– Alternative Hip-Hop group, The Pharcyde, challenged the norms of West Coast Hip-Hop with the release of their debut album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde.
By in 1992, thanks to legendary acts like Ice-T and N.W.A, gangster rap had become the style of hip-hop most synonymous with the West Coast. However, that didn’t stop The Pharcyde from dropping an album with a completely different tone amidst gangster rap’s rise.
The group’s members included MCs Imani, Fatlip, Bootie Brown, and Slimkid3. The Pharcyde has also had 3 DJs during the span of their existence starting with DJ Mark Luv before calling on producer J-Swift and, later, the great J Dilla. Initially Imani and Slimkid3 met and bonded over a mutual love for breakdancing before meeting, then 15 year old producer, J-Swift. They later met another dancer, Bootie Brown, but the group wasn’t quite formed until Fatlip, the most serious MC of them all, joined the crew.
With the help of J-Swift’s high school music teacher, The Pharcyde learned keys to the music industry and recording/writing process. Recording began after signing a deal with Delicious Vinyl in 1991 – the beginning of their bizarre ride.
Despite moderate acclaim for the album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde received widespread critical acclaim from alternative hip-hop fans and is often regarded as one hip-hop’s quintessential albums. The Pharcyde’s light-hearted, comedic lyricism and delivery made them something like honorary members of the Native Tongues collective (along with De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest) despite representing the opposite coast. This is displayed on their timeless classic “Passing Me By” as the MCs take turns reminiscing on lost and unrequited love. Then, the group reminds themselves that there are “Otha Fish” in the sea on the very next track. Even as they share stories of their misfortunes on songs like “Oh Shit”, “On the DL”, and “Officer” they seemingly laugh at those very misfortunes as they infuse comic relief into every other line.
The album’s production was also more reminiscent of East Coast Hip-Hop production in comparison to the hardcore sound of the west at that time. However, the uniquely lush and jazzy vibes of Bizarre Ride were orchestrated by The Pharcyde’s own J-Swift using both live instrumentation and sampling. J-Swift relied on samples from legends such as Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Roy Ayers, Quincy Jones, Donald Byrd, and more. However, he also provided piano, bass, and Rhodes piano compositions for the album as well.
Listening to the album in one sitting definitely feels like quite the bizarre ride, but one that you never want to get off of. Political incorrectness, sexual deviance, stoner adventures and everything in between make up this caricature-like musical masterpiece – a bizarre ride indeed.
Check out the full project and music videos above.
Written by DJ Robinson