Legendary hip-hop collective The Pharcyde play East Village Arts Club in July with a recital of their classic album Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. Getintothis’ Alex Woo talks to founder Slimkid3 about their new music, working with J Dilla and the current state of hip-hop.
There are few groups, but particularly in hip-hop, who, when examining their career, evoke equal feelings of regret and affection. This includes The Pharcyde.
The LA group, founded by Slimkid3, Bootie Brown, Imani and Fatlip, burst on to the scene in the early nineties, dropping their debut album, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde; garnering cult status over the past two decades.
The album, fondly known for its unique brand of humour and light-hearted perspective on the trials of every day life, catapulted them in to the mainstream spotlight and thrust them among the rap’s elite acts, rubbing shoulders with the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, who they embarked on world tours with.
Their follow up record, Labcabincalinfornia, produced by the legendary J Dilla, was another classic, even if it had a more serious message behind it.
Within four years, the group were conquering the world and on the cusp of greatness. Alas, dealing with the pressures of fame began taking its toll, and frictions between certain members in the group were exacerbated by constant touring and exhaustion.
Fatlip eventually left the group around the time Labcabincalinfornia was released. A few years later Slimkid3 followed suit, leaving only Imani and Bootie Brown as active members who still continued to tour and release new material under the Pharcyde name.
Though relations between both factions of the original line up remain inimical, the group’s legacy is as strong as ever. Even now, the two factions are performing the same album live, but as two separate acts.
It’s a tragic state of affairs, and leads us to wonder what they might have accomplished had the group stayed together.
Slimkid3, one of the founding members of the group, spoke to Getintothis about the current state of hip-hop, the possibility of a reunion with all of the original members and much more.
Pharcyde will be bringing a hip hop classic to East Village Arts Club
Getintothis: Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde is lauded as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time. More than two decades on, what are your feelings on the album and its legacy? Did you ever think it would be as influential as it has been?
Slimkid3: Earlier on when the album came out in ’92, I didn’t know what it was going to do. We were just having fun and being young.
There were times when we were sick of performing the record, but as we got older and looked back on things, I think we started to see how funny this album actually was.
Also, we began to see it spawn into a cult album. This album sucks you in.
If you’re a kid in high school who discovers this record from your college going-older brother or sister, then you’ll be consumed by the wackiness, too. You’ll end up chanting Oh Shit! or Soul Flower somewhere randomly.
Getintothis: How do you think you’ve changed as artists since you recorded the album? Are you better now than you were then?
Slimkid3: Musically, I’ve learned a lot, technically. But today I’ve learned how to not be so serious, as the industry’s ups and downs can get to you.
So today we’ve been having more fun and getting back to that Bizarre Ride feeling we had so long ago.
That said, yes, I’m better now than I was in the past. Applying all the good we had from the past, to the renewed freshness of writing, beat making, and from myself and FatLip, even DJing, too.
Slimkid will be playing it cool with Pharcyde at East Village Arts Club
Getintothis: Big Daddy Kane was one of the first acts to play the venue since its opening, and a large portion of the crowd weren’t even born when he was first making waves in the late eighties. How gratifying is to know that your music is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago and it now influences a whole different generation?
Slimkid3: For the new generation that has our music now, I am proud of you, happy for you, because that means you’re digging through the crates to discover your hip-hop and rap roots.
You’ll be able to educate more kids on the classics. I would tell you to keep digging, and you will find a new love of music.
Getintothis: You’ve all been involved in various solo projects, but in an interview with MTV, J Swift alluded to a new record (Bizarre Ride 3). Is that genuinely something in the pipeline or was he just playing with the fans?
Slimkid3: Nah, he wasn’t playing. We are working on some new music, for sure; it’s coming along super, too.
Albums in general always take a little time to make, but we have it in the works now.
As for my solo projects, I have a project I’m finishing up with DJ NuMark of Jurassic 5, and I have a project called Monkey Business that I’ve completed with a local artist in Portland named Tony Ozier (of Doo Doo Funk All Stars) that is banging!
Both these albums are like visiting two different worlds: one is more boom bap and the other is street galactic gritty. Just raw, man.
I have a collaboration with Raashan of Crown City Rockers, and a collaboration with Vursytal of Life Savas. The shit is dope.
Getintothis: You might be sick of having to answer this question – do you think there will ever be a time when you guys will reunite with Imani and Bootie Brown for a set of shows, or maybe even new material? The fans would go crazy for it.
Slimkid3: Not sure, but, God willing, we’ll see.
Getintothis: It’s not directly linked with Bizarre Ride, but we couldn’t talk to you guys and not ask you about J Dilla, as you worked with him on Labcabincalifornia (the follow up album to Bizarre Ride). How was he to work with as a producer and what are your thoughts on what he achieved in his career before he passed?
Slimkid3: I thought working with J Dilla was a real blessing. I am so glad to have been part of that experience.
He was super mellow to me, but I had no idea about the classics that kid was about to make. Oh my God! It was like witnessing the tip of the iceberg of producing.
My first real wow moment with this guy was Slum Village (Dilla‘s group). Man, I was like, “Yo, this is your group? Man, that shit is dope!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Then he made music with De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and Biggie. Need I say more? He was on it.
Pharcyde will be bringing the noise to East Village Arts Club
Getintothis: Rising to prominence during hip-hop’s golden era, you’ve been able to sit back and look at the way the game has evolved. With the rise of the internet and then social media it’s now much easier for aspiring artists to get their stuff heard than it was when you were first establishing yourself. Do you think that’s a positive thing?
Slimkid3: I think its a good thing for kids to be able to get on and be heard. Dope music could be out there and we need to connect with it, and now there’s nothing to block what could be the next big thing from the underground.
As far as record sales of old go, it breaks my heart that folks don’t support and buy what’s created, which took lots of money and effort to make.
Sharing music is cool but this is how we make a living, so I don’t think its fair to just take; giving back has to be in order. As a DJ, I do get free music from time to time, but we are promoting that music in the clubs of rooms of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who will buy that same record.
I buy a lot of my music with the thought that I’m supporting this artist and their livelihood. They can feed their kids, pay a bill, take their partner on a date, you get the picture. But I’m happy to see the way the game has been opened so it’s easier for kids to be heard.
If your music is the shit, we’ll know because it will get big plays online.
Getintothis: What do you make of the current state of hip-hop? Are there any modern emcees that you really like listening to?
Slimkid3: I’m big on Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, A$AP Rocky, Bizarre Ride (nah mean?), Life Savas, Crown City Rockers, Amanda Blank, Major Lazor, both Azealias, Foreign Exchange, the list goes on, man.
Getintothis: Is this your first show in Liverpool or have any of you performed here before?
Slimkid3: I’m not sure, man. Maybe back in the day, but touring can be such a blur.
Getintothis: Do you enjoy touring in the UK, and how do you find the crowds compared to America? Do they respond to your music the same way fans do back home?
Slimkid3: I love the UK. The UK knows how to party, for sure, you’ve always given us lots of love.
Getintothis: How is the UK vs US in terms of fans and their support?
Slimkid3: Some folks in some US cities are more conservative; some are hippies, some are college towns that get really wild, but Europe can get balls to the walls.
Getintothis: Finally, what can we expect from the show?
Further reading on Getintothis:
Getintothis talks to Wu-Tang Clan‘s RZA: Django’s Riff, Wood Street, Liverpool.
Big Daddy Kane, Tony Broke, Innuendo: East Village Arts Club.
GZA: The Kazimier, Liverpool.
A Guide to French Hip-Hop.