Pharoahe Monch

After logging eight and a half years in one of the most admired rap outfits of the '90s, archetypal underground artist Pharoahe Monch is making mainstream waves with his monster club and rap chart hit "Simon Says" and his first solo LP, "Internal Affairs."

With his partner Prince Poetry, the South Jamaica, Queens native put out three albums as Organized Konfusion. Monch and Po amicably dissolved some time following the release of the 1997 concept LP "The Equinox," which found the duo taking on the personas of two diametrically opposed brothers, Life and Malice. Unanimous acclaim from critics and peers couldn't dispel the MCs' label frustration; Priority gave Organized Konfusion a release from their deal and freed up Monch to pursue other projects.

Monch hooked up with Rawkus Records and made appearances on diverse releases from labels large and small (such as the "Mumia 911" single with the likes of Chuck D, Black Thought, and Zack De La Rocha); his solo profile shot up with his tracks "I Shot The Mayor" and "World War III" off Rawkus' "Soundbombing II." That high-profile underground LP (which also featured labelmates Mos Def and Taleb Kweli of Black Star, Common, Cocoa Brovaz, and Eminem, among others) and his appearance on "Lyricist's Lounge Vol. 1" helped set the stage for the recording of "Internal Affairs." The album debuted at six on the "Billboard" R&B album chart and at 41 on the "Billboard" Top 200 album chart. Not a bad showing for the underground.

"I think that, if this album does well, it will definitely make a precedent for underground hip-hop in the marketplace," Monch said of his solo debut. MTV News' own Elon Johnson talked to the MC at the Cheetah nightclub in New York City about underground hip-hop, his Rawkus Records labelmates, and the process of putting his deeply personal "Internal Affairs" on wax.