Call ‘em class clowns. Four young, vulgar, ADD-addled smartasses who stood out against the stark landscape of early ’90s West Coast hip-hop. They were The Pharcyde, a group whom with one record blew up L.A. alternative rap. While the foursome of Fatlip, Imani, Bootie Brown, and Slimkid Tre weren’t the first guys from Cali to rap about stuff that didn’t concern sex, money, and murder (Artists like Del tha Funky Homosapien and Freestyle Fellowship were already on the scene), they brought critical acclaim and national attention to lighthearted L.A. rap. They came along at the right time, 1992, just months after the city imploded from the L.A. riots and right before Dr. Dre changed the game completely with The Chronic. Their style took a page or two out of the Native Tongues handbook, as they embraced expression, youth, and individuality. They rapped about normal stuff that happened to them.
Well, somewhat normal stuff.
Bizarre Ride II, not a sequel, but a clever line when paired with the group’s name, was a straight up addiction for me when I first got into hip-hop. The group initially reminded me of a West Coast version of De La Soul, except somehow wilder and much, much stranger. Bizarre Ride is full of wild outbursts, head-scratching tales, ridiculous interludes, hi-larious rhymes, and somewhat queasy revelations. Trust me, when you hear that infamous phone call between a super-duper creepin’ Fatlip and an unsuspecting innocent woman on “4 Better or 4 Worse” you know that you’re in some odd, carnival-like funhouse where any-fuckin’-thing GOES. It’s a brilliantly whacked album, and you could tell that the four had some fun coming up with the wildest shit they could.
The production suits the kids perfectly. It’s blunt, weird, and spontaneous, with a jazzy vibe, smart samples, live instrumentation, and the solid feeling of an intimate, in-studio performance…something that not many hip-hop records did back in the day (or do today for that matter). There are many moments where you hear the four of ’em wilding out to a solid drum and piano combo, and throughout the record you’ll often hear other members yelling, ad-libbing, correcting, interjecting, and interrupting in the background while someone is on the mic, which adds to the chaos and oddity. Again, they were really having fun here, and didn’t mind screwing around even when the mic was recording.
Now, if you know the Pharcyde, you associate them with one song in particular. “Passing Me By,” a track dedicated to heartache and unrequited love, was one of Bizarre Ride’s few serious songs, and the one that came to define the group. While it’s a solid track, with real emotion and sincerity, you probably know it already (and if not, Youtube it), and I’m always in the mood for strangeness and hilarity, so tonight’s post is “Oh Shit.”
First song off the album, “Oh Shit” is the most perfect way to introduce you to the group, what with its blunt piano drops, the rambunctious energy, and playful vibe. Taking center stage are the stories the boys tell, of their wildest, weirdest, most “oh shit”-moments with women, with Fatlip’s concluding story in particular being eyebrow-raising in ’92 and in 2015 a situation rappers still won’t touch with a 50-foot pole. Stupendous.
A bizarre ride, indeed.