I learned about the Pharcyde thanks to 89.9 KTSW, the college radio station from Texas State University, then known as Southwest Texas University (still a great station). They used to play “Passing Me By” a lot back in 2002 and it blew me away. I actually thought it was a new song. A couple of years later I tracked down the album it came from, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, and was even more impressed. Not only did it become my favorite hip hop album, it became one of my favorites of any genre. I go through periods where I play almost nothing else for days. Puts me in a great mood every time I hear it.
Which category does my favorite hip hop album fall into, profane or principled? As you can probably guess from the symbolism on the album cover, there’s a fair amount of sexual humor within. So maybe still profane. There’s no doubt about it though, The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde is a totally different animal than the last hip hop album I wrote about, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.
While the Chronic also has its share of humor, it’s more of a mean-spirited, vicious kind of humor. Bizarre Ride is just plain fun. Listening to it all the way through feels like being at an awesome party with all your best friends, where the only worry is how you’re gonna get home without being pulled over for DWI, not whether a rival gangsta might pop a cap in yo ass.
J Swift’s grooves and samples are jazzy as well as funky. In fact, I’ve seen Pharcyde songs included on acid jazz compilations. MCs Fatlip, SlimKid 3, Imani and Bootie Brown are rude, politically incorrect, funny, good-natured jokers who take turns on the mic and basically sound like they’re having one hell of a great time. They’re not rapping about gang culture or gritty street scenes. These are guys who go to school, get jobs, get married, get divorces, smoke a bit of weed (maybe more than just a bit) and have a lot of fun. The kind of guys I can identify with.
You might hear songs off Bizarrre Ride and think “Oh, these must be guys who got tired of the gangsta rap of the ’90s and wanted to do something different,” or you might wonder if it came from the pre-gangsta rap days. But no, this album came out in 1992, the same year as the Chronic. And it also came from the West Coast. Really unique album.
Check out a couple of songs and see if you don’t agree:
And check out KTSW. Guaranteed to turn you onto something awesome: 89.9 FM KTSW