– 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 Pharcyde

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

–London-born rapper, Young MC, dropped his debut album Stone Cold Rhymin’ on the Delicious Vinyl record label on September 5th, 1989

Young MC may not be one of the more familiar names of hip-hop’s Golden Era, but his debut album, Stone Cold Rhymin’, definitely held its own amidst the competitive 1989 hip-hop scene. Young MC showcased his verbal skills throughout this project and didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

On most tracks, Young MC barely takes a breath and leaves little room for catchy hooks. He takes it a step further by also incorporating a bit of storytelling in tracks like “Principal’s Office”. However, with “Bust a Move” as his leading single he also showed that he had the ability to make a mega-hit – one that still gets spins at backyard barbecues to this day.

Stone Cold Rhymin’ is an internationally acclaimed project and reached No. 9 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums Chart with “Bust a Move” winning the 1990 Grammy Award for ‘Best Rap Performance, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and topping the charts in Australia. “Principal’s Office” reached No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for ‘Best Rap Video’ at the 1990 MTV Music Awards. However, even with all of these accolades, Young MC wasn’t fully given his due respect by many heavy hip-hop fans mostly because of Stone Cold Rhymin’ being presented as a “pop-rap” crossover project.

Though Stone Cold Rhymin’ takes criticism for its direction, there is a strong case to be made that its categorization as a “pop-rap” project shouldn’t take away from its greatness. With legendary producers, composers, and engineers like the Dust Brothers, Mario Caldato Jr., and even Quincy Jones having production credits, it goes without the saying that the sounds and samples were placed, tuned and executedto perfection.

Stone Cold Rhymin’ is easily one of the catchiest and most family-friendly crossover hip-hop albums of all time, but they were also able to do something extraordinary – maintain a high level of quality in lyricism, songwriting, and production all at the same time.

Written by DJ Robinson