Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde Turns Twenty

Members of the jazz- and weed-infused seminal hip-hop group took a nostalgia trip to Berkeley and San Francisco last weekend.

Cannabis culture touchstone and influential, alternative hip-hop album Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde — which still sees as much spin among Generation Y weed lovers as, say, The Wailers’ Burnin’ or Dr. Dre’s The Chronic — turned twenty this year, an occasion that sparked a nostalgia tour that made a swing through the Bay Area on August 3 and 4. “It wouldn’t have been Bizarre Ride without jazz and it wouldn’t have been Bizarre Ride without cannabis,” said former Pharcyde vocalist Fatlip, in a phone interview. “Hell no. Those two are the main components of The Pharcyde and Bizarre Ride.”

Mixing jazz instrumentals and hip-hop beats, The Pharcyde’s debut album became a sonic template for a generation, said DaddyKev, founder of the Low End Theory, which produced the all-ages show of “Bizarre Ride Live” at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco’s SOMA district on Friday night. The show re-united co-founders and former members of The Pharcyde — Fatlip and Slimkid3 — with Bizarre Ride LP producers J-Sw!ft and L.A. Jay for a performance of the gold-selling album in its entirety.

The show was packed with a strange, smoky mix of alternative hip-hoppers and weirdos, as well as the Bay’s huge Filipino-American hip-hop contingent. (“Bizarre Ride Live” also held court at Amoeba Music in Berkeley on Saturday.)

The once-in-a-generation performance doled out certified, cannabis-infused hip-hop gold like “Runnin’,” “Passin’ Me By,” “Oh Sh*t,” and “Pass the Pipe,” plus all the goofy skits and interludes from the Los Angeles-based, conscious hip-hop act’s first album.

Album artist SLICK handled the stage production and direction, which included B-boy throwdowns and custom visuals. The show brought back the positive, experimental vibe of the 1992 release, which offered a light-hearted, more collegiate alternative to the West Coast gangsta rap of the time.

“We were just having a good time the whole time,” Slimkid3 said in a phone interview. He lives in Portland, where he DJs and lives with his wife and child. “There was a lot of weed smoke, Hennessey, ‘shrooms. We were gone man. That’s what the record came out to be, you know?”

All four co-founders share co-production credits and co-writing credits for most of the album, but after the promising 1992 debut, The Pharcyde became an archetypal cautionary tale. Artistic differences, personality conflicts, and problems with alcohol and other hard drugs dissolved the original lineup within a few years.

Co-founder Imani holds the rights to the name “The Pharcyde,” Slimkid3 said, and Imani and Bootie Brown wanted no part of the reunion tour. After all these years, the two are still beefing with Fatlip and Slimkid3. “[A reunion] could really be a beautiful thing. We’re all older,” Slimkid3 said. “All I can really say is the best to them.”

But even without Imani and Bootie Brown, “Bizarre Ride Live” still had the touch on Friday. The album’s producers J-Sw!ft and L.A. Jay seemed comfortable behind the decks and keyboards, despite J-Sw!ft’s documented battle with crack addiction. “J-Sw!ft is doing pretty good. I’m really happy for that guy,” Slimkid3 said. “I would have never thought in a million years he would be someone who was consumed by that demon.

“Drugs is really hard,” Slimkid3 continued. “I’ve did mine. Everybody did their own little thing: ‘shrooms, ecstasy, coke. I’m glad he was someone that survived. I’m glad Fatlip survived. We’re here now. We’re all blessed to be around each other and do something positive.”

As a Portlander, Slimkid3, aka Tre Hardson, will have the opportunity this fall to vote on Measure 80, which would legalize marijuana sales to adults in Oregon, as well as create a legal marijuana and hemp industry in the state. Hardson is for it. “I think marijuana should definitely be legalized,” he said. “If anything is no fucking big deal, it’s marijuana.

“It’s generally not my fight, but where people go to jail for it, that’s a big one,” he continued. “That’s the most backward shit ever. Arrest people that are murdering. Focus on real dangers. I don’t think it’s weed.”

Down in LA, Fatlip expressed reservations about the Los Angeles City Council’s decision last month to try and ban medical marijuana storefront dispensaries, of which there are thought to be several hundred in the city. “They legalized it, now they’re banning it? Are they high? Maybe they should make up their mind,” he said. “It ain’t that hard if you want to smoke some weed. If you don’t get it in a store, then you buy it off some homies for twenty bucks. People have been smoking weed before that shit was so-called legal.”

Hardson prefers a bottle of champagne these days to anything illicit, though hangovers have led to moderation. Like many older smokers, Fatlip’s aged out as well. “I stopped smoking a while ago because I just started to get paranoid, and I smoked too much.”


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