In the early '90s, when gangsta’ rap consumed the airwaves, and the majority of West Coast rappers strapped on their Locs, Chuck Taylor’s & Ben Davis’, The Pharcyde decidedly maintained a wilfully weird vision. Opting to stay true to themselves with their left field but still South-Central sensibility, rap had seen few groups so self-deprecating and so smart, four visionary rappers adroitly able to split the difference between helium-voiced and hard-core.
Listening to “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde” two full decades after its release, its sense of timeliness is unmistakable. Every song on the album inverts a hoary hip-hop cliché. With classics like “Oh Shit,” “Otha Fish”, “Ya’ Mama,” and hit single, “Passing Me By,” it is not surprising that it shipped over a million units, garnered comparisons to De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, and everyone from Pitchfork Media to The Source has hailed it as one of the greatest albums ever made.
Speaking on the passage of time, their second release “LabCabInCalifornia” has revealed exactly how far-reaching The Pharcyde’s vision was. From enlisting a young and then unknown James Yancey a.k.a. J Dilla to produce beats, the classic “Runnin” to collaborating with director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich” “Adaptation”) on the video for “Drop,” it has consistently reinforced their steadfast refusal to tread familiar artistic grounds.
For the majority of the subsequent decade, Bootie Brown and Imani have been busy with Bootie contributing an instant-classic verse on The Gorillaz’s “Dirt Harry,” and Imani also issuing “Sagittarius 72,” a Japan-only collaboration with producer Spaceboyboogiex .
Today, The Pharcyde is still performing and touring the globe. They continue to hone their individual abilities yet carry on the name & legacy in its original fashion. They still seduce their audience with the same boyish charm that founded them at the beginning. Now, it’s combined with the knowledge that has been bestowed upon them as men who have taken on, and rose to the challenge of the rap game. The end result of all this hard work is a band that’s still influencing the hip hop artists and sounds crowding our radio waves today and will continue to for many years to come.