Pharoahe Monch & PitchBlak Brass Band | Duke Campus: Reynolds Industries Theater | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
This is a past event.

Pharoahe Monch & PitchBlak Brass Band 

When: Thu., Nov. 2, 8 p.m. 2017
Price: $10-$38

As rap music rolls into the dawn of another decade, the art form's sound and style moves, too, putting icons of a certain age in the position to adapt in order to preserve their relevance in hip-hop culture. Following the lead of trailblazers like Nas and Jay-Z, who have successfully collaborated with symphonies and universities, artists from the nineties have been able to preserve their work by breaking into the world of high art and the institutions that support it.

Pharoahe Monch is the latest to follow suit, collaborating with PitchBlak Brass Band, a live-instrumentation hip-hop band from Brooklyn with whom he's been performing for the past year. Monch is a staple for golden era hip-hop enthusiasts. He rose from New York's underground hip-hop scene in the late nineties alongside Mos Def and Talib Kweli, bringing lyrics that focused on Afrocentric consciousness and crowd-moving energy. His debut single, "Simon Says," was a fun hip-hop classic that launched him into the living rooms of middle America at a time when fun in hip-hop wasn't a popular theme. His abilities as a rapper haven't diminished through the years: PTSD, from 2014, was a seventeen-track lyrical onslaught, featuring production that stayed loyal to boom-bap aesthetics.

That allegiance to boom-bap, though there is a market for it, is an Achilles heel for rappers from his generation. Younger audiences acknowledge its importance to hip-hop culture, but they don't connect to it well because of how the influence of trap music has cemented itself into modern hip-hop's DNA. However, after the success of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, younger audiences have gravitated toward funk fusion bands like PitchBlak Brass, which have been able to breathe new life into older hip-hop via live instrumentation, while attracting purveyors of the fine arts like Duke University.

The union of old school hip-hop and funk fusion bands is common sense—the foundation of hip-hop production is based on sampling funk, and live bands can play those samples with ease, which brings new dimensions to what a d.j. can achieve alone. The occasion at Duke does, unfortunately, mark PitchBlak Brass Band's last show ever. But with Monch at the helm, it should make for one hell of a retirement party.—Charles Morse

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