EN ROUTE DOWN UNDER: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF THE PHARCYDE
Hailing from the streets of Los Angeles, California, The Pharcyde burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, infusing a unique blend of wit, creativity, and soul into a hip-hop landscape dominated by the gritty sounds of gangsta rap. Originally dancers throughout the 80s, the legendary quartet of Slimkid3, Imani, Fatlip and Bootie Brown combined their lyrical prowess and exploded following their critically acclaimed debut album, “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde,” which quickly became a seminal work in hip-hop history.
Their impact on music and hip-hop culture cannot be overstated. The Pharcyde’s innovative sound and groundbreaking visuals pushed the boundaries of what was possible in rap music at the time. They paved the way for future generations, with artists including Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and J. Cole all naming them as key influences.
Now, some thirty years on, after a much-publicised journey both together and as individuals, three of the group’s core have reunited in celebration of the anniversary of their debut album to take classic tunes ‘Passin Me By’, ‘Otha Fish’ and more across the globe. We caught up with Slimkid3, Imani, and Fatlip ahead of their arrival in Australia to reminisce on key memories, unpack some legendary moments, and get their insight on artists trying to make it in the game today.
Privilege to be able to talk to you guys, thank you so much for making the time. I really appreciate it.
(Slimkid3) No problem. No problem.
(Imani) No problem man trying to get this just popping by freely, you know., exactly
For real, we’re looking forward to having you out here.
(Slimkid3) That’s what’s up, man. That’s what’s up.
Talk to me, it’s been 30 years since the release of your debut album. That’s going to feel like it’s taken forever. And gone in the blink of an eye.
(Slimkid3) It’s great. It just seemed like a blink of an eye. But I mean, so much time has gone past. I don’t know, we’re right here in the now. Back then time moved a little bit slower, it seemed. And now it’s just like really crazy to look back at all that we’ve accomplished. It’s really fun and cool. Just moving forward to where we’re going to go. Time is going to do whatever time does, but I’m glad we’re still here. You know, making it all happen.
Yeah, what are some of those emotions that you feel sitting there now looking back and reflecting? Is it pride? Is it achievement? Any regrets?
(Slimkid3) No regrets whatsoever. For me, personally, I’m extremely happy. I’m extremely happy to continue celebrating our 30 years of ‘Bizarre Ride II: The Pharcye.’ So I feel great.
(Imani) I feel blessed, and just happy to be here.
Do you remember the moment? Let me take you back 30 years, when you’re creating this record. Did you ever have a concept of what the legacy or impact would be? Or that you’d be touring on the other side of the world?
(Imani) No, we never think about that. We never think about that. We stay in the moment. That’s the thing that fans do. That’s what I always compare it to; people that play sports. You’re not thinking about the accolades of like the Hall of Fame or anything like that. You’re just worried about winning the championship or winning that game that’s right in front of you. So that’s what we can do. 30 years later, we can kind of look back and be like, Oh, we have made it, we got here. But when you in a moment? If you were to think like that… we probably wouldn’t be here if it was. Man we would probably fail.
(Slimkid3) Yeah, for sure. You know, I feel like it’s important not to think about it. It’s important to continue to be in the moment, be in the moment. It’s about your craft and what it is that you’re doing and getting into your fans, and fueling your fans, you know?
I like that lot. Can you take me back to some of those moments creating what was now an iconic hip-hop record? What were what was the mind states when fleshing out your first album?
(Imani) That’s kind of hard to do. Because like we say we stay in the moment. That’s why we recorded those moments. So it’s for the people to get involved and create new moments. Like that’s not what we do. Like that’s what fans do. We stay in the moment and try to look to the future about where we’re at, and where this movement is going. But it’s not a lot of reflection.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated growing up about The Pharcyde is the authenticity on the records. Like, at no stage did I feel any of you tried to be something you weren’t. Talk to me about the importance of just being true and telling your own authentic story.
(Slimkid3) I guess for me it’s important to first find out who you are and what you’re all about. Because if anything is kind of contrived you’re not even guiding your fan base in a direction of anything positive. If you don’t know yourself who you are and what you’re all about. Like why are you even stepping to the mic? Why have you stepped on stage? We discovered who we were years ago and the beautiful thing about where we are now is we’re still authentically us. And thank goodness that we found that part of us so we can shine that out. That’s the important part. Because why would you want to get your audience lost to somebody that’s an imposter? That’s just pure fuckery.
Was that challenging at the time? Obviously, those West Coast NWA sounds were popular at the time when you guys were sort of emerging. You went against the grain. Were there challenges with that with being authentic?
(Imani) We didn’t go against the grain, we’re just doing ourselves. It was so saturated that it was easy to just go against the grain because you just did yourself. The record companies were looking for a certain sound. That’s how the whole next wave was made. And so in response to that, a lot of subgenres were created. So that’s kind of what happened with that. It was really easy. And plus, I mean, that’s, like faking. We come from the era we come from. That’s faking, you feel me?
(Slimkid3) Exactly. You know, like gangster rap was something that kind of started bubbling up. But you can’t do that in LA, you can’t like jump on the mic and pretend. We couldn’t pretend like we’re gangsta rap, just because that’s the that’s the wave of the genre. It’s not that type of city. You can’t be fake in our city at all.
(Imani) But there’s people that do that for the money. But I mean, that’s what it was, because it was a record company thing.
I see a lot of parallels as well, 30 years later with what’s going on today. Obviously, there’s a particular lane and narrow mind sort of pushed by the labels. But I see the influence of acts like The Pharcyde.
(Imani) It’s the music. And it’s the music business. I mean, that’s like oil and water. Music and business. They don’t normally go together. The music business wasn’t created by artists, it was created by lawyers. And that’s the end that period. No more questions. No more going on. The business was created by lawyers, lawyers found entertainment, they culture clashed it, and nobody knew anything until they was already fucked out of everything that they owned. And so now we have the internet, we have a lot of people that’s been through the ringer, so they bring the information down to the youth. That’s what the business was always built on; finding new talent that’s disposable. to make lots of money off of and keep it pushing. It’s not like nowadays it’s not it’s parallel is no, that’s what the business is actually.
That’s real. How did you navigate that at the time?
(Imani) We had mentors. A mentor named Reggie Andrews, he had been in the music industry and he gave us a peek behind the curtain of how it operates. We were able to talk to a lot of people and from what we saw we had a leg up on a lot of the other people. Also, we had money and some inside scoop because we used to dance in the industry and we were doing videos with popular artists. So we had like a barometer of what to expect and what to look out for.
Let’s talk about the art. Let’s talk about the joy of being back on stage together. What are some of the excitements to be doing this again on the other side of the world?
(Fatlip) When we go on stage nowadays, we look out into the crowd and it be some 20 year old, 25 year old, 30 year old in the crowd knowing all the words. Man, we love that shit. It’s an all-ages type of thing at this point. As far as us on stage, we’ve been doing this for a long time, man. We are brothers, man. So it’s fun, we be having the time of our lives.
“The stuff that we put together as a group is incomparable you know. And the world knows it, man. The Pharcyde is like no other. They group us in with the greats of all time!”
I’d love to tap more into that brotherhood as well. Because it’s been such a big journey. You guys come up together, go your separate ways, coming back together. Talk to me about some of that loyalty and bond, and how deep that runs.
(Imani) That’s what a brotherhood is. No matter who you go to school with, you make relationships, you go get a job, you have families and shit. And then some people create businesses together. We created a business together. And we’ve had different things that went on. But I mean, the underlining was that we created something and we created a bond. And there’s a lot of love. We don’t always have to agree, or be on the same page, but we have to have respect for each other. And that’s where the synergy comes from. And the fun and everything, just being able to let everybody bask in our differences to create something new.
(Fatlip) Bro, we are a legendary team, bro. We came into this game together. Sometimes they’ll get mad at me when I say this shit but man, none of us are solo artists. They don’t like when I say that. But it’s really speaking to the greatness of the group. Like, the stuff that we put together as a group is incomparable you know. And the world knows it, man. The Pharcyde is like no other. They group us in with the greats of all time! Let’s be real. Because hip hop for me was a dream come true. And we get to relive it every time we on stage. That’s the beauty of it.
(Slimkid3) Yeah, it’s like a miracle, man. It’s a super, super blessing.|
Do you have any specific moments that you look back on and remember really well, nostalgically?
(Slimkid3) There’s so many moments because we’re still in a moment. It’s like a professional moment.
(Imani) The journey for me. It’s all love. It’s the ups and the downs. That’s what makes it.
(Fatlip) An actual moment was when I was watching Run-D.M.C do an interview. This is the Run-D.M.C who we bought all of their albums when we were in high school. When we didn’t have no clue of how to get into the rap game. We were just consumers of rap. But now Run-D.M.C is being interviewed, and they asked about what’s going on on the West Coast. And Run was like; ‘Yo, no disrespect to Dre and Snoop. I love them dudes, but them Pharcye n****s….’ That’s that moment. I remember that. Because I was high when I was watching, I was smoking a blunt. When we got into the game we was basically embraced by everybody that inspired us. You know, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul. This is the reason why I started rapping. We ended up going on tour. So it’s moments like those.
My homies would absolutely kill me if I didn’t ask about the ‘Drop’ music video. That is such an iconic moment for hip-hop in general. We got crazy technology now you could probably AI that shit, you guys had to do it physically yourself, can you please just take me to that moment?
(Imani) Well we just did the ‘Passin Me By’ video, and that whole video was upside down. So that was a lot more challenging physically to me. But then they’re doing it backwards. The backwards was just something that we didn’t never do it. So we just tried it. You never know until you try. And Spike Jones is a genius. So he had the vision down all in his head. And he just had to translate it to us. And we did our best job trying to translate it to film. And a lot of the people responded to it in a positive way.
How challenging is it to rap backwards through?
(Imani) I mean, we didn’t have to actually rap backwards, we just had to try to do it as good as we could to match the lips. Because it wasn’t like a performance in front of a crowd rapping backwards it was like the magic of Hollywood.
(Slimkid3) It was one of our best challenges of a video. For sure.
(Fatlip) There’s an MTV piece about the making of it. And it’s shit that I forgot about it. But they recorded the song backwards so everybody can learn their verse, just by listening to it backwards. And I think they wrote out the words phonetically, you know, just what it sounds like. And we had to study that.
(Imani) They had a guy there too. On the set. A linguist.
That’s an incredible moment that just lives on in time. What’s the affinity with Australia? What are some of the things you’re looking forward to coming out here?
(Fatlip) I love the weather, man. I love the energy.
(Slimkid3) Sydney is incredible. You know what I mean? Like a super party city. It’s a lot of fun. I like the humour that goes on in Aussie land, you know. I love Australia.
(Imani) I’m excited to take this show on the road, because we ain’t hit that part of the globe yet. Respond to what’s on the down under side.
(Fatlip) A lot of people from Australia when I met them in LA, I get along with him. And I honestly think it’s the weather. The weather is very simple. The climate is very similar to me. There’s some kind of rapport between LA and Australia.
What advice would you have for artists that are coming out right now? What are some of the keys and fundamentals they need to focus on?
(Slimkid3) We get this a lot, right. Focus on your spark. Once you find yourself and find your groove, because a lot of times when people jump into music, they think they got to do shit that sounds like everybody else’s shit. But that’s not the way to go about it. You really got to figure out what the fuck is your groove? And once you find that, then turn that into a whole experience. Your world; what is that? What’s that sound like or whatever. Don’t look around. Don’t be paying too much attention to shit. As a matter of fact, probably turn off your TV, turn off your radio, turn off everything just so you can get into the groove of you. And what you and your band is coming with. What is it? Who are we? What is our thing? Step into what you believe in. What are you putting out into the world? Why do we give a fuck about you? What message are you putting out? It could be anything, it doesn’t have to be a positive message or whatever. I mean, positive messages definitely help. But what the fuck are you? Who the fuck are you? What are you giving out to the world? Because if you’re not authentic, nobody’s gonna fucking want to feel you anyway. Or it’ll be a one-hit wonder, or you’re in this day and out the next, you know what I mean? So, if music is something that you love, then you dive in it wholeheartedly in all in all facets and factors.
That’s real. I want to just say thank you so much OG’s. Appreciate your time. Hopefully, get to link up at the show when you’re out here next week.
(Slimkid3) Yeah, sounds good. Love. Blessings. Thank you.
The Pharcyde hits Australia next week alongside Masta Ace and Marco Polo. Tickets are on sale now.