A true underground classic, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde is an album beloved by many. In honor of the 20th anniversary, Delicious Vinyl question various respected figures in the music industry and beyond about their experiences and feelings towards the Pharcyde…
Sounding out all the way from the UK we have the original Scratch Perverts member, London’s very own beloved DJ Mr Thing sharing his Pharcyde tastes and memories:
‘When I first heard –The Pharcyde– I was in…’?
When I first heard The Pharcyde I was in a Westwood jam in Vauxhall, just as “Ya Mama” came out. DJ Biznizz played it when he was opening up for him and I pretty much went and tracked it down as soon as I could!
Favourite Pharcyde song?
Hard for me to choose between “Runnin’‘” and “4 Better or 4 Worse”, I played both of those to death in my car at the time. “Runnin’” I put on a very early mix-tape I did and even copied the Run-DMC cuts on that mix, then “4 Better or 4 Worse” because it’s one of my favourite breaks ever (“Blind Alley”) with some absolutely brilliant Fender Rhodes on it. I swore it was a sample for the longest time, but was recently informed it was played! I love the whole vibe of both tunes, so it’s tough to call it…
Is there a Pharcyde song you like to scratch up? Ever used a Pharcyde song or skit in one of your routines??
Since the Visioneers did their cover of “Runnin’” I made up a scratch routine using the Run-DMC Rock Box cut and then blended in the original Pharcyde version into the chorus, it works really nicely. I’ve done it at the J Dilla tribute nights here a few times, plus I’ve got all the records on 45s too so been doing it in those sets as well!
Would you say there is love for The Pharcyde in London and the U.K.??
Most definitely. The records always get a good response in DJ sets, and I think most serious collectors here went a bit crazy for the 7″ box-set that came out for Record Store Day (myself included)!
Favourite ‘Ya Mama’ joke?
Special honorary mention to KMD for “Your Mother likes to visit the old churches” just for the randomness of it, but my favourite is still – “Ya Mama’s got a wooden leg with a kick-stand” – Genius!
Keep up to scratch with all of Mr Thing’s various activities, including live sets, tours, and The Funhouse live-stream here.
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…
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.
Alice Price-Styles is a writer based in the U.K. Read more of her work at NiceStyles.tumblr.com