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November 21st, 2012 MATTHEW SINGER | Music Stories
 

A Long, Bizarre Ride

The Pharcyde’s classic debut turns 20.

music_thepharcyde_3903The Pharcyde - Image courtesy of Delicious Vinyl
In 1992, four L.A. misfits snuck in through the backdoor of hip-hop history. As the media’s attention focused on rap’s cop killers and mean-mugging gangsters, the Pharcyde—Imani, Bootie Brown, Fatlip and Slimkid3—released Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, an album concerned with little more than being young and acting the damn fool. Boasting a jazzy, East Coast production aesthetic but eschewing New York bohemianism in favor of absurd humor, the record exerted such an influence on ’90s West Coast indie rap that, by the time of its starkly more mature follow-up, 1995’s Labcabincalifornia, even the group was sick of it.

“Along the road, people were like, ‘We want another Bizarre Ride.’ Well, go fucking make it yourself,” says Pharcyde’s de facto leader, Tre “Slimkid3” Hardson. “During that time, in our headspace, we were trying to do a lot of things. Why would we want to make the same footprint?”

As he’s grown older, Hardson, 42, has come to view the record in the same light as many of its admirers: as a snapshot of unrestrained youth. Although the original foursome hasn’t put out new material together in almost two decades, Hardson and Fatlip have reunited to celebrate Bizarre Ride’s 20th anniversary, performing the album live in its entirety. On a recent afternoon, I met with Hardson, who moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, on the back patio of ¿Por Que No? on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, to break the record down track-by-track. We’ve got the full interview here, but here are four highlights.

“4 Better or 4 Worse”

A song about the group’s ambivalent entry into the music industry—until Fatlip’s demented final verse.

Tre Hardson: That was part of who we kind of were. We would joke a lot. Not just regular jokes, but really fucked-up jokes. Fatlip, he was so funny, because he did that verse when we were back at [after-school music program South Central Unit]. So this was during the time when we didn’t give a shit if a label picked us up or not. When he was doing that, we were just laughing: “Ah! Why you’d say that? ‘Fist up the pussy’? Who says that?” I ain’t saying shit like that as long as my mama’s alive. 


“Soul Flower (Remix)”

Many fans first heard the Pharcyde as guests on the Brand New Heavies’ original, which producer J-Swift commemorated with a celebratory reworking.

“Soul Flower” was a really touching experience for me personally. Of course, we were on “soul flower”—we were smoking weed, writing our rhymes. It was my turn to jump up and record my verse. I’m in the booth and there’s a moment where I feel I can see myself rapping my verse, because I’m blazed up. I had the feeling that my voice, my spirit, is going to be trapped in time forever, on this record. And that just kind of fucked me up, and I started crying. 


“Ya Mama”

Four minutes of the group savaging each other’s mothers. Of course, it’s one of the album’s highlights.

We used to play the Dozens all the time. We’d put on a DAT tape, and everyone is in the room with a microphone, just bagging on each other. This is what we did every day, all day, anyway, so we just added a mic. From the DAT, we listened to hours and hours of us kicking the Dozens and just cut little pieces. We had some pretty foul stuff, but it wasn’t on that record. Maybe they’ll put out The “Ya Mama” Bagging Sessions. 


“Passin’ Me By”

The Pharcyde’s greatest, most everlasting moment—no ’90s hip-hop mix is complete without it.

Did we know it was going to be a hit? It felt amazing just to listen to the loop by itself. That was another song where I had some tears. It was during the editing of the “Passin’ Me By” video. I had the same moment: “Our images are trapped in this thing forever.” And it made me think, whatever you do, you really can’t lie. You really have to represent well and say the right things, because you’re putting a message out there to the world. It’s a time capsule of when you existed. It forced all of us to look at what we’re doing in a different way. I think we all felt that way.  


SEE IT: Slimkid3 and Fatlip perform Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde at Barracks, 1235 SW 16th Ave., with Latyrx, Speaker Minds and Mosley Wotta, on Wednesday, Nov. 21. 9 pm. $18. 21 .

 
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