The year is 2004, and 2005 is about to breach the canal. What better way to usher Baby '05 into a challenging world than to the sweet sounds of yesteryear, hip-hop style.
The year 1992 brought Bill Clinton to office; the Rodney King beating, trial and subsequent riots to the nation's living rooms; and Encino Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to movie theaters. Musically, one of the more worthwhile CDs released that year was the critically acclaimed, imaginatively animated and aptly named Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde.
The Pharcyde was one of the brightest rising stars of 1992's Fresh Coast (West Coast) explosion, which also included Freestyle Fellowship and Nor Cal's Hieropglyphics crew. Pharcyde helped spearhead a fresh-faced facet of hip-hop that, while conceptually focused, was sonically engaging and lacked much of the clich negativity associated with rap music at the time. The somewhat cartoonish quartet -- Slim Kid Tre, Fat Lip, Imani and Royme -- helped initiate an aura of delicious dopeness that paved the way for groups such as The Wascals, Anotha Level and Project Blowed.
Pharcyde's psychedelic beats and powerful lyrics, like those of "Passing Me By," expressed an urban romanticism that maintained a sense of dignity for both men and women, a rarity in rap music: "Back as kids we used to kiss when we played truth or dare/ Now she's more sophisticated, highly edu-ma-cated, not at all overrated/ I think I need a prayer." The song forced many of hip-hop's elite to press rewind on their Walkmans.
Pharcyde's first single, "Ya Mama," reminded listeners that hip-hop can be just plain fun. Tracks such as "Runnin'" (from the critically acclaimed sophomore effort Labcabincalifornia) showed their capacity for introspection and maturity: "There comes a time in every man's life when he's gotta handle shit up on his own/ Can't depend on friends to help you in a squeeze/ Please, they got problems of their own."
Along with the maturity of the second album came some of the growing pains that many successful musicians go through, resulting in a splintering of the group when Fat Lip left to pursue a solo project. Pharcyde subsequently released a couple of albums (Chapter One and Plain Rap) that, while embraced by die-hard fans and underground heads, failed to live up to the commercial success of the first two major releases.
Pharcyde's popularity has picked up speed once again, and they will grace the stage at 32 Bleu the last night of 2004 for a New Year's Eve Special. The $55 price tag includes an open bar. Local artists Black Pegasus (whose new album Knuckle Up is due out in early 2005) and Samir (of Accumen1) will spit first, priming the crowd for the energetic flow of The Pharcyde. "Quinton's on the Way" (track 13 from Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde ), it's the new year's birthday, and for that night at least, everything might be OK.
-- Sara Gallagher
The Pharcyde, Black Pegasus, Samir (of Accumen1)
32 Bleu, 32 S. Tejon St.
Friday, Dec. 31, 9 p.m.
$55 includes open bar