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The Pharcyde

The Pharcyde

Rap group

For the Record

Ride Reached Wide Audience

Cabin Fever

Leaner, Jazzier Sound

Selected discography

Sources

We call ourselves the Pharcyde cause its a name that doesnt set any boundaries, said Tre Slimkid Hardson in Rolling Stone. Tre, one fourth of the eclectic Los Angeles group, added that he and his crew were nuts when it comes to music. We dig the crazy shit.At the same time, the Pharcyde have distanced themselves from the high-spirited silliness of their smash 1992 debut; taking three years to produce a follow-up album, the foursome poured all their frustrations with the music business and life in general into the more mature but sonically ambitious LabCabinCalifornia. Despite a soberer image, however, they distinguished themselves from their stoic G-rap peers, tempering introspection with their familiar daffiness. And though they frequently disagreed about the details, the Pharcyde stayed focused in part because of their powerful esprit de corps. Its definitely good to have four people to share ideas with, member Imani Wilcox told True magazine. You can have four perspectives and four different reality-checks. With solo acts its so much easier to get caught up in so much shit. We are each others reality-check.

For the Record

Members include rappers Tre Slimkid Hard-son (born c. 1970 in Los Angeles, CA); Romye Booty Brown Robinson (born c. 1970 in Altadena, CA); Derrick FatlipStewart (born in Fairfax, CA); and Imani Wilcox (born in Compton, CA).

Hardson, Robinson, and Wilcox worked as dancers and choreographers, performing on TV program In Living Color and at clubs, c. 1980s; group formed c. 1990 in Los Angeles, CA; signed with Delicious Vinyl and appeared on album Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1 by labelmates the Brand New Heavies; released debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, 1992; contributed to soundtrack of film Street Fighter and to compilations Red Hot and Cool and State of Emergency.

Addresses: Record company Delicious Vinyl, 6607 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. Fan Club Pharcyde Fan Club, 1741 North IvarAve., No. 211, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

Tre, Imani, and Romye Booty Brown Robinson began their show business careers as dancers and choreographers, first at club shows and talent contests and later on the Fox networks successful comedy-variety series In Living Color. They met aspiring MC Derrick Fatlip Stewart at the apartment of music teacher Reggie Andrews, who taught the quartet about the record business. Andrewss crib was eventually dubbed the South Central Unit (S.C.U.), a kind of vocational center for hip-hop hopefuls that received funding from A & M Records. ItwasatS.C.U. thattheyalsometproducerJ-Swift, who helped them assemble a demo tape that inspired a bidding war among record labels. The winner was Delicious Vinyl, which released their debut, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. Prior to this album, however, the group attracted a buzz with their contribution to Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1, which paired the U.K. funk-jazz band Brand New Heavies with a panoply of rappers.

Ride Reached Wide Audience

Bizarre Ride appealed to rap and alternative fans alike with its eclectic samples and wide variety of themes. Hilarious skits, stoned observations, clownish antics and bitter ironies, coupled with multilayered production, made for an adventurous listening experience, noted 4080 magazine. If the Pharcyde didnt remind you of people you knew from high school, ventured writer Eric K. Arnold, they reminded you people you wished you went to high school with. The Source deemed Bizarre Ride a stellar album that stood apart from the deluge of glock-blunt-bitch rhetoric that plunged hip-hop into full-fledged meanness. Thanks to singles like Ya Mama and Passin Me By not to mention nearly two years of continuous touringthey were able to break the stranglehold of hard L A. rappers and emergeon the scene like an atomic party favor, as Pulse! correspondent Carter Harris put it. The group writes skits instead of songs, drops references to everything from [singing cartoon rodents] The Chipmunks to [jazz visionary] Thelonious Monk, and spices the mix with lounge-style piano breaks and chants, observed Neil Strauss in Spin.

Even so, the albums sales didnt match the expectations of fans. Everybody was thinkinwe was platinum, Imani recalled to Harris, but we didnt even go gold. Tre told The Source that around the time of Bizarre Ride the group experienced a lot of stress, all kind of shit going down over time. There was a point when I was hating life. Cause I was really trying to figure out where the f our money was. He and his bandmates claimed that they were lied to by record company staff about how many copies of their album had actually been sold. Theyll make promises that are invisible. Same old empty shit. If you say something, your word is your bond. But in the music business your word aint shit. You gotta have that shit on paper.

Cabin Fever

Apart from their disillusionment with the industry, the Pharcyde was experiencing such rapid creative growth that the record that had established their reputation began to look like childs play. Tre expressed to Strauss his wish that they had made the album dirtier, to which Booty Brown replied, Its time to move on. Stewart agreed: Its cool for what it was, he declared, suggesting that their next project would dig a lot deeper.

Perhaps it was this creative digging that inspired the Pharcyde to change their actual digs: they moved from the celebrated Pharcyde Manor, a clubhouse that had been ground zero for raucous house parties and a locus of the cartoonish vibe that defined Bizarre Ride, to a house in the hip Los Feliz/Silverlake section of L. A. They referred to their new home base as the LabCabin. Vibes Juliana Bolden visited the foursome there and detailed each members personalized space; she noted that the interior resembled any suburban home but for its lack of furnishings. Some people need lots of furniture to feel at home, Booty Brown told her, but we really just like having space to dance. Fat Lip noted thatthey planned to build a recording studio there.

Though it would be some time before the album they began there would appear, the Pharcyde did contribute to the soundtrack of the film Street Fighter and participated inthejazz-rap compilation Red Hot and Cool. My Soul, which appeared on an anthology disc called State of Emergency, was re-worked as Devil Music for LabCabinCalifomia) it contains perhaps the most quoted Pharcyde lyric of all, one that reflects the damage that the music industry can do to the spirit: Every time I step to the microphone/1 put my soul on two-inch reels that I dont even own. Such insights color much of LabCabin, which was released late in 1995.

Leaner, Jazzier Sound

Its like were growing, Tre mused to Lorraine Ali of Rolling Stone. We started out doing the dance thing, and then we allowed ourselves more freedom and did Bizarre Ride. Theres something about freedom thats just hard to describe. Thus, despite apprehension among some fans about their newfound seriousness, Tre and his bandmates expressed confidence. You start out with real strict boundaries, then you discover how cool it is not to have boundaries. When you get a little taste of freedom, you never wanna go back. Bootie Brown described the sophomore effort to Harris in Pulse! as cleaner and more straightforward than the debut, something you could dance to or just chill with your girl and listen to all the way through, without having to fast-forward past any annoying shit. Imani, meanwhile, identified pot and psychedelic mushrooms as the source of many of their ideas: A lot of the concepts for the album were put together when we were on shrooms.

Working with a different set of producersand handling much of the production work themselvesthe Pharcyde came up with a leaner, jazzier sound than theyd had on the debut. The first single, Runnin, looped a Brazilian-jazz guitar pattern and sported evocative vocal harmonies in its chorus. The overall critical response to the album acknowledged the groups maturation. Musician lauded the disc as clever, funny, sometimes downright gorgeous. The Source declared that although some might still think of them as the jokers of Bizarre Ride theyve transcended that image. Sia Michael of Spin, however, saw a calculated progression, one designed to reposit themselves as serious artists, and get LabCabin as much play on the streets as their debut did on college radio.

For the Pharcyde, however, LabCabins content had less to do with maneuvering for markets than with describing their emotional and creative state. This time we let you in a little more and give you a little more of our soul, Imani told True. Fat Lip, quoted in a Delicious Vinyl biography, added: Over the last three years, we saw a lot, experienced a lot, and learned a lot. Thats obviously gonna come out in our music.

Selected discography

Soul Flower, The Brand New Heavies, Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1, Delicious Vinyl, 1992.

Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (includes Ya Mama and Passin Me By), Delicious Vinyl, 1992.

LabCabinCalifomia (includes Runnin and Devil Music), Delicious Vinyl, 1995.

Also contributed to soundtrack of film Street Fighter and compilations Red Hot and Cool and State of Emergency.

Sources

4080, no. 27, fall 1995, p..43.

Musician, January 1996, p. 91.

Pulse!, November 1995, p. 34.

RapPages, December 1995.

Rolling Stone, November 30, 1995, p. 38.

The Source, November 1995, p. 42; December 1995, p. 10.

Spin, April 1993, p. 22; December 1995, p. 122.

True, December 1995.

Vibe, March 1994.

Additional information for this profile was taken from Delicious Vinyl publicity materials, 1995.

Simon Glickman

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