The impressive return of the Pharcyde's SlimKid3
It's hard to believe that next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Pharcyde's "Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde." Unlike many records from 1992, this one has held up beautifully, from J-Swift and SlimKid3's jazz and funk-refracted bangers to the still-funny jokes and skits.
As for the songs themselves, they remain iconic. You can play "Passing Me By" and "Otha Fish" at a party tonight and the DJ will always get love. To say nothing of "Ya Mama," which will sustain junior high school dozens games for perpetuity (that is, if the junior high kids hear it).
The group didn't fare as well in the aftermath of the record. Following "Labcabincalifornia," the under-the-radar classic that introduced producer J Dilla, Pharcyde was beset by everything from intra-group acrimony to label woes to drug addiction. Thing is, Pharcyde was always advanced --too smart, too self-honest and too unwilling to conform to easy-to-digest images or mass appeal. Off the strength of two albums, its legacy is forever secure in the top tier of Los Angeles rap groups.
But other than the left-field gem that was "What's Up Fatlip?," none of the members of Pharcyde has really gotten much media attention in the last decade and a half. There have been tours, a few albums, and a brief sideline working with David Silver from "Beverly Hills, 90210." But it's doubtful that most of us have heard anything as strong as "Another Day Another Dollar," Tre Hardson's new two-song EP with DJ Nu-Mark (formerly of Jurassic 5)
He's been able to channel the vicissitudes of the last two decades into his music. The title track introduces a "world where the ends don’t meet the means/Quite as sweet/Some lie, some cheat." It's acknowledgment of the cheap caprices of the world. Today's star is tomorrow's crafty veteran touring as much as possible to make rent and car payments. There are "Elevator"-type attacks on people who approach him like he's loaded. The hook admits that "life has a price that makes you want to holler."
"Friday Night" finds Tre alternately celebrating the weekend and mulling the perils of the work-a-day lifestyle. Like his best work in Pharycde, it's warm, relatable and warrants repeat listening. Nu-Mark eschews the sample collage classicism of Pharcyde for stripped-down jazz loops that pick up where J-Swift left off. This is very good and a welcome return of a local hip-hop legend.
-- Jeff Weiss