We wrapped three weeks of De La Soul debates with the largest margin of voting for the three weeks. De La Soul is Dead handily walked away with the most votes. Won’t have a final vote total for a five hours or so, but I think it’s safe to declare a ..Is Dead as the winner. I assumed it might be a little closer than what is showing right now. The two previous match-ups were much closer than the final turned out to be. I’m not if I would had the first round match-ups as the first two albums against each and then the third and fourth albums. I somehow doubt it, but we’ll never know.
Final Verdict: De La Soul Is Dead
Two albums from one of my all-time favorite groups, The Pharcyde. They square off in what may end up to be a one sided land slide, or I could be surprised with the amount of people that share the same feelings I do for their sophomore release, Labcabincalifornia. Pharcyde is one of those groups that came with a sound and originality that was somewhat common in those golden age years. Pharcyde was one of those groups that kind of popped up here and there before the album actually dropped. My introduction to them, from my recollection, was on the Brand New Heavies’ Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol 1, which they appeared on with the track “Soul Flower”. “Ya Mama” would be the first single, which coming from the Delicious Vinyl camp, this seems to be up to par. But The Pharcyde wouldn’t be in the same mold as Tone Loc or Young MC, they were much more artistic than that. The four members, Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre, Bootie Brown and Imani along with producer J-Swift, brought fun and good times from the dark streets of Southern California. Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde produced one of the arguably greatest singles of all-time with “Passin’ Me By”, which would garner Fatlip with “Rhyme of the Month” in an issue of The Source. The song along with the album would also gain some mainstream attention.
The Pharcyde’s second album, Labcabincalifornia would drop the fall of ’95. The original reaction to the album would be one of wonderment and somewhat initial disappointment. It was a complete 180 from what was found on Bizarre Ride…, gone was the zaniness and wacky mood, replaced by a somewhat somber and darker album. The Pharcyde had grown up and the result was a more mature effort. Some people were baffled by this, while others, such as myself, enjoyed the reinvented Pharcyde. Admittedly, this is kind of like comparing apples and oranges, but they are still both “fruit”, so the comparison is somewhat justified. Which is album do you find more enjoyable? Which album holds true to the test of time? We shall soon see….
The Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde Vs. Labcabincalifornia
When four MC’s appeared from the L.A. gang infested landscape in 1992, a lot of us were caught off guard. L.A. didn’t have an underground that was well known to the rest of the country, it was mainly known for it’s gangster related tales. There was no Freesytle Fellowship, no Alkaholiks, no Living Legends at this time. It was only Bloods & Crips gaining much nationwide attention in the hip hop world. The crew would originally get their start as dancers. Royme aka Bootie Brown, Imani and Slim Kid Tre would all meet in the dancing circles. After the trio did several little group projects, where they would also meet Fatlip and the foundation for the Pharcyde would be born. Of course there was the unofficial fifth member in J-Swift, who would define the sound on their debut album Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. I’ve often compared J-Swift to Prince Paul, in that they both bring an unique sound to their respected group efforts they worked on. They both bring a “fun” sound to the groups album. For the Pharcyde, this would be defining sound on Bizarre Ride.., the creativity just oozes out of the album’s very exsistence.
From the albums lead off song after a brief intro, “Oh Shit”, with it’s pounding piano keys, scratching, and head bobbing beat, you know this is going to be something special. Then as the crew shouts “Oh Shit”, Tre drops lyrics that will define the lyrics found on the album. Nearly every song comes off as pranksters trying to out snap their group member, with lyrics that one can rhyme along with or at the very least get a chuckle from. All four members are strong lyrically, but I’ve long thought that Fatlip and Tre were just a step above the similar sounding Bootie Brown and Imani. In fact Fatlip brought a sound and attitude that the Pharcyde sorely needed (as evident on non Fatlip Pharcyde releases). It would be Fatlip that brought that somewhat funny, but dark & sinister sound to a change things up, as found on “4 Better or 4 Worse”:
Well this is the final chap
of me, we’re going to rack up (Who is this?)
in tune, in tune, in tune, a button (Why are you calling my house?)
a button, a button! Oh c’mon, honey (Who is this? What?)
Would you come along with me down (Mike is that you?)
the lane and I will pick your brain (Oh my God. Who is this?)
I won’t be good like you think I will (I’ll fucking call the cops)
I’ll take a hammer and start to drill (Don’t call my house)
Your skull, and then I’ll really start (Oh my God, what is this)
picking, your brains cells, I will be (What? I’m gonna call the cops)
licking, mmm mmm mmm mmmm! *slurp* okay? (Quit fucking around)
You taste so intelligent, ahhhhhh (Hello, who is this?)
Yes yes yes, you trusted me, now (Help, who is this? What)
I busted thee, top of your skull are you doing? (Why are you..)
You thought the day was going to be (..calling me?) DULL??
I’ll make it very exciting I took your fingers then I started (WHO ARE YOU? Why are you..) BITING, and then I scraped the meat (..calling my house?)
off, the bone, of your leg (Stop calling here!)
Ahhahhh, you tried to make me beg (Don’t call here anymore)
But I had to insist, I had to insist Iayaay, run up your pussy with my fist (AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)
Okay, I think we’ve gone a little bit (I’m gonna call the cops!)
overboard, don’t stop it yet (Fuck you don’t call my house!!)
Yes, it’s kind of dark, but which one of us haven’t acted like an idiot and at least joked around with our friends, kidding around, saying we wanted to do something like this to that stuck up bum bitch down the street? I know it wasn’t just me…haha. The one “somewhat” serious song is “On the DL”, which has one of my all-time favorite verses, a verse that I played a lot after falling out with some supposed “close” friends:
flip fly caught you soarin sky high
but a fly slip wash you up fly
drip my eyes cry tears fear
a baby eagle seagull shit falls quicker than a local hero zero
from zero leaves nothin’
now ain’t that somethin’? a
nd all this time you been wantin’ somethin’ for nothin’
the crew has pushed your button ‘
cause your frame is on recall
the homies kick the (fact)
’cause its wack to let you fall (why doesn’t what)
you’re rollin in the ‘hood
so niggas that don’t wantcha a
nd you’re fucked crazy fucked like the slut Heather Hunter (with me)
the one that punches shit I know
you’ll get the pick with the cars and the girls and the ego and the loot chief
I’ll make this brief I’d be lyin through my teeth
if I told you you was dope and your benefits was reaped from my ego
those (libro) kids are creepin’ with the steel and you’re cappin’
’bout this rappin’ and they’re cavin’ in the grill
Of course the crew doesn’t stay serious very long (if at all), “Officer”, is a humorous ode to the men in blue. This one isn’t your “Crooked Officer” type of police track, it’s more about the boys trying to avoid one time. “Ya Mama” is just an ode to Mama Jokes. The first time I heard it, I thought it was gimmicky as fuck, and in some ways, I still do, but you have to love it after awhile. You have the two “classics” in “Passin’ Me By” and “Otha Fish”. We all know what makes “Passin’ Me By” so great, with the Jimi sample and all four drop strong verses, but are somewhat over shadowed by Fatlip’s verse, which ranks up there as one of the all-time bests in my book. The second “classic” that I speak of is the great “Otha Fish”. This song helped me get through my first major break-up. If I played this track one time, I probably played it a thousand times the summer of ’95. It’s all Tre, which is also a reason why I’ve always claimed Tre as my favorite member. Tre’s sing song rap style was always so smooth and mellow, I figured he’d make a great solo album….I guess I was wrong on that thought, but he drops some jewels on the album.
You can not find many faults with Bizarre Ride… it’s easily one of the top 50 hip hop albums of all-time, if not higher. The chemistry was excellent, both between the members and producer J-Swift. It’s creative, entertaining and still sounds good, some sixteen (dayum) years later.
In what would be one of the biggest changes from one album to the next, the Pharcyde dropped Labcabincalifornia to much anticipation. This would be one of the reasons that it was originally seen as somewhat as disappointment by the general hip hop consensus. It’s like they went from being high school freshmen to college seniors in a matter of three short years. The first single from the album dropped the summer of ’95. “Runnin” was a hit of sorts, while not on the same level as “Passin’ Me By”. I personally believe if this was their first album, “Runnin’” would be looked upon as on par with what “Passin’ Me By” became. Personally, I was enamored by “Runnin’”, both beatwise and lyrically. The song was produced by a then little known Jay Dee. This was a fact that I never really thought much about until I would hear about this Jay Dee cat again around 2000 and his amazing group, Slum Village, that Questlove was pumping up every chance he got on Okayplayer back in the day. Lyrically, it would once again be Slim Kid Tre that gets my vote for verse of the song and maybe album. Again, in 1995, I was going through some personal upheavals, getting dumped after a two year relationship, shedding some so-called “friends” (no, the two had nothing to do with each other), I was looking for something to relate to, and this song, and this whole album would be my rock. Tre kicked a verse that related to my very being at that moment in time:
There comes a time in every mans life when he’s gotta handle up on his own
Can’t depend on friends to help you in a sqeeze, please they got problems of their
Down for the count on seven chickens shits don’t get to heaven til they faced these fears in these fear zones
Used to get jacked back in high school I played it cool just so some real shit won’t get full blown
Being where I’m from they let the smoke come quicker than an evil red-neck could lynch a helpless colored figure
And as a victim I invented low-key til the keyhole itself got lower than me
So I stood up and let my free form form free.
Said I’m gonna get some before they knockin’ out me.
I don’t sweat it I let the bullshit blow in the breeze in other words just freeze
Always wanted to make a song with “I let the bullshit blow in the breeze” as hook. It’s long been a verse I’ve rhymed in my head when shit sucks around. Yeah, maybe emo, but music, in my opinion, should spark some kind of emotion, at least good music does.
When the album dropped, I can still remember going to the local Hastings store and picking it up. I threw it in my Jimmy’s stereo system and immediately was aware of the more mature sound. Before the album dropped, the reviews (when reviews actually give us a sneak preview of an album that NO ONE else had heard) said the sound was completely different, and they would be right. Joints like “She Said”, “Hey You”, and “Y?” all showcased the Pharcyde’s new grown up sound. Other songs such as “Pharcyde”, “Groupies” (YAAAAY Bitch!) and “Drop”, with it’s crazy video embodied some of the original ‘Cyde sense of humor.
Over time, I think Labcabin.. has slowly won people over. After the initial shock of the group completely changing their sound, which can attributed to J-Swift no longer producing the group, people can accecpt this project without comparing it to their first album. Many groups have been cursed with having a classic first album and not ever being able to get close to it again in the people’s eyes instead of letting each piece of work stand on their own merit. For me, Labcabin… is a personal album, one that reminds me of a certain time and an album that I used as a crutch to get their some personal rough times. It was my raft in the rapids of life. There are many verses from the album that I still use to this day in my life when shit gets hectic.
When it all comes down to it, each album will be for different moods and events in life. Bizarre Ride… is something that should be listened to at a BBQ or at a party. I can remember last summer being over at CH Commish’s place of residence and just starting at his poster he had up in his garage while we played beer pong. Maybe it was my quick intoxication kickin’ in after repeatedly getting my ass handed to me in beer pong, or maybe it was my pent up rage I was harboring toward former Atlanta Brave Sid Bream that night. I remember seeing the blurry Bizarre Ride… poster and really wanting, needing to hear that album at that particular moment. Then there have been times when things aren’t going so right, shady friends, female problems, the me against the world type of vibe going on, and I put on Labcabin… to get me through the down time. It’s kinda like that old friend, or therapist, except you don’t have to pay $150 an hour. It’s not that I think Labcabin… is a better album, it doesn’t make the impact on the genre as much as Bizarre Ride… did, nor is it as memorable to the masses as Bizarre Ride…, but for the personal reasons, I have to go with Labcabin…. I truly expect Bizarre Ride… to win, but hopefully not without a fight from my fellow Labcabin dwellers….
Winner (in my ey