Essential Records: The Pharcyde's 'Bizarre Ride II'

Posted by Billyjam, November 17, 2014 02:23pm | Post a Comment

The Pharcyde

Each person has their own personal way to judge and rate the music they love. For me the criteria for rating an LP an "Essential Record" includes two key qualities: first, it's an all killer, no filler album (no temptation to ever skip over any track); and secondly, it is such a quality release that it doesn't age one bit over time (the timeless factor). Sometimes an Essential Record gets even better over the years. Such is the case with The Pharcyde's remarkable 1992 debut album, Bizarre Ride II (Delicious Vinyl), which sounds even more amazing today than it did when I first heard it 22 years ago. I say this after playing the 57 minute record from start to finish twice in a row today, having not listened to it in a few years. Damn, that J-Swift-produced album is so incredibly good! It's packed with soul, passion, and richly varied but cohesive beats and flows - from jazzy to old school to next generation - with varying BPMs. But, most notably, the album was totally unlike anything else at the time.

In late 1992, the SoCal-based Delicious Vinyl record label released Bizarre Ride II within just a few weeks oThe Pharcyde Ya Mamaf fellow LA based hip-hop artist Dr. Dre's G-Funk classic, The Chronic. While the two landmark hip-hop releases may have been linked by timeline and geography, they could not have been further apart in sound and style. Even Bizarre Ride's wild, fun, cartoonish cover art set it apart as a record that did not take itself too seriously. The album effuses a feeling of nonstop fun all the way through, as proven by the numerous impromptu-sounding hilarious studio bits that were mixed in or left in the final recording, like at the end of "Ya Mama" where they are just riffing off of each other. Unique, too, is how many of the "skits" on Bizarre Ride sound like songs, such as the 2:10 long "Quinton's on the Way (Skit)" which is like a Louis Armstrong inspired jazz song that captures the guys having fun in the studio with their different sounding voices and tones perfectly in contrast with each other.

"Ya Mama" was the album's first single and was released way ahead of the LP. The track was a side-splitting barrage of your mama jokes ("Ya mama's got a peg leg with a kickstand. Ya mama's got a glass eye with a fish in it"). Although the group dismissed and distanced themselves from "Ya Mama" at the time (largely because it was perceived as a novelty record and not fully representative of them), I still think it's great and stands the test of time.

The Pharcyde "Ya Mama" (from Bizarre Ride II)

The Pharcyde Otha FishIn 1992, The Pharcyde (then comprised of the four emcees SlimKid 3, ImaniFatlip, and Bootie Brown) adapted a radically different stance, not just from Dre and Snoop, but from most every other rapper coming out of LA at the time. Dubbed "alternative rap," they disavowed the macho gangsta flava favored by so many West Coast rap acts, instead following more closely in the footsteps of their East Coast contemporaries, The Native Tongues (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest). The Pharcyde's rhymes were fun, at times self-deprecating and bizarre (pun intended), but always entertaining, and were complimented by the fat funk and smooth jazzy production laid down by the album's super-gifted main producer J-Swift. The only non J-Swift produced album track was the excellent single "Otha Fish." Co-produced by L.A. Jay and SlimKid 3, the MCs flex their singing skills by harmonizing on the chorus, "You know there's otha fish in the sea."

The Pharcyde "Otha Fish" (from Bizarre Ride II)

the Pharcyde Passin Me By

Other standout tracks include the slow smoldering "Pack The Pipe," which remains among the best hip-hop weed anthems ever recorded; "Oh Shit," which is about shocking or embarrassing situations that cause one to exclaim aloud "Oh shit!"; the no-holds-barred "I'm That Type of Nigga"; the bouncy throwback ole skool flavored "Return of the B-Boy," which captured early '80s lyrically (in its writing and delivery) as well as musically; and the atypical anti-police song "Officer" about not outsmarting the po-pos.

The album's biggest hit - and over time its most played track - "Passin' Me By" was distinguished in its production by its ample use of the Quincy Jones "Summer in the City" sample. The lyrics went even further in distinguishing the group. "Passin' Me By" is about what it feels like to have a girl you're crushing on totally ignore you. That honesty was what defined the uniqueness of The Pharcyde. They were a group of rappers who were not just super-talented, but were vulnerable, sensitive, and distinct from the gangsta posturing of the stereotypical rapper at that time and location. They instantly struck a nerve with hip-hop fans everywhere who were hungry for something honest, real, and relatable from their rhymesayers.  Now excuse me while I go back and re-relisten to Bizarre Ride II from start to finish.

The Pharcyde "Passin' Me By" (from Bizarre Ride II)

Relevant Tags

90's Rap (1), West Coast Hip-hop (1), Hip-hop (217), Bizarre Ride Ii (1), The Pharcyde (11), Essential Records (35), Album Picks (146), Hip Hop (94), Slimkid 3 (1), Delicious Vinyl (8), Dr Dre (10), J-swift (1), Bootie Brown (1), Fatlip (2), Imani (1)