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Jean Grae/Pharoahe Monch

Jean Grae and Pharoahe Monch

Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Nov. 12, 2010

above: Jean Grae; below: Pharoahe Monch
above: Jean Grae; below: Pharoahe Monch
Photos by Shelley Hiam

Jean Grae/Pharoahe Monch

Waterloo Park, Nov. 7

"If you in the front row and you ain't gonna act like you in the front row, get the fuck out the front row." Rappers are known for giving a lot of instructions, but few get more crowd participation than Jean Grae. Flanked by Brooklyn soulstress Mela Machinko, the NYC MC remains full of swagger but won over the crowd with deft mic skills, a disarming sense of humor, and feminine charm. Finger pistols pointing at the crowd, Grae had all hands in the sky for the "Stick Up Dance." In the hip-hop highlight of the weekend, Pharoahe Monch tried to become something other than the best MC most festival fans had never heard of. The rare MC more skilled than Talib Kweli or a still-hungry Eminem, Pharoahe Monch doesn't ride beats. He slaughters them. A Queens native who idolizes Kool G Rap, the Organized Konfusion vet equated record labels to slave plantations on "Free," fumed about the police shootings of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell on "Clap," and closed with "Simon Says," the closest thing underground hip-hop has to a guaranteed party starter. The furious gospel-tinged soul of Showtime (greatest hype man ever?) blessed half the set's choruses and stoked "Desire."

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