11:25pm, Scoot Inn
"I'm very old," Pharoahe Monch admits, laughing. "I'm ancient."
It's not something you hear very often in hip-hop, but having put out his first album with Organized Konfusion 19 years ago, Monch, 37, is very much an elder statesman.
"I think it's wonderful," the Queens native says of his durability. "It's what I envisioned from the beginning, because getting into music, being influenced by Stevie Wonder [and] Marvin Gaye, and then later moving on to Zeppelin and Sabbath, these people were putting years on their careers. What I noticed from those groups, even in instrumentals with John Coltrane, was honesty. Creating music that reflected what it was in their heart and mind. That's what resonates with people through generations."
Whether he's able to achieve that level of longevity remains to be seen, but after three Organized Konfusion albums and two solo projects, Monch certainly has the résumé and the skills to go the extra yard.
"There are certain artists that, when you look at their upbringing or their careers, were never taught the word 'can't' or the word 'no,'" Monch posits. "You never see any boundaries in the music. That's what defines an artist for me, someone who's trying to break new ground and push the envelope but still make music that's digestible."
Monch will break ground again this spring with W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), his first album without the help of a label. He calls it his most cohesive project to date.
"I used to say that it's a throwback to golden-era production," he says of W.A.R. "But it's actually not. It's something new that's reminiscent of something old. The approach is different. The equipment is different. I made that reference because [W.A.R.] makes me feel good and the music back then made me feel good, but this is something new."