokes. I think the record is brilliant, it’s just that it’s super hard and it’s funny and it’s a little uncomfortable ’cause I put a spin on a verse from Desire where I use the n-word a lot and I use it on this record.

Everyone tweets about food and you mention enjoying “only the finest cuisine for me during game time.” What does that involve?
Wow, that’s gotta be like pizza, and for me it’s peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, something very simple. I like the food to tie-in with the game. I like to eat the food right at kick-off; right at kick-off I like to have the plate ready at the exact time that the ball is first struck. If it’s off, it destroys the whole experience. I’ll have peanut-butter and jelly and I’ll be finishing up the final spread of jelly right as they kick off.

Are you fan a beef stroganoff?
I’ve never had it. I’ve been off red meat for about 15 years now.

Your post quite a few pictures of New York City’s bridges. What attracts you to them?
I love architecture. This is why I love new technology: I have a Canon but you can whip out your iPhone now and catch some beautiful stuff. My whole purpose of getting on Instagram was photography, but now it’s a whole social network. But with bridges, structurally, they’re incredible. In New York you have the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, which are different structures and it’s fascinating how there’s different angles each time you see the same bridge and how it’s a whole different perspective of a massive superstructure.

What’s your favorite New York City bridge?
That’s difficult. I would say that the Brooklyn Bridge is probably the most famous and picturesque, but I have an affection towards the Queensboro Bridge–the 59th Street Bridge, or the Ed Koch Bridge which they call it now–because I have a connection to Queens and Manhattan. I took that bridge every day for a year to go to high school.

You’ve also posted up a series of Instagram pics of the Freedom Tower. How do you feel about that?
It’s not finished yet, but at first I was comparing it to the World Trade Center and I was like, “Eh.” I wasn’t too blown away by it. But now as it stands separate and differentiates itself from all of the other structures around and is starting to come into shape, the symbolism of it promotes a strong kinship of what that building is going to mean to people who were here and who remember what happened.

How did you get that close-up photo of the plane’s wheel?
I was on my way to Toronto to headline a festival and I was like ‘I need to get this photo even though they were screaming at people to put their electronics away.’ [Pauses] You want me to tell how I got the photo?

Ha ha, well, the way the plane is designed the wings are above the fuselage and the landing gear is beneath the wing of the plane, so it makes it look as if I’m actually underneath the plane. But I’m not.

Which other artists do you most enjoy following on Twitter?
There’s a couple of people and for different reasons: [Hip-hop manager] Hex Murda‘s not an artist but he’s entertaining and Sean Price of course is entertaining and Jean Grae is hilarious. Then there’s Evidence; I started following him on Instagram ’cause his photography is just insane. That just made me want to stalk his account.

Do you ever regret anything you tweet and go back and delete it?
All the time! I delete tweets for terrible spelling and over-thinking, like if I’m thinking in my head and I don’t proof-read I’ll write a funny thought down and just hit tweet and I’ll look back at it and I’ve spelled something wrong. Or I’ll say something at the wrong time, and think like, “Oh, maybe it wasn’t quite the right occasion to say that…”