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Following the lead of fellow Queens, New York, rappers, Nas and Mobb Deep, Pharoahe Monch has made a state-of-the-art rap album for '99 -- raw enough for the street and innovative enough for rap scholars. For the uninitated, Monch earned his underground stripes at the dawn of the '90s as a member of the revered (but sales-challenged) Queens duo Organized Konfusion. INTERNAL AFFAIRS, his banging solo debut, leaves his previous efforts in the dust, however, showcasing a solo star with the up-to-date verbal skills necessary to ride into the millennium. On IA, Monch proves to be a study in contrasts. Over beats and loops that are both jazzily soulful and hardcore, the MC spits complex lyrical barrages that are simultaneously thuggish and poetic. He also takes time out for a salacious sexpacket, "The Ass," and a deep seduction jam, "The Light," which comes off like a b-boy-centric Earth, Wind, and Fire cut. Best of all are the ominous foghorn blasts and verbal assaults echoing through the album's first single "Simon Says." (It's all-star remix -- featuring Method Man, Redman, Busta Rhymes, and Shabaam Sahdeeq -- proves even more explosive). On his hometown anthem "Queens," Monch warns, "[Y]ou should never in your wildest dreams/shit on a brother who resides in the borough of Queens"; the infectiously brutal rhymes of INTERNAL AFFAIRS ensure that you'd never want to.