Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 7: The Pharcyde: "Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde"

Artist: The Pharcyde
Album: Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
Year: 1992
Label: Delicious Vinyl

When it comes to the tightest, razor-sharp lyrical flipping, it is nearly impossible to top The Pharcyde and their debut record, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. Clever rhymes, spit rapid-fire over jovial melodies enabled the record to become one of the cornerstones of the rap/hip-hop explosion of the early 90's as well as one of the most significant rap records ever.

"Smart" or "witty" simply do not do justice to the level of intelligence behind the lyrics of the quintet of emcees that make up The Pharcyde. Whether they are joking about "Ya Mama" or critiquing police harassment, the rhymes are savvy and explosive, only dropping "four letter words" when they actually work with the rhyme. Each rapper makes room for the others, and this benefits the overall album as they each shine throughout and play off one anothers' rhymes perfectly. Seriously, name one other rap group that "name checks" Magic Johnson and Menudo in the same song...and makes it cool.

Musically, the background beats and sounds evoke the freeness and experimentation of the 60's psychedelic movement. Panning various sounds from ear to ear, the DJ's truly make the music "move." Live instruments, dancing keyboards, as well as the traditional "samples," create a wonderfully full sound throughout the record. These songs are so impeccable that they themselves have been sampled countless times since their release. The best known was when R&B singer Joe ripped the entire hook to "Passin' Me By" for his 2000 hit, "Stutter."

Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde has a staggeringly broad scope in sound and feel for a single rap record. It has traditional, forceful, bragging rhymes with "I'm That Type Of Nigga" as well as social commentaries with "Officer." "Soul Flower" is an absolute 70's funk bonanza while "Otha Fish" is a self-affirming song of self-worth. "Ya Mama" remains an absolute classic to those who know it well. In short, it's four minutes of first class "ya mama" jokes as the mic is passed around the group in a long contest of "one upsmanship" of "ya mama" one liners.

In reality, one could write pages on nearly each track on Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. It has no moments of weakness or wackness. Every rhyme is stellar and the music tracks are equal in their level of refinement. The Pharcyde, as a group, have very few peers when it comes to ability to write a crushing rhyme. Though it was somewhat lost in the explosion of "gangsta rap," if you haven't experienced Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, you are truly doing yourself a disservice.

Standout tracks: "Oh Shit," "Soul Flower," and "Passin' Me By."

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