The early 1990s are often affectionately looked back on as the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. As icons like Biggie, Pac and Nas were making their ascents to cultural royalty, various offshoots of the form were developing concurrently. One particularly mellow strain of the genre was Alternative Hip-Hop, popularized on the East Coast by such legends as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. These groups injected humor and contemplation into their lyrics and combined them with a laid-back, often jazzy beat selection. The music transcended backgrounds and boundaries, reaching fans all over the world, including the West Coast. The Pharcyde were the most popular and influential West Coast group of their time to try their hands at the style. They ended up delivering an absolutely classic debut right off the rip with their legendary debut, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde.
Formed in the late 1980s, The Pharcyde (who originally had a dance background, rather than rap) cemented their lineup by 1991. The group consisted of MCs Slimkid3, Imani, Bootie Brown and Fatlip. With the help of skilled producer Juan Manuel Martinez (“J-Swift”), the quartet found their sound early, and some of their most famous songs were included on their initial demo tape. The group quickly signed to Delicious Vinyl, and released Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde on November 24, 1992.
With hilarious tracks like “Ya Mama” and “Oh Shit,” the album dealt with relatable themes and connected immediately with critics and discerning fans. “Pack the Pipe” became a stoner anthem with its blunted vibes and pro-cannabis lyrics, while the album’s biggest track, “Passin’ Me By,” smartly sampled Quincy Jones’ “Summer in the City” and soon became a crossover hit. The song peaked at #52 on the Billboard charts and reached the top slot on the Hot Rap Singles chart.
The album became more of a cult classic than a commercial smash, but eventually earned the group a gold certification from the RIAA. Over time, the album has continued to endear its way into the culture and is often lauded on “Best Of” lists in publications from The Source to Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and more. Other West Coast groups, such as Souls of Mischief, Jurassic 5, and Hieroglyphics, used the Pharcyde’s groundbreaking blueprint as a launch pad for their own careers. Decades later, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde remains as jubilant and beloved as when it was released, bringing with it a nostalgia for simpler times and music that was as fun as it was funky. The Pharcyde succeeded in their quest for a Hip-Hop sound they could call their own.
RECOMMENDED READINGNPR published a fantastic feature on Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde for the album’s 20th anniversary back in 2013.
Who Sampled has a great entry into the various samples that helped make Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde such a rich sonic tapestry. This retrospective Pitchfork review dives into the group’s inspirations for the album and affectionately celebrates their unique dynamic.
DEEP CUTS WE LOVE...
“Ya Mama” - A fun-loving cypher in which the group dedicates its rhymes strictly to the then-popular theme of making fun of each other’s mothers. The track embodies the energy of good friends hanging out together.
“4 Better 4 Worse” sees the MCs exploring their fantasies and nightmares about marriage and relationships over a funked-out and upbeat instrumental.
“Passin’ Me By” was the group’s biggest hit and featured the crew pontificating on their romantic pursuits and how the thrill of the chase kept them moving.
DID YOU KNOW?
- A few months prior to Bizarre Ride’s release, The Pharcyde was first featured on Delicious Vinyl labelmates The Brand New Heavies’ song “Soul Flower.”
- The album was partially inspired by comedian Richard Pryor, who rebelled against 1960s whitewashing and sterile stage standards and instead championed honest humor that more accurately reflected his life experiences.
- Before they began rapping, the group danced in various music videos (including a Tone Lōc project) and appeared as the “Fly Guys” on the popular TV show In Living Color.