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Pharoahe Monch - & PitchBlak Brass Band

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In February 2016, a quarter century after his debut with the pivotal hip-hop duo Organized Konfusion, Queens emcee Pharoahe Monch took a chance and stepped onstage at New York’s Ecstatic Music Festival with Brooklyn’s uproarious PitchBlak Brass Band. They astounded the audience with a full set of full-band rap. Sousaphones and strings, trombones and trumpets, drums and saxes, background singers and bass all blasted the beats for the best of Monch’s catalogue, including cuts from his 2014 album, PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. From the ’90s party anthem “Simon Says” to the verbally acrobatic exploration of addiction “Broken Again,” the experiment worked.

One of the most inventive emcees in hip-hop’s history, Monch has never been one to sit still, perpetually pushing his rhymes into new musical settings. But the crowd in New York was so jubilant and the performance so strong that he agreed to revisit the PitchBlak project in Durham, reanimating his songs with a big, bold band that spoke his language, even delighted in it. “Too many groups from the classical world that engage with hip-hop do so in a superficial way,” said Ecstatic curator Judd Greenstein. “I wanted to make sure that Pharoahe could work with people who knew hip-hop and enriched the material.” PitchBlak joins rap to one of America’s most exciting new brass bands.Pharoahe Monch & PitchBlak Brass Band are presented as part of Duke Performances’ Hip-Hop Initiative, made possible, in part, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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