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The Pharcyde
The Pharcyde

The Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

The Pharcyde at a glance...

Los Angeles, CA

Formed: 1990

Tre 'Slimkid' Hardson -- vocals, production
Romye 'Booty Brown' Robinson -- vocals, production
Imani Wilcox -- vocals, production
Derrick 'Fatlip' Stewart -- vocals, production
J-Swift -- production

The Family:
De La Soul, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Freestyle Fellowship

A defiantly unconventional hip-hop act straight outta South Central, The Pharcyde were formed circa 1990 by Tre 'Slimkid' Hardson, Romye 'Booty Brown' Robinson, Imani Wilcox and Derrick 'Fatlip' Stewart. Eschewing the gangsta posturing synonymous with many of their West Coast contemporaries, The Pharcyde's playful silliness and inherent sense of hilarity afforded them significant crossover potential, and their cheeky and infectiously funky debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde was received with critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. A stint on Lollapalooza marked the act out as one of hip hop's premier live draws, with their background as dancers and choreographers evident in the bouncy, block-party atmosphere of their stage show. Eclectic and electric in equal doses, it was nevertheless the group's intrinsically organic sound that signalled them out as visionaries. A traditional jazz dynamic blended effortlessly with the contemporary sonics of hip-hop and the sound of four "kids" having the time of their lives. Labcabincalifornia, a more considered follow-up, was a mature-sounding effort that purposefully refused to emulate the joyful exuberance of their debut. Five years and one departure (Fat Lip) later, the Pharcyde returned with Plain Rap, which came in a novelty brown-paper cover but whose title turned out to be fairly unironic.

The Pharcyde

The Pharcyde
Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
Delicious Vinyl, Released 1992
The Pharcyde
In 1992 four guys from L.A. forgot convention, remembered jazz and made the most fun album ever.

Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde reaffirms every positive stereotype you've ever heard about hip hop while simultaneously exploding every negative myth with under a barrage of head-twisting rhymes, jazz breaks and straight-up funk. The samples nod (wink?) at the past, the urgency of the rhymes keep things rooted in the present and the vibrancy of the overall vision keeps Bizarre Ride … reaching for the future. Make no mistake, this is one of the most important records in the history of hip hop. It is the sound of black music's past erupting in a riot of colour and excitement and possibility. It'll make you dance, it'll make you smile, and it'll make you wanna do it all over again.

The vocals are a strange half-singing, half-rapping hybrid and somehow slip snugly into their lush musical surroundings. They work precisely because they shouldn't - capturing the spirit of the album's unbridled eccentricity. You get the distinct impression that The Pharcyde didn't really know what they were doing -- that they were just four guys with a huge record collection and talent (and weed) to burn. The inferior, more polished sound of their later work is proof that inexperience is a virtue, and it's the raw energy on Bizzare Ride … that will make you realise why you fell in love with music. It's pure rock'n'roll ... irrational yet vital.

But then, once they have firmly established themselves as the purveyors of all that is loud and brash and irresponsible, they drop a more subtle a bomb in the form of "Passing Me By." The definitive hip-hop ballad, its poignant, innocent and heartfelt lyrics drown softly in Quincy Jones' "Summer in The City." The next time some university-educated indie-rocker claims that sampling has no artistic validity play them this as a reminder that intelligence is not the preserve of the academic, and that the beauty of great art comes from irreverence and invention. Soul music is the home of all that is true, and on this evidence the Pharcyde are truer than most.

If you like The Pharcyde, check out:
Fred & the New J.B.'s Breaking Bread
The Meters Struttin'
The Brand New Heavies Brand New Heavies
The Beastie Boys Check Your Head
De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising
A Tribe Called Quest People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Ugly Duckling Journey to Anywhere The Pharcyde

-- Charith Sarathchandra

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The Pharcyde