1992 was a turbulent time for the West Coast, and the hip-hop music of the time fully reflected it. The Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. riots made the world take notice of the problems of the left coast.
Reality rap was at a premium, with artists like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Compton’s Most Wanted telling their street stories on wax. The world was receiving musical crash courses on everything from gang-banging to pulling drive-bys.
Dancers-turned-rappers The Pharcyde splashed onto the rap scene in 1992 with “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde” –exposing the world to a different sound out of Los Angeles.
The four man group out of South Central consisted of members Imani, Slimkid3, Bootie Brown and Fatlip as well as producer J-Swift. The group’s jazz-infused carefree music was a sharp contrast to the violent undertones of many of their L.A. counterparts.
“Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde” is exactly what the title entails – a temporary escape from the often harsh realities of the real world. Song topics are fresh and relatable enough no matter what type of person you are, even today.
Skits have become a lost art in albums of today, but the three skits on this project all relate to the theme of the album.
“It’s Jigaboo Time (Skit)” is a humorous story of black artists selling their soul to the music industry. The catchy chorus of “It’s Jigaboo Time” retracts from the sting of the reality of the lyrics.
The four emcees’ contrasting pitches and flows make for a unique sound as they rap over intricate jazz samples and heavy bass lines.
The lead single “Passin Me By” is a timeless ode of failing to approach a potential love interest that still resonates two decades later. Producer J-Swift samples the blaring horns of Quincy Jones’ “Summer in the City” as the quartet takes turns sharing experiences with women.
The group handles a variety of topics on the album, from dealing with police (“Officer”) to juggling multiple women (“Otha Fish”).
The standout track of the album is “Ya Mama”, a tongue-in-cheek call and response track dedicated to the past-time of making jokes about a person’s mother.
The song will at least get a chuckle out of you, as Imani raps “cause you was beat-boxing for Lou Rawls in some bright red boxers drawers”.
The group even manages to pay homage to hip-hop’s roots, sampling Doug E. Fresh on the album closer “Return of the B-Boy”. Despite being from the other side of the country, the group captures the New York sound that pioneered the genre.
Although production has evolved in the 24 years since the release of the album, J-Swifts production is still fresh enough to keep your head nodding.
The jazz samples are refreshing, and all four emcees bring something different to the table.
There are no tracks worth skipping, each possesses enough replay value to convince the listener to enjoy the album in its entirety.
Other standout tracks are “Pack the Pipe”, “On the DL”, and “4 Better or 4 Worse”.
Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde provided a different outlook to west coast rap at a time when the world was enamored with the nuances of the west coast underworld.
While artists like DJ Quik and MC Eiht made names detailing their lives as gang bangers, Pharcyde painted a completely different picture of the crime-ridden communities of Los Angeles.
No matter how big of a hip-hop fan you are, “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde” is a must for any collection, providing comedy and consciousness gift-wrapped over tight beats.