So I was doing a little research into Pharoahe Monch’s “Black Hand Side,” off his outstanding new album W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), since the beat has taken up residence in my brain lately, and because the origins of the title intrigued me. Turns out that Five On the Black Hand Side was a low-budget 1973 film made as a sort of reaction to the blaxsploitation movies of the time: rather than glorify violence and promote stereotypes, it focused on the crumbling structure of one black family unit. Its tagline read “You’ve been coffy-tized, blacula-rized and super-flied — but now you’re gonna be glorified, unified and filled-with-pride.”
The intent of Monch’s “Black Hand Side” is substantially similar, an indictment of modern-day blaxploitation perpetrated by “our revolutionaries [who] want Grammys and Oscars / imposters, fake orators, weak shockers / making a mockery of the music to be pop stars,” in whose contrived career moves Monch sees “the remains of the whips and the chains.”
It’s no accident that Monch titled his album W.A.R. — this track, like the record at large, is a call to action to the black community, sweetened by Phonte’s entreat to “gimme five on the black hand side / gimme five, bruh, gimme five.” Speaking of Phonte, his chorus is golden like just about everything he lends his touch to, beautiful and plaintive like the orchestral arrangements that make up the track’s beat. Styles P contributed a deft first verse, but you can’t help but wish Phonte’d spit one, too.
The video for this track (a great one, a visual treat), directed by Terence Nance, might’ve been an abbreviated Spike Lee joint — except here, throwing the trashcan through the window is not the inevitable outcome.
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