September 1, 2009

The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (November 24, 1992)


What better way to start off another month of writing than to bring out an album that lots of my two readers have been asking about since the dawn of HHID? The problem is that this particular album has been requested so many times that it won't really matter what I write, some of you will hate the write-up anyway. So, I urge you to actually read through the thing prior to trashing me in the comments section.

The Pharcyde is a California-based crew comprised of four rappers: Imani, Slimkid3, Bootie Brown, and Fatlip. Together, this merry band encompassed the very definition of "alternative rap": they were, essentially, the equivalent of having Judd Apatow's gang let loose in a recording studio with an endless supply of weed, beer, and pizza. For being an act based out of Los Angeles, they were as far removed from hardcore as you could get: they filled their verses with jokes, goofy storytelling, some very telling confessions, and, occasionally, some very serious social commentary, all tied up in a nice little package with a red bow to match.

Delicious Vinyl (easily one of the best record label names in history) released their debut disc, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, in 1992. Critics and hip hop fans were stunned by the crafty blend of jazz, funk, R&B, soul, and hip hop, brought to you by their producer J-Swift (who handled all but one track on their debut), but nobody was as surprised as The Pharcyde themselves: they actually managed to move more than half a million units of their album onto the masses. Not bad for a quartet who felt it necessary to include an entire song made up of "yo' mama" snaps on their debut album.

My introduction to The Pharcyde came in a more roundabout way. I was barely cognizant of this album, only aware that Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde existed after reading The Source's four-mic review for their follow-up, Labcabincalifornia, and watching the videos of the first two singles on Rap City ("Runnin'" and the motherfucking brilliant Spike Jonze-directed "Drop"). After the R&B singer Joe released his remix to "Stutter", which jacked "Passin' Me By" from their debut, I decided to track down some earlier Pharcyde work, ending up with their greatest hits compilation Cydeways. Eventually I gave in to temptation and bought Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde outright, but was it worth the trouble?

I know, you're asking yourself, "What trouble?"

1. 4 BETTER OR 4 WORSE (INTERLUDE)
Pleasant enough, I suppose.

2. OH SHIT
With a title like that, it would be surprising if this song weren't playful and engaging. That said, this isn't the greatest song in the world or anything. In fact, it gets old pretty quickly. Fatlip's final verse helps to almost redeem the track, though.

3. IT'S JIGGABOO TIME (SKIT)
Probably not a word that you'll want to share with anyone, as it can be considered a racial epithet, but I'm leaving the word uncensored simply because adding dashes would leave an air of mystery as to what the fuck the word is supposed to be, and since this brief interlude is useless anyway, I don't want to draw any more attention to this track than I have to.

4. 4 BETTER OR 4 WORSE
Kind of dull, until Fatlip's incredibly disturbing third verse. That shit was like Rob Zombie's re-imagining of "4 Better Or 4 Worse". It woke me the fuck up. Sadly, that's the only thing I can remember about this song.

5. I'M THAT TYPE OF N---A (FEAT BUCKWHEAT)
All four members of the crew (alongside Buckwheat from The Wascals, labelmates and kindred spirits) check in to spit some random shit over a thumping J-Swift beat and some nicely sampled horns. This actually knocks. Now we're getting somewhere. This also, oddly, reminds me a lot of the Gravediggaz track “Freak The Sorceress”, although I'll readily admit that this is the much better song of the two.

6. IF I WERE PRESIDENT (SKIT)
This brief interlude (featuring actual lyrics, mind you, just like the skit above whose title I'm not repeating) works a lot better than most. It seems to end abruptly, although that might just be my copy.

7. SOUL FLOWER (REMIX)
A really goofy song with a pretty dope beat. The only slightly altered interpolation of lyrics from a song taken from a very special episode of The Jetsons ("Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)") should be your first clue. (Or am I the only guy who caught that shit? Clever, guys.) But this is still awfully entertaining, even if it isn't about anything. (The original version of the song, for collectors like myself, is found on Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1, a project by the Brand New Heavies that featured a ton of collaborations with rappers.)

8. ON THE DL (FEAT BUCKWHEAT)
Not many rappers talk about masturbation, so that was kind of interesting. I wish the music were more engaging, though.

9. PACK THE PIPE (INTERLUDE)


10. OFFICER
This starts off as a Public Enemy goof, as performed by your high school's class clowns (which, I realize, was the point), but the crew quickly make it their own track. I love how Slimkid3 is concerned as to what will happen to his record deal if he gets arrested. (I would assume that street cred is all the label would need to promote a rapper.) Points off for the redundant “black n----s” comment, but otherwise, this was still pretty good.

11. YA MAMA
Framing an entire song around “yo' mama” snaps dates this track tremendously, but this is actually pretty fucking funny, so I'll let it slide. Younger listeners can use this track as a reference tool when writing their thesis regarding the history of the “snap”.

12. PASSING ME BY
A great, and sad, love song. Unfortunately for me, I didn't really discover this song until after Joe sampled it for his “Stutter (Remix)”, which “liberally borrowed” many aspects of the beat and vocals and then failed to credit The Pharcyde. I still have no idea how that was even possible, but I still like both Joe's song and this original effort. The burp at the end almost kills the mood, though.

13. OTHA FISH
Slim's solo track is a pretty effective take on the mindset of a man at the beginning, middle, and the end of a relationship. (It's also intended as a companion piece to “Passing Me By”.) L.A. Jay's production (working alongside Slimkid3 himself) sets the tone, but it stays out of the way for the most part, save for the hinted-at melody in the background. This could have ended about forty-five seconds before it actually did, but that's my only real complaint. My understanding is that this track was added to Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde right at the end of the recording process, after J-Swift was fired and the crew realized they needed one more song.

14. QUINTON'S ON THE WAY (SKIT)
A glorified skit. The Pharcyde may have had some fun recording this, but the average listener may find themselves feeling left out after the first listen.

15. PACK THE PIPE (FEAT QUINTON)
A blunted nightmare of a track. The second verse is performed in two different styles at the exact same time, which is disorienting and more than a bit creepy. And yet, I dug this weed song. Some of it is fucking hilarious. The closest comparison I can make is to the Gravediggaz track “Defective Trip (Trippin')”, and I love that song, so there.

16. RETURN OF THE B-BOY
An homage to hip hop in general, and it's entertaining in its own right. The Pharcyde's excitement is contagious, and everyone performs in their assigned styles admirably, especially Imani's verse. A very nice way to end your debut.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde isn't nearly as insane as the title may lead you to believe: although it begins by veering into awful song territory, it quickly picks up steam, and holds its breath for the rest of the disc. The songs presented on here have more twisted perspectives than you would expect from the West Coast, but they sound great, for the most part. Fatlip, Slimkid3, Imani, and Bootie Brown all complement each other well, making Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde one of the Left Coast's standout debut albums. A lot of these songs hold up well today, too, which is a plus. Overall, this is a must hear for fans of the genre, but fans of the bullshit that passes for rap music today will probably be nonplussed. Which sucks for them.

BUY OR BURN? You should buy this shit as soon as possible. I'm amazed at how well it's held up over the years. This is deserving of your ears and the last few bucks in your wallet.

BEST TRACKS: “Passing Me By”; “I'm That Type Of N---a”; "Pack The Pipe"; “Ya Mama”; “Soul Flower (Remix)”; “Officer”; “Otha Fish”; “Return Of The B-Boy”

-Max

16 comments:

  1. Hey Max will you be alright if i wrote a review for Ludacris's Chicken and beer for your blog?

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  2. I think this is the closest I've ever come to agreeing with you completely on an album...my only thought is that Oh Shit is actually one of the better songs of the album...almost like some West Coast Beastie Boys shit

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  3. I cant replay this anymore. Labcalifonia is much better but this was fun as fuck first time round

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  4. Good Review, Good Album.

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  5. as a dude that names this album my favorite hip-hop album ever [reference: http://tanknat007.blogspot.com/2009/04/i-start-screaming-to-these-kids.html], i have to agree with the majority of this interview. i do agree that "4 better or 4 worse" is a largely unmemorable track, but the beat to "on the dl" is actually one of my favorites on the album overall, and i believe "quinton's on the way (skit)" is one of the better skits on any album, any genre. labcabincalifornia is probably the better, more cohesive album, but having a monster track the likes of "passing me by" on your album grants it high status.

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  6. Classic album blah blah balh, review Cuban Linx 2 already

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  7. Hey Max.

    Your reviews continue to be read, and appreciated. Somehow you touch on all the albums that were the soundtrack to my adolescence one way or another; that Piecemaker review was the *shit*.

    To stay ontopic: isn't that cover art fucking FLY? Too many rap album covers are just a lame picture of the rapper(s) in question posing like they hard, adjoined by their name + the album title. DUH!

    Will send reader review shortly. Keep rocking!

    Alec J

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  8. oz you wrong , this shits on the second album

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  9. you are aware that Passin' Me By was basically a sample of Quincy Jones - Summer In The City? If anyone Joe should've given credit to Quincy, not the Pharcyde

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  10. one of my favorite albums ever

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  11. lacabincalifornia is extremely better

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  12. been meaning to listen to this for a while, did it along to your review. I know everyone already knows this but damn passing me by is a dope beat

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  13. Now I been bumpin this cd all through high sko ata time wen everybody else is listenin to T.I. , Rick Ross , shawty lo and Wayne etc. And mind u Iam tha same age as my peers and I grabbed insight of this album my freshman year some body please tell me where the yunger generation got left at for them to be reppin this horrible shit they call hip hop nowadays
    also keep in mind Iam 18 so this shit came out wen I was still in pamers

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  14. Its funny how you didn't like the roots's organix yet recommended this one... it's the closest it gets when it comes to alternative jazzy (debut) albums.

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  15. just got this shit off ebay (am from uk so gettin proper music is nerli impossible) this shit is sooo funnyyy hahahhaa glad i bought it am only 15 n that so i gotta look over alot blogs to make sure i dont miss no classic albums THANKS MAX :)

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  16. yall r like to young to understand the PHARCYDE
    so just keep on buying Drake and the new WuTang album.
    this is Grown folks music u have no knowledge of Hip hop music this album is way before your Time,
    its really over your head the jazzy samples r to advance 4 u to break down.
    GHETTO VADER
    www.FUKUPAYME.com

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