On a recent afternoon, I met with Tre "Slimkid3" Hardson, de facto leader of '90s L.A. hip-hop misfits the Pharcyde and Portland transplant, on the back patio of ¿Por Que No? on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, to discuss the 20th anniversary of his group's highly influential debut album, 1992's Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. Here is Hardson's full track-by-track breakdown.
Tre Hardson: Let’s talk about how the songs were aligned. They weren’t aligned in the way a DJ would sequence the record. I took all the songs and I wrote a paragraph. Like a little story. If you read the album credits, it’s like, “Oh shit, it’s jigaboo time...” It was a good song to intro with, too. How funny is that?
“4 Betta or 4 Worse”
We were getting married to the industry, to the entertainment industry, to each other—we were committing to what it is we’re doing, for better or for worse. There are the good times, and there are the bad times, and we’re in it for the long haul. So that’s what “4 Betta for 4 Worse” was all about. However, Fatlip’s verse…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. This was pre-Bizarre Ride, pre-Delicious Vinyl. So we didn’t care. We didn’t give a shit. So 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. It still feels bad to this day. Every time he says that, sometimes we let the crowd say that. Because it kind of hurts. It’s kind of not right.
“I’m That Type of Nigga”
There was us on it and also Bucwheed from Wascals. He’s the one guest on the record. There was Pharcyde and there was Wascals, and we were always, always together. So, hence, a lot of those fucked-up jokes. And we used to have freestyle ciphers all the time. So, “who is in the nigga in charge?” it’s like, get in there and do your thing. It was just fun, y’know. I’m glad we went through what we went through at a young age, because there was nothing holding us back from saying or doing anything. So you get that feeling, you get that sound—just getting up and busting your rhymes, fluffing your peacock feathers.
“Soul Flower (Remix)”
One reason we joined Delicious Vinyl is because the Brand New Heavies were on that label. They offered to put us on the Heavy Rhyme Experience, with all those heavyweights on it, and we were like, "What, us? Yeah, we’ll do this." The beat they had was “Soul Flower,” and it was fun, and we did it and remixed it for Bizarre Ride. So that was cool. It gave it a bonus, another little twist to it. That was actually our first recording, on two-inch reel. “Soul Flower” was a really touching experience for me personally. Of course, we were on "soul flower"—we were smoking weed, writing our rhymes and just sitting around. It was my turn to jump up and record my verse. I’m rapping my verse, and then there’s a moment where I feel I can see myself rapping my verse, because I’m blazed up. I rap my verse, then I hear it back, and I’m like, “Wow, that’s kind of creepy.” What I meant by that is, 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. I don’t know what everybody else was thinking, because they were always high, but I was the one who got high less frequently.
“On the DL”
It was more a rhyme about, "People aren’t saying nothing to you, but I need to let you know this." Confessions—little confessions either about yourself or what other people ain’t telling you. So that’s what my verse was about. We had an emcee who was with us, and we was cool, he’s a hella dope emcee, but he was starting to get a little big-headed. We were like a circle of brothers, so we needed to check him a little bit. My verse on “On the DL” was talking about how, "We love you, but we need to let you know you’re tripping a little."
We just started doing “Officer” in the show. Our 20th anniversary is when “Officer” first got light. We just never performed it. Now it’s fun. There was a time I hated the whole record. I didn’t give a shit. I was like, “Fuck this record, I’m tired of rapping it.” After Lollapalooza and all that, I was like, I’m bored of singing the same shit all the time. And now I love the record again. It’s a love-hate relationship. It’s very popular, and I’m so happy for that, but you can get tired of singing the same shit over and over again.
I like that song now. I like the beat, it’s really quirky and funny, and [I like] listening to those stories, because we lived those stories. We were always riding in [the car] together, and we didn’t wanna get pulled over because we were always smoking some weed. We were young, and Imani and I used to speed on the freeway like nobody’s business. We had this rule where you couldn’t go below 100 miles per hour on the freeway. If you were driving, the passenger had to be the navigator. You couldn’t go where you wanted to go, he had to tell you. And then, if there were all four of us in the same car, we’d switch seats. There’s like four of us, and we’d all switch at the same time, at 100 miles per hour. We were crazy!
We used to play the Dozens all the time—in the worst way. We were super vicious. So Fatlip and Bucwheed from the Wascals were always getting into it. And they’d get really serious about their jokes. There was one time when Bucwheed’s dad was sort of living with us, and I think Bucwheed had said something to Fatlip once, talking about his dad and how he’s no good and he’s a bum or whatever. And Fatlip’s like, “OK, that’s whack. You got me.” One day, we’re out and about, and we come back home and see luggage, we see a bed, we see all kind of shit on the front lawn. And then Fatlip is on the porch, looking at Bucwheed and he’s like, “All right, now we’re kicking your daddy out the house.” It was real serious. He was like, “Fuck your daddy! Take your daddy’s shit and get him the fuck out!” And we were just laughing. Our jokes went overboard.
We would have hours of bagging sessions. We had these things called DAT tapes, and they run 90 minutes to 120 minutes. So 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’d listen to hours and hours of 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”
Did we know it was going to be a hit? It felt amazing just to listen to the loop by itself. At SCU, we had this rehearsal room with just mirrors and stuff like that, and that’s where we’d rehearse and dance and do choreography or whatever. Through a door, to a quick right and another quick right, was a studio. We had the door open and the music blaring, and everyone would be in different places writing, just letting it come to us, really. What we’d do a lot of time was stand out on the street during traffic time and watch the girls go by. Hence, "she keeps passin’ me by." We started writing the lyrics, because everyone had different views of the same situation. Then Fatlip goes into the room, closes the door, and he’s like, [sings] “She keeps on passin’ me by.” After Fatlip put that down, he comes out and we're listening to it, and it sounded so good over that bed of music. Then I went there right after him and put the harmony on it, and it opened it up some more. It’s like, gradually, at a slow pace, this song put itself together. And I’ll say this: We were blessed to be part of that record. For that particular record to come to us, it was so meant to be. This whole record was a beautiful one, but that was a pretty special one. You’d get chill bumps just listening to the loop.
That was another song where I had some tears, and 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 I just started crying again. 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. I still believe it. You’re really putting your soul out there. When you die— and I had these thoughts, too—is your picture gonna erase? No, it doesn’t. Is your vocal gonna fade? No, it doesn’t. It’s there. You’re trapped in time. Along as all this shit exists, it’s a time capsule of when you existed. So all of that was in my mind during “Soul Flower,” but it became clearer during “Passin’ Me By.” It forced all of us to look at what we’re doing in a different way. I think we all felt that way.
That was like, a super-duper heartbreak for a guy who’s 20, 21 years old. To me, it was the worst time of my life. When you’re young, you have these dreams when you have a girlfriend, and it’s a different kind of mindset, a different way of living. And when that’s gone from you, and you’ve invested everything about you into it, to get it stripped away, it’s like, man, I wasn’t even me. There was a huge void there. I didn’t even give a fuck about how to fill that void. Loving myself? What the fuck is that? Who cares? The person who I was with, who was everything to me, was gone. So just to deal with that, just going through that, was super fucked up. I didn’t care about anything anymore. So for me to say, “Otha Fish,” I had to realize that. I had to evolve into understanding there are other people in the world. When you’re in it, you don’t believe that to be true.
“Pack the Pipe”
The night they did “Pack the Pipe,” a lot of stuff you’re hearing in there is freestyled. They were all just freestyling for hours and hours. I wasn’t there that day, so I had to write my experience, and I used it as the first verse because I was the one who, if I got too high, I would get paranoid. Hence, “trapped in the cockpit at 20,000 feet.” I used to think my baseball cap would keep me on the planet earth. If I didn’t have it on, I’d float out of my body. I had some good little trips, y’know. It all depended on what kind of weed I smoked. Chocolate Thai—excellent trips. Backyard Boogie—horrible trips. Chronic—clear trips. Then when I started 'shrooming, that was my drug of choice.
"Return of the B-Boy"
I, personally, didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes you feel like you gotta write a verse to have a verse on the song, and that shouldn’t have been how it was. I don’t think I did my best. I think the rest of the guys did a great job. Everyone did a great job except for me. I just thought it was fucking whack. I was like, what the fuck am I talking about? There was another song called “My Man” that didn’t make the record. It was more of my focus at the time. “Return of the B-Boy,” we were trying to finish that up. We were late turning our record in as a whole, and I had to get to “My Man,” and nobody had their verses, and it didn’t make that album. It was a pretty damn fun song, and if it was on Bizarre Ride it would’ve made that whole record come together, like, "That was a hell of a ride." So “Return of the B-Boy” wasn’t my favorite, because I was too focused on other things. I didn’t feel it as a whole song. But I will dance my ass off to it today.
UPDATE: Now with bonus exclusive video!
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+.