Our "Classic Rotation" series revisits classic albums on the day of their release. Today we take a look at The Pharcyde's debut album, "Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde," which dropped exactly 22 years ago today.
Pharcyde's Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde was released 22 years ago today on November 24, 1992, through Delicious Vinyl Records. Produced almost solely by former group member J-Swift (local producer LA Jay and SlimKid3 co-produced the track "Otha Fish" after J-Swift left the group after a falling out), the album is still hailed by critics and hip-hop heads as one of the best alternative hip-hop albums of all time. Kanye West named the album his favorite of all time.
With whimsical story-songs like "I'm That Type Of Nigga," "Soul Flower," and "Ya Mama," Bizarre Ride brought a breath of sweet, fresh Daisy Age air into the Gangsta rap-dominated era of West Coast hip-hop. Unlike the rap albums being released around that time in the West, such as Ice Cube's Death Certificateand Ice-T's OG: Original Gangster, which focused on violence, destruction, and new jack hustlin', the Pharcyde's debut album was playful and fun.
It all started in 1990 when high school friends "SlimKid3" (Tre Hardson), "Imani" (Emandu Wilcox), and "Bootie Brown" (Romye Robinson) hooked up to form the B-Boy dance crew Two For Two which appeared in numerous music videos and gained notoriety through a short stint on In Living Color. The trio met "J-Swift" (John Martinez) and "Fatlip" (Derrick Stewart) at an after-school music program called South Central Unit. The program's teacher, Reggie Andrews, taught the group about the fundamentals of the music industry, and would later oversee their writing and recording sessions. While attending SCU, the group recorded their first demo tape, which included a rough version of the group's debut single "Ya Mama," and Two For Two became the Pharcyde. The group signed with Delicious Vinyl Records in 1991 following a performance of "Ya Mama" at an artist showcase. The song was described by the Rolling Stone Album Guide as Bizarre Ride's "most memorable track."
Soon after performing "Ya Mama" at an artist showcase , the Pharcyde's song "Soul Flower" appeared on the Brand New Heavies' album the Heavy Rhyme Experience.
A remixed version of the song, which samples the Fatback Band, was later added to Bizarre Ride. and would become one of the albums top singles.
The Pharcyde began recording Bizarre Ride in 1991. Delicious Vinyl head Michael Ross served as the Executive Producer of the project. J-Swift produced 15 of the album's 16 tracks. Before the album's completion, he had a falling out with the group and left. The Pharcyde brought in LA producer, LA Jay, to produce the album's final track "Otha Fish" along with group member SlimKid3.
AllMusic described the Pharcyde's rapping as "amazing" and said the quartet "introduced listeners to an uproarious vision of earthy hip-hop informed by P-Funk silliness and an-everybody-on the mic-street corner-atmosphere that highlights the incredible rapping skills of each member."
While there were a few LA locals listening to the poetic, more positive sounds of Freestyle Fellowship, for the most part, West Coast hip-hop was ruled by violence, negativity, and fear. Released six months after the LA Riots, Bizarre Ride changed the face of the gangsta rap-dominated West Coast, ushering in a new wave of hip-hop music in Los Angeles where lyrics were silly and murder was metaphorical.
The Pharcyde never really fit in in their hometown of Inglewood. Their voices were high and their lyrics were funny. They didn't like to fight. They liked to skateboard. "I think it's just where we were at. We weren't gangsters," SlimKid3 said in a 2012 interview reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the classic album. "We were only putting out what was happening to us. Hence the 'Passin' Me By' stuff. We would stand out on La Cienega watching girls go by during the traffic times. We were basically just being ourselves over records."
Bizarre Ride not only reflected the Pharcyde's colorful humor, but also showcased the group's love for jazz and soul music. Artists such as Herbie Mann, Quincy Jones, John Coltrane, Donald Byrd, and James Brown are sampled among others.
"Passin Me By" became the group's biggest hit, a half-rapped, half-sung soul masterpiece. Fatlip howls the unforgettable hook "She keeps on passing me by," which J-Swift said was meant as a lighthearted impression of Jim Morrison. It all stemmed from an evening when the group rented the movie about Morrison, "The Doors." "We were on shrooms or some shit, all wigged out watching Val Kilmer transform into Jim Morrison, and right after, Fatlip just walks into the booth and starts screaming, 'She keeps on passing me by," J-Swift reminisced in a 2012 interview with Spin.
The song samples Quincy Jones' "Summer In The City."
On the single "4 Better or 4 Worse," Fatlip dedicates a verse to prank calling. He spits dark and psychotic threats at a confused woman who threatens to call the police. It wouldn't be totally off-the-wall to think that Fatlip's creepy prank call could be the inspiration for Tyler, The Creator's "Goblin." The graphic content fits perfectly with the album's dark and nasty themes. The song actually seems to influence quite a bit of the Odd Future movement. J-Swift's awe-inspiring and inventive production is showcased here as well.
Sampling from James Brown and Sly and The Family Stone, the single "I'm That Type of Nigga" is the crew's platform to let everyone know they're here to stay in this rap game, to make things a little fresher, a little funkier, and a little beat junkier. Rappers often boast and brag, but never with the sort of whimsy, charisma, and fun as the Pharcyde. The track also features one of LA's most slept on rappers, Buchweed.
Bizarre Ride's final single was the SlimKid solo track "Otha Fish." It was the album's second charting single, and while it wasn't as popular as "Passin Me By," many have called it the best song off Bizarre Ride. SlimKid shines brightly here, rapping three artful verses of romantic anguish, which blend beautifully over a Herbie Mann saxophone lick, quite literally the perfect verse(s) over a tight beat.
Bizarre Ride was certified in gold in 1996.
"We're serious about certain things, but everything is basically a joke," SlimKid told Rolling Stone in 1993. "We live through shit, but we can laugh about it." This is what Bizarre Ride is all about, what the Pharcyde is about. Life isn't always funny, but you can always laugh at it. If you haven't listened to the album, enjoy the ride, the Bizarre Ride.