The Pharcyde Biography

This spaced-out rap crew originally comprised Imani Wilcox, Bootie Brown (Romye Robinson), Slim Kid (b. Tré Hardson) and Fat Lip (b. Derrick Stewart). Based in Los Angeles, California, USA, their goofy, fast-talking style defied the early 90s rash of gangsta vinyl from that area with a dogma-deflating blend of cool, loopy rhythms and cultural lyrics. Hardson, Robinson and Wilcox originally worked as dancers and choreographers, appearing on the television series In Living Color. They formed Pharcyde in 1990 with rapper Stewart, and cut a demo tape with producer J-Swift. The resulting battle for their signatures was won by the Delicious Vinyl label. The crew contributed one of the most effective cuts, ‘Soul Flower’, to the Brand New Heavies’ Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1, before releasing their excellent debut. A multi-layered comic masterpiece, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde’s appeal was epitomised by the single ‘Ya Mama’, a series of ridiculous and escalating insults (also referred to as ‘Snaps’ or ‘Playing The Dozens’) traded between the vocalists that was reminiscent at times of A Tribe Called Quest and Dream Warriors. However, the crew’s observations remained genuinely funny, housed in swinging, almost harmonised rap couplets, jazz breaks and quirky narratives: ‘We’re all jigaboos - might as well take the money’ was a half-stinging, half self-mocking assertion. The single, ‘Passin’ Me By’, even contained a definition of old school stylings. They then holed up in their new LabCabin home base to work on their second album. Appearances on the Street Fighter soundtrack and Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool compilation followed, before Labcabincalifornia was released late in 1995. The album reflected the crew’s new-found maturity, with the debut’s charming idiosyncrasies ironed out in favour of smooth, jazzy beats, and a sober adult slant to the lyrical matter. Fatlip subsequently left to concentrate on a solo career. The remaining members released 1999’s Testing The Waters EP on their own label, but by the following year’s Plain Rap only Bootie Brown and Imani remained from the original line-up.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.