Pharoahe Monch Bio: An Underground King

Pharoahe Monch: the name alone radiates power and confidence—two skills that make up only the surface of what Troy Donald Jamerson is capable of obtaining. Just listen to the haunting, philosophical imagery riddled throughout the conceptual albums he’s created that weave as narratives.

The “underground’ scene held down a name that should be known worldwide, and the bright lights were taken away from him by lawsuits and one sampled song, albeit the one that brought his name to the most mainstream audiences in the first place.

And while some may not know his name, the style he helped popularize has remained to this day. You hear it in every rhyming syllable and poetic vision told from a rapper’s perspective. But if you want true realism, the tracks that show you war, dreams, and trauma in every line, you must start from the best: Pharoahe Monch.

Name: Troy Donald Jamerson
Birth Date: October 31st, 1972
Birth Place: South Jamaica, Queens, New York, United States
Nick Name: Monchhichi, Monch, Pharoahe
Nationality: African-American
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Siblings: None
Children: None
Partner / Spouse: None
Most Successful Songs / Albums: “Simon Says”


“Oh No”

Net Worth: $3 million
Social Media: Instagram: pharoahemonch


Twitter: pharoahemonch

Accomplishments: Simons Says #3 Billboard US Rap


#29 Billboard US R&B

#97 Billboard Hot 100

Last Updated: December 12th, 2022

Quick Summary

Pharoahe Monch
Image Courtesy of YouTube: TheLateShowWithStephenColbert

Troy Donald Jamerson, known as Pharoahe Monch, is a gifted lyrical prodigy that has seen historical success in the rap game. Coming from South Jamaica, Queens, New York, he was first a part of the rap duo Organized Konfusion before going solo.

The MC has inspired many current-day rappers in their lyricist skills with his track record of multisyllabic rhyming patterns. Tonality and deliverance made him stand out when few others were figuring these techniques out. The super vivid and haunting stories he tells are perspectives from every part of existence. From humans to inanimate objects, a story will be told.

The “Simon Says” creator has released three albums with Organized Konfusion and five under the Pharoahe Monch moniker—PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being the best for me.

The Beginnings

The Queens-based rapper grew up known only by his name, Troy Donald Jamerson. Back then, rap was becoming very important to the young kid, but the passion had been there his whole life. This was seen by his engagement with the “rap jams” happening around his area of New York. Fond memories were created by checking out the competition with a drink in hand.

These sessions lit the flame of his desire to create his music; thus, everything fell into place. He’d begin making rough demo tapes in his home, honing his craft and practicing beatboxing. But the struggle was real for the kid, as asthma wanted to hold him back.

With the chronic condition that limited air flow to his lungs, rapping in traditional ways was more challenging. Nonetheless, the determined rapper found a way and developed unique breathing techniques to get more intricate flows. He may only have come up with these with the limitations.

Now, equipped with a hungry drive for success and a flow that worked for him, a long career had begun.

His Career

Pharoahe Monch

It was in the late 80s when he and his friend, Lawrence Baskerville, created the duo Organized Konfusion. Lawrence decided to go as Prince Poetry during this time. And Troy?

He took that childhood nickname his fellow students gave him in school. After a bad haircut, some began calling him “Monch” for his resemblance to the popular “Monchhichi” doll. The “Pharoahe” part of it wouldn’t be added until college when studying Egyptian history.

Organized Konfusion

As an official duo, Monch and Prince Po got to work on making some music under the name Simply II Positive MCs. Jamerson initially started as the beatboxer, while Baskerville focused on the rapping, but once the first signs of Pharoahe’s rhyming skills came out, he got in front of the mic alongside his friend. This Impressed a producer by the name of Paul C.

The young man would help the two produce a demo that would get them signed to Solid Sound Records, a small record company in Queens.

After the signing, two more producers, Neal Kelley and Kevin Osborne, produced the singles “Memories of Love” and “South Side in Effect” in 1987 for the two. And while they tried to get the former single off the ground by getting it on the radio, no success had come. Despite this, Def Jam records were still interested in signing them.

Russell Simmons, entrepreneur and co-founder of the legendary label came into the story through a man named Bobbito Garcia. He had initially turned the duo down, along with Nas, during that time frame, but a chance meeting at a club with Mr. Simmons sparked a second fire in his mind, exchanging numbers and agreeing to check out the demo once more.

There was just one thing they had to do first—change the name.

Russell Simmons thought it was “wack,” so they needed a fresh new title to call themselves. That’s when a homie of Pharoahe Monch suggested the name Organized Konfusion. They settled on the name, and that was all she wrote.

Self-Titled Debut Album

organized konfusion pharoahe monch

In the following years, former producer Paul C would be murdered without natural closure. His duo partner, Prince Po, would be interrogated after going to the victim’s home a few hours after his death. No other connection with Troy came after this as they continued trying to get signed.

A new deal with Hollywood Records would begin at the start of the 90s, bringing their talents to a larger audience with a debut album. Organized Konfusion was the name, and it was produced by just the two of them.

The album did amazingly with critics and reviewers. The popular music site, Allmusic, gave the self-titled album a perfect five-star rating, but all the critically acclaimed didn’t help with the record sales. The music was great, but people weren’t listening.

Stress: The Extinction Agenda

The duo came back in 1994 to release a follow-up album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, another great album that featured unique songs like “Stray Bullet,” where Monch shows his perspective storytelling skills as he takes on the mind of a bullet.

This release did better, having the titular lead single “Stress” hit the Hot Rap Singles chart, but the lack of traction followed in the months to come.

The Equinox & Separation

It was 1997, and the duo was ready to release their third album. Newly signed to Priority Records, The Equinox came out strong on the Billboard charts, becoming their highest charting release. The high concept of the album, though, was met with mixed reviews, putting it at a lower ranking than their first two releases.

With all three of the albums from Organized Konfusion not reaching the levels they knew their talents could reach, Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po decided to call it quits and go their separate ways. Prince Po has spoken about his part in trying to get things moving for them in interviews, and as of now, no signs of a reunion are to be seen.

Pharoahe Monch: Solo Artist

Though the disbandment of Organized Konfusion was a hard one, this ultimately allowed Troy Jamerson to go on his own and make a name for himself. He’d start this journey by signing to an indie label, Rawkus Records.

A few spots on various albums on the label came before his solo debut album, Internal Affairs, released on the 19th of October, 1999. With a more complex, heavier tone than Organized Konfusion’s sound, the album was much anticipated by fans and critics and surpassed everybody’s expectations. The album also spawned Monch’s most well-known song today: “Simon Says.”

Simon Says & its Sampling Troubles

Simon Says (Official Music Video)

People growing up in the 90s may recognize the infamous song and the simplistic beat. The brass instrumental is only changed by a snare and kick to give the track the hip-hop drive. From there, Monch’s “Get the fuck up” line repeats itself throughout the song while the syllable-based rhyming schemes and wordplay fill the verses that had a generation getting up vibing.

If you don’t know the twenty-three-year-old song, you’ll find yourself stepping back into a different era of music, and the sample used will stay in your head with its rhythmic perfection. But speaking of that sample, it’s why nobody has seen the album on store shelves since the turn of the century.

Coming from the kaiju genre film Godzilla vs. Mothra, from 1992, the sample from the movie’s theme song is taken without little other production done to it.

Akira Ifukube produced the song titled Gojira Tai Mosura initially. Pharoahe Monch uses the melody for the hook and adds the drum beat and vocals to create the single. This all went well for the artist initially, as the song peaked at the 97th position on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured in two films: Charlie’s Angels and Boiler Room, both coming from the year 2000.

The track made Monch’s debut solo album a hit, but because the sample was used without permission from Toho, the company that owned the rights to the Akira Ifukube soundtrack, the artist was sued in 2001. Rawkus Records, Monch’s label, was forced to pull all album copies from store shelves.

Regarding this album, Pharoahe Monch’s had other opportunities to get it back on the sales floor. Still, when Rawkus Records partnered with MCA Records and sold its music catalog to Geffen Records, the collaboration didn’t suit Jamerson, so the album remained out of print.

This stayed until the 20th anniversary came along on October 19th of 2019, when the album was made available digitally and on streaming services for the first time. Come the following year; a limited-edition vinyl pressing came along as well.

The Years to Come

Oh, No (Official Music Video)

Troy Jamerson wouldn’t release any complete solo projects after this, sticking to only collaborations and features on other tracks as his reputation in the game had been made strong. This was reinforced by the hit song “Oh No,” in which he collaborated with Mos Def and Nate Dogg to make the 2000 hit.

Continuing these small bursts of music, he made a song for the Training Day Soundtrack to the movie called “Fuck You” in 2001. And to round off the early 2000s, Monch would reach larger audiences when the theme song for the popular Madden NFL 2002 game was performed by himself.

Other collaborations were done these years, with his final single under the Rawkus umbrella, “Agent Orange,” coming out in 2003. This song echoed the imagery from his Organized Konfusion track “Releasing Hypnotical Gases,” released way back in 1991.

This would foreshadow the dark and weighted themes that his later albums would follow, but at this point, the track was all we heard from the rapper as a stand-alone artist since his debut.

The Awakening Mixtape & Desire

Towards 2006, labels wanted to sign deals with Pharoahe as the eight-year-long wait since his debut album dropped was ending. His second album was almost ready, and labels such as Eminem’s Shady Records, Sony Records, and Bad Boy Records were trying to strike a deal.

However, Monch would announce his partnership deal with Steve Rifkind’s Street Records Corporation, where his first and only mixtape would be released. It was titled The Awakening and saw the rapper reentering the game shortly before his second solo album hit sales floors on June 26th, 2007.

Singles from the album were “Let’s Go,” “Body Baby,” and “Push,” while the title track “Desire” was featured on the 2008 edition of the NFL Madden franchise. The record received critical acclaim and reached the 58th spot on the US Billboard 200 and the 13th on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.

The long wait for more Pharoahe Monch music was finally over, but the spacing between projects continued throughout his career.

W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

Fans would have to wait five more years for his third full-length album, but on March 22nd, 2011, it finally dropped.

A “leaking” marketing method led to publicity come the album’s release. The track “Shine” was played first through, and “Clap (One Day)” was also leaked. This tactic proved successful, as this released peaked slightly higher than the last at the 55th spot on the US Billboard 200 and was also met with critical acclaim.

A great list of collaborations is credited with Idris Elba, Immortal Technique, and Royce Da 5’9”. Citizen Cope and many others are all listed under the album.

The themes of this album are symbolized by the title and artwork, the latter of which depicts Monch wearing a gas mask commonly seen in times of war.

The storytelling and imagery within his lyrics were brought to new levels on the record, where songs like “Assassins” get a detailed story of a sci-fi mission taking place as the three rappers pack verses with some insane verbal prowess. Other songs like the title track “W.A.R.” and “The Grand Illusion” bring both the scary reality of war and a melodic melody underneath the somber tones of the latter song.

The released albums would mark three critically acclaimed pieces of art by a man many do not know as a household name. His following and recognition by players in the game worked for him, as many notable rappers and celebrities have praised Monch’s work. Nevertheless, three more years would pass, and his fourth (and my favorite) album of Pharoahe Monch, PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, would come out.

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Album Cover for PTSD

At a time in rap when new names, sounds, and literary techniques have developed into a genre that has taken over the mainstream, Pharoahe Monch kept conceptual ideas and stances with politics and war at the front of his music.

Look no further than his fourth official release, PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, released on April 15th, 2014. The album goes track to track, expressing Monch’s ideologies on war and the toll it takes on its victims and survivors. Tracks like “Time2,” “Losing My Mind,” “Rapid Eye Movement,” and “D.R.E.A.M.” are my favorite examples of Monch’s lyricism and imagery.

Feel the emotion and tone given by the beats and his vocals: the words he’s saying and the image developing in your mind. Then move to a surreal, bright track that brings his wildest dreams to the listener to contemplate.

You can find some of his best work on this album, but as a continuation from W.A.R., following the same aesthetic of his entire discography, you can find these techniques spread throughout. And with that, only one more album has come from Pharoahe Monch: 2021’s A Magnificent Day for An Exorcism.

A Magnificent Day for An Exorcism

And the themes get darker.

With a title and album cover as melancholy as the one for this album, it paints a canvas representing the subject matters found on the tracks. However, you might feel it only some of the time as this would release with his newly found band th1rt3en. A rap-rock group that sees Monch as the vocalist, Marcus Machado as the guitarist, and Daru Jones as the drummer.

This new group brought heavy instrumentals that received mixed reviews from critics. With stabs at Donald Trump, police brutality against black people, and looking through the eyes of a racist, Pharoahe Monch continues to use his music to express his thoughts on the world.

This has been the latest release from Pharoahe Monch, but the man continues to express himself beyond his music in other art projects and passions. Knowing that his legacy will forever tie him to the game of rap, he lives on, continuing to do what he loves.

His Legacy

Some of the greats recognize Monch as one of the greats. His deliverance in vocals and the creative usage of breathing techniques projected him to the level he sees today. When you hear rappers packing in multiple rhymes within each other, using syllables and cadences to tell a narrative that flows with ease and intricacy, those rappers have Pharoahe Monch to thank.

Although his name may not be known as well as others, he deserves the recognition he gets. The profound thoughts and brutal imagery he speaks of highlight the dark, realistic, and sometimes bizarre aspects of war, our country, and humanity.

Net Worth

As of 2022, Pharoahe Monch is estimated to be worth 3 million dollars. An obsession with collecting action figures from Marvel, Star Wars, and more kept the successful man going during the pandemic lockdown. He now spends a great deal of his time (and money) feeding his collecting addiction.

Personal Life

pharoahe monch

Continuing to make, promote, and perform music, the bachelor spends most of his free time admiring his collections and spreading the word about performance arts through his social media. Aside from his music, Monch is credited as an actor in the short drama film, Fanatic, released in 2011.


Troy Jamerson has released music under two names: Organized Konfusion & Pharoahe Monch.

Organized Konfusion

  • Organized Konfusion – released October 29th, 1991
  • Stress: The Extinction Agenda – released August 16th, 1994
  • The Equinox – January 1st, 1997

Pharoahe Monch

  • Internal Affairs – released
  • Desire – released June 26th, 2006
  • A.R. (We Are Renegades) – released March 22nd, 2011
  • PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – released April 15th, 2014
  • A Magnificent Day for An Exorcism – released January 22nd, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Who is Pharoahe Monch?

Answer: Born Troy Jamerson, Pharoahe Monch is a rapper from South Jamaica, Queens, New York. He is best known for his lyrical skills, having developed unique breathing skills through his asthma that has allowed for precise and intricate delivery.
Vivid imagery and politically driven concept albums have propelled his status in the rap game as one of the greats. His most well-known song, “Simon Says,” has been featured in films such as Charlie’s Angel and Boiler Room, released in 2000.

Question: What Song is Sampled by Simon Says?

Answer: The ever-popular song “Simon Says” is famously known for the sample used in the beat. The sample is used throughout the chorus, taken from composer Akira Ifukube’s “Gojira Tai Mosura,” the central theme for the kaiju film Mothra vs. Godzilla.
No significant changes were made in the sample, and a drum beat was added to make the heavy hip-hop vibe. This, however, led the song to be taken off shelves and for Toho (the company that owns the original piece) to sue Monch in 2001.

Question: How did Pharoahe Monch Get His Name?

Answer: In his childhood, Troy Jamerson was given the nickname “Monch” by the girls at his school, taken from the popular monkey doll Monchhichi.
After receiving a bad haircut that made his hair similar to the doll, the nickname shortened to only the first half over time. With Troy’s “easy-going” personality, he adopted the name in stride. The “Pharoahe” would be added later in life when studying Egyptian History in college.

Final Thoughts: A Reflection of Troy Donald Jamerson

Receiving all the prays one could ask for from his peers and fans but never reaching the stratosphere he could have, Pharoahe Monch is an interesting story.

I heard “Simon Says” as a kid and instantly remembered it when I started this article. I’ve been rapping his name with every sing-along to Eminem’s “Rap God,” but many people don’t pick up on the famous line. Monch is an underground legend, and that’s a world on its own.

If you look at him now through social media and stuff, you can see him enjoying his life and collecting his action figure—all with his loyal fan base by his side. It’s beautiful, and he sees it.

His music is his art. His soul, mind, and body are poured into each album, telling the story he wants to tell in his way. That sounds like a pretty good life to me.

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