Archive for June, 2012

What’s Up, Fatlip? Alice Price-Styles Talks With The Former Member Of The Pharcyde In London

Throughout the label’s history, Delicious Vinyl has always maintained funky and fruitful international relations with the UK. Hailing out of West London, the original, acid jazz ‘pioneers’ the Brand New Heavies joined the Delicious family in 1990. And, it was on their 1992 release Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1 that one of the labels most prominent acts made their debut. The song that introduced a particular young group, who were to change the face of West Coast hip hop, to the world, was an infectious, energy-fuelled jam called ‘Soul Flower’. The influential group in question were none other than The Pharcyde.
After the release of the seminal debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde in 1992, The Pharcyde played their first London show at the legendary venue The Jazz Café in July of 1993 – and were described by one UK journalist as ‘four freaky guys from LA who see the world through a haze of reefer smoke and strut their stuff, without instruments, over a hail of jazz samples and ‘phat’ beats’ (dig the awkward British inverted commas over phat – England is full of reserved hip hop fans).
Just as Los Angeles has been celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Bizarre Ride in true style, London Pharcyde fans have been showing their support for Fatlip on his European DJ Tour this year. And, if his wild set at East Village back in February is anything to go by, with uncharacteristic levels of abandon.

So, I caught up with Fatlip at The Breakfast Club in Hoxton last weekend, in between his London and Brighton shows, to chat about his UK tour, Bizarre Ride Live, and Pharcyde memories…

How would you describe The Pharcyde, Fatlip?
Pretty much from the beginning we were just homies, creative dudes, hanging out, smoking weed, making music and having fun.

Tell me a bit about your experiences back when you were Jammer D…
Jammer D was the first rap name that I came up with, as I was in a dance group in high school called the Jammers. The dance culture happening at the time was a big thing throughout all of the high schools in LA. We used to have huge dance contests, and dance to Kraftwerk, CyberTron, and all of these European, early electronic groups, as well as Uncle Jamm’s Army, early Dr Dre stuff.
Then, I got out of high school, fell in love with hip hop and started trying to write rhymes of my own. I would just write constantly, day and night – taking no-sleeping pills just so I could stay up all night, smoke cigarettes and write. I was a real writer back then. That’s Jammer D; a real lyricist.

At the Bizarre Ride Live show last month for the ‘Return Of The B-Boy’ finale you all busted out some impressive dance moves.
We’ve been doing it for so long; the whole dance thing was a huge part of the Pharcyde show. It engages us more with the music. But that finale was fun, and we got to dance with one of the best poppers ever: Boogaloo Shrimp.

What was the highlight of that show for you?
The moment somebody told me it was sold out. That was the moment. I heard it at sound-check, and my mood was lifted through the roof; I was walking on clouds. You know, it was twenty years later – people didn’t have to support us, we didn’t have to have fans, we didn’t have to have gotten this far. That was the highlight; that was a great feeling.

The energy just before the show was incredible.
Oh and then every other moment after that, up until a week later I was still feeling it. It was an incredible celebration. When are we going to have an opportunity to do that again? Never. So that’s what made it a special moment, and the fact that it went off well…

So what’s next on the cards with everything? What have you got coming up?
Continuing to build my DJ Fatlip brand is really what I’m focusing on, and then my production after that.

Are you recording with any of the guys that were involved recently?
Yes – me and Tre are doing a record. The album is going to be released in Japan, and a single is going to be released in the States. We’re about to shoot a video in Brazil this month, so I’m excited about that too. And then hopefully the Bizarre Ride Live show – since it’s the twenty year anniversary – our plan is to continue touring it for the whole year.

Did working on the Bizarre Ride Live show feel similar to when you were recording the Bizarre Ride album?
It totally did. Pretty much everybody that was involved in Bizarre Ride was there; even our old road managers were there. So with the rehearsals, the DVTV ustream, and all of the meetings and stuff like that, we were all hanging out having fun for the whole time. Even the sound-checks were fun, because everyone was there.

Has it been strange to go straight from that to being on a solo tour as DJ Fatlip in the UK?
Well, it’s what I do and I like to do both. I love being there with my friends doing a big show, but the DJ Fatlip thing is my own personal thing, so I enjoy that as well.

Is it good to maintain the two at the same time?
Oh it’s great; the best of both worlds. There’s no denying that the whole Pharcyde thing is a part of who I am. To be able to combine the two in the same year and the same time frame is really nice.

How do you find Pharcyde fans in the UK compared to back home?
Kind of the same, they’re just younger. It is weird how the styles have transferred – the way that kids view hip hop, we viewed it the same way back then. That style has maintained over a period of time – kids kind of dress the same…

Older music often translates to younger fans if it was originally recorded by an artist when they were at that same age…
Oh totally. I agree with that. Because the expression is a young expression; you made it in a time of your life where you were just open to everything, and had a lot of energy, and that translates to the music. It was raw; it was something that we were getting from somewhere else. So it was like a raw self-expression. And that’s something that you can only do at that age when you don’t care about anything else – we weren’t trying to be sexy, we didn’t care about having money. It was just that raw, hip hop feel.

Do you have any stories from your UK tour?
Well, there was the time I lost that charger – two times! I lost mine and Spin Doctors…I guess I was having a lot of fun on this tour and, you know, sometimes when you have fun things get…

Lost.
Things get lost. It’s the sign of a good time.

Do you have a favourite Pharcyde memory, from any point in the whole journey?
My favourite Pharcyde memory is the day that we found the sample for ‘Passin’ Me By’ and came up with the idea for the chorus. It was before we even got a record deal, and I remember everybody in the room bouncing ideas off of each other. We already had the beat and there was a feeling that something new was about to happen.

All the Pharcyde members have their own style – was it ever conscious to want to differentiate yourself or carve your own identity within the group?
The thing with us is we always started out with a chorus, and so we always had a theme. That allowed us to go and write our own interpretations of this one theme, which was the chorus. With ‘Passin’ Me By’ we had that theme and all of us told our own story about how somebody had passed us by. Most of our songs were like that, and because of the theme we were naturally able to shine individually as each member told his side of the story. So, there was some togetherness on the chorus within the theme, but then we were also able to express our own personalities.

Do you have a favourite Pharcyde song?
I would have to say ‘Passin’ Me By’. Definitely. From the beginning, the first verse, to the last it’s just hands down my favourite. And I like ‘Pack the Pipe’ a lot too.

‘4 Better or 4 Worse’ is such an intense song to me – I think of the main beat as kind of dark and intense, and then the samples are super dreamy – it’s like everything magnified, in terms of the mood and emotions.
Yeah. There were a lot of layers of samples on that first record. J-Sw!ft was a piano player, a real musician, and the way that he looped all of those samples and combined the keyboard elements…

When L.A. Jay was playing all the original Bizarre Ride samples on the DVTV ustream – you could recognise the elements and hear how the songs came together.

So when L.A. Jay was playing those records, that was just like the time that we found the record collection. We found those records and were listening to them, and then we were like ‘something is going to happen, we have got to make something out of this’. We had never heard that music before. We discovered all of this great music, and that was inspiring for us. That was really inspiring.

As well as the music – what else, what other things, inspired you at that time?
We thought we were political. I was all angry and rebellious back then. Just always sitting around, smoking weed, talking about the injustice…

I think that definitely comes out in the album.
That’s what you do when you’re that age right? Talk about revolution… Bob Marley was also somebody that inspired me back then too: his approach and his message. He spoke about injustice, but he also spoke about love and peace and all of that. Just to hear that – it was good for the soul.

I mean there are messages, like you can protest about injustice or whatever. And then there are messages like James Brown would say – he had a lot of messages. When he said ‘it’s a man’s world, but it’s nothing without a woman or a girl’ – that’s a big message. The messages were a lot more positive in songs back then. And it’s inspiring to hear that.
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Alice Price-Styles is a writer based in the U.K. Read more of her work at NiceStyles.tumblr.com

The Pharcyde “Runnin'” color vinyl 12″ w/ Jay Dee Remix – available July 10

Delicious Vinyl and Traffic Entertainment Group present this incredibly unique pressing of “Runnin’”, the first single off The Pharcyde’s second and critically acclaimed album Labcabincalifornia. The song, featuring all four members Imani, SlimKid3, Bootie Brown and Fatlip, peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995. There are four non-album versions of “Runnin”, including the “Jay Dee Extended Mix” and two non-album versions of “Drop”. The song “Drop” is best known for it’s incredible, totally backwards video directed by the one and only Spike Jonze. The extended mix and instrumental version of the cut are included here. Red vinyl on the left, blue vinyl on the right – or is that blue on the left and red on the right? Either way this novel and unorthodox colored vinyl pressing is sure to excite Pharcyde fans new and old.

Side A
1 Runnin’ (Jay Dee Extended Mix)
2 Runnin’ (Smooth Extended Mix)
3 Runnin’ (Jay Dee Instrumental)

Side B
4 Drop (Extended Mix)
5 Drop (Instrumental)
6 Runnin’ (Acapella)

L.A. Jay Is All Love – Q&A with co-producer of Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde

John “L.A. Jay” Barnes III and Delicious Vinyl share a mighty fine history together. Producing dope tracks such as The Pharcyde’s ‘Otha Fish’ and ‘Pork’, and working his magic to create impeccable remixes of Masta Ace’s ‘Saturday Nite Live’ and The Pharcyde’s ‘Passin’ Me By’ (Fly As Pie Remix), as well as so much more, Jay has undoubtedly contributed some pretty special jams to the labels catalogue.

Playfully described as the ‘George Clooney of hip hop’ by J-Sw!ft on DVTV, L.A. Jay is certainly one smooth operator when it comes to the beats and samples. Just as the soulful delivery of SlimKid3’s poetic lines manages to work in aural and thematic harmony with Fatlip’s wild rhymes and the high-pitched intonation of Imani and Bootie Brown, L.A. Jay’s smooth touch always provided a nice twist to Pharcyde beats and the rambunctious production style of J-Sw!ft.

At the recent Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde 20th Anniversary Celebration at The Roxy, Jay not only controlled the turntables but was also the man supplying the mind-blowing visuals during the sensory overload of a show.

So, we caught up with Jay to chat a little about the landmark show and indulge in even more reminiscing…

Alice Price-Styles: You put together the live visuals for the Bizarre Ride show – could you talk about the idea to use video and how it came about?
L.A. Jay: Well, the very first thing that I envisioned, which is the reason I ended up being the one to do it, was for the song ‘I’m That Type of Nigga’. I saw this vision of Godzilla, from the old Japanese movies, him just coming through knocking buildings down and all of that as a visual representation of what the song is about; boasting and telling emcees that you will crush them. I mentioned that one idea to Mike Ross and he was all for using visuals to make the show pop onstage. So, the ideas to do something unique for each song spawned from that original seed.

AP-S: Now to take it back – how did you first meet The Pharcyde? And how did you first get involved working with them?
LAJ: Wow. Let’s see. I think Derrick, Fatlip, was the very first person that I met maybe back in 86/ 87. There was this whole scene in LA, a dance scene where dance groups would compete with one another. He was in one of those groups called the Jammers, which is why his original name was Jammer D. One of the main crews promoting those parties/ dance competitions was called Jam City, and I was one of the deejays for that crew. I think I met Fatlip during that time.

J-Sw!ft and I met because I was producing a girl group called The Good Girls, whose record is the first major label record that I produced. My manager at that time was also managing the group so we were kind of a crew – me, the girls, and a couple of other producers. J-Sw!ft’s manager, Reggie Andrews, knew my manager, and presented some of J’s music to us for the groups album. At the time I was a little cocky, and I think you kind of have to be when you’re first starting out; you have to feel like you can do it better than most. I felt like no one could come in and knock me out of my spot as one of the main producers of the album. They had just signed with Motown and those album placements were important to us. But, when I heard his stuff I was like ‘oh this dude is pretty serious too!’

AP-S: Recently on DVTV J-Sw!ft referred to your track Pork as a jab at him – was it ever that competitive between you two with your production?
LAJ: Um…no, he was joking when he said it was a jab! We were very competitive, but we were homeboys.

Back then, everybody would be hanging in a room like this – a bunch of us – and there would be a cassette deck and you’d come in with your new beats for everyone to hear. When you pressed play, you’d see on everybody’s faces instantly if the energy in the room elevated or not.

A lot of times it would be J-Sw!ft and I going back to back, and it was friendly competition. Though, at the same time, I’m sure that he wanted to make sure that his beats were better than mine, and likewise I did the same – we were pushing each other.

So, he meant that in a fun way like ‘aw man – he came with a left hook! And he got me with that one!’

Me and J-Sw!ft have never been enemies, it’s always been all love. By the time that I met him I already knew his work and he knew mine. We had a mutual respect because I knew that he was good, and he liked my stuff too. We worked on some projects together as a production team for a while. J-Sw!ft and Fatlip were the first to work together in terms of any Pharcyde connection. There are so many connections though, as even Imani from The Pharcyde was instrumental in helping with some choreography for The Good Girls, so I had kind of met him through that.

Basically, we were just a bunch of young folks that ended up connecting on a creative level, even before they were called The Pharcyde. Even before they were the group which they were before The Pharcyde, which was called 242, we were starting to link and hang out and have a mutual respect for people’s different crafts.

We became this collective group of people who hung out, bounced ideas off of each other, partied a lot, worked a lot, and built a lot in terms of brainstorming and listening to music, critiquing other people’s music. That whole thing was just a juggernaut that carried everybody to the next level with The Pharcyde.

AP-S: As a group – what do The Pharcyde mean to you? What do they symbolise?
LAJ: They symbolise sincerity number one, and just openness, colour, and artistry. Artistry meaning whatever it calls for; they dance, they rap, and they’re song-writers. They may be song-writers first, rappers second. Great examples of that are ‘Passin’ Me By’ and ‘Otha Fish’ – those are songs. That’s one of the things that the collective really contributed to. There was a wealth of heavy musicians around us and a wide range of perspectives because of it.

I came up under my father (John Barnes) who was, and is a serious session musician/composer/producer who had worked with tons of legends from Marvin Gaye to Michael Jackson, and Bill Withers to Lionel Richie to name a few. And then Reggie Andrews, who really mentored them, was kind of a father figure to all of us. He was a serious figure in the L.A. music scene and had written and produced hit records as well. So, we had a real foundation of that record making mentality.

There is a certain type of hip hop that is all about spitting rhymes, a banging beat, laying those verses one after the other – that’s really dope and I do love a hard-ass emcee. But I’m saying what makes the Pharcyde a little bit different, is that they came from the standpoint of not only making a banger, but a true artistic song.

It’s all about the end result translating to listeners as a really clear message, and to bare your soul on that record. Not just trying to destroy every emcee in every verse, but baring your soul and sharing your experience. The Pharcyde honestly express themselves and I think that’s one of the things that makes them so memorable.

AP-S: Do you have a particular favourite or stand out memory of The Pharcyde?
LAJ: My goodness. There’s so, so many. J-Sw!ft is better at this stuff than me –not only does he remember everything but he’s a great storyteller. We’ve had so many experiences but one of my favourite times was Lake Arrowhead when twenty, maybe twenty five, of us rented a big cabin for the weekend and we just had a blast. Oh my lord.

That was even before they had a record deal. It was a bunch of us, a bunch of girls, and we were just hanging out, partying – can you imagine?? It was a three story cabin and it had a Jacuzzi and a sauna, balconies and we were out in the forest. It was a hell of a party. We went out hiking one day and J-Sw!ft jumped off of a cliff into some water…we didn’t even know how deep the water was.

AP-S: I can’t imagine J-Sw!ft loose in the woods….
It was one of my fondest memories of everybody hanging out. But, it was just a daily affair back then – all day everyday hanging out and vibing. It was such a pure time because we were just about what we were about, with no corruption. Seeing everybody being supportive, building, encouraging each other, encouraging people to push the envelope with their craft…it was a really good time.

Oh – one memory on a personal note – one time we were out at a club and for some reason there was this dude that had it out for me and wanted to fight me. I still don’t know to this day why. He came up to try and sucker punch me, to take a swing at me while I wasn’t looking. My best friend was there and caught him right before, as the guys knuckles scraped my head. I look up after that and I see Tre, I think Romye and a bunch of the guys all fighting the other dudes homies – you just don’t know how much someone has your back until something goes down. Every now and then I would think about that and be like ‘wow – they really had my back’. It’s always been a lot of love, and to this day it is, for all four members. All four of those guys I’ve got a lot of love for; I want to see them all win.

Alice Price-Styles is a UK-based writer. Read more of her work at www.MintMagazine.co.uk