The Pharcyde’s debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde is a classic album, arguably one of the best to ever come out of hip-hop. But a whole gang of problems prevented the group from achieving legendary status. After their follow-up Labcabincalifornia, the group splintered. Drug problems, creative differences and emotional disconnects have been a constant theme for the four members of the group. Recent years have seen Imani and Bootie Brown continuing to perform under the Pharcyde name as a duo, while Slimkid3 and Fatlip have had solo releases and done shows together. Now more than ten years after the original nucleus split, the Pharcyde are finally set to perform together on this summer’s Rock the Bells tour. We caught up with all four founding members just a couple hours after their reunion announcement for their first extended group interview in over a decade. Read it after the jump.
Interview by Evan Shamoon
When was the last time you guys were all in the same room together?
Fatlip: Like ’97 man. It’s been a minute.
I imagine there have been many offers along the way for you guys to make this happen.
Fatlip: People have been trying to make this happen for like seven years. But it wasn’t the right time, and people weren’t ready to forget about the past. It’s just a matter of it being the right time. And now it finally feels like the perfect time. The past few weeks have been spent communicating with each other, trying to get past old drama. Up until last night, we were still hashing it out, like, “Remember when you did this?” “No, I don’t remember.” “Well you did.” We’ve had golden opportunities that we had to turn down, because we weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason. But I feel like now we’re grown enough to forget about the past and move ahead.
So the time feels right?
Imani: It’s not that the time feels right, it’s that the time is right. You can’t even understand. It’s like if I’m a surfer, I’m seeing a big wave, a big fucking dream wave. And I’m not sayin’, “Where did that wave come from? How big is that wave? What kinda wave is that?” I’m jumping on that wave with my surfboard, and when I ride it out and it’s over, then I’ll look back and reflect on it. This time I’m sniffin’ the flowers. I’m huggin’ the trees. I’m talking to the old folks. Because I know how dope this is. And I’ll tell you, it’s all about the fist. It’s like, this finger is good at this, this finger is good at that, the thumb is good at something else. But nothing is stronger than the fist.
Do you feel like the air is totally clear?
Fatlip: Totally. After the smoke cleared the first time, there was a lot of confusion. We didn’t know who or what was the problem. And it’s funny because all these people we worked with, all these people telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, they all had their own agendas and motives. And just the way Chang [Weisberg from promoters Guerilla Union] came at us had a lot to do with this working out. He came at us with a lot of respect. And that helped us be like, “Look, we did something together that was important to a lot of people. All that other shit is just petty.”
So how did this whole reemergence come together?
Slimkid3: Well, Fatlip and myself were doing a show at Temple Bar [in Los Angeles], and Chang and Supernatural came out. They started talking to us about the possibility of making something happen, and I said we were open to it. I mean, it felt like everything happened so fast. First we had a meeting, which didn’t go as well as we wanted it to. Then we had a phone conversation with all of us, which was a lot better. We spoke in a very good way, like adults. And then last night we met again and tried to talk it all through. And now today, here we are. We’re giving it our best shot.
So when exactly did this all solidify?
Slimkid3: Last night.
Slimkid3: Yeah, it’s just the nature of… I dunno, it’s just like we’re all supposed to be here, that’s the only way I can think to put it. As much hurt as there was surrounding the situation, now it’s like, whatever it takes to get it done. I really think Chang just getting us all together, finally talking, that was such an integral part of it.
Are you guys all on the same page musically?
Fatlip: Well, that’s yet to be determined. But to be honest, that’s not even the issue. The music only reflects the relationship. If we’re cool with each other, we can do music. It’s that simple.
So, you guys gonna make a record?
Slimkid3: We’re gonna go to the lab and work it out. We don’t want to jump the gun, we just want to let it happen.
Is there a lab to go back to?
Slimkid3: Hmm. Uh, I guess we need a lab. Just got back together, uh, yesterday, so… If a lab just so happens to pop up, that would be great.
Fatlip: Yeah. I mean of course it’s hard to say, but the way things have been for the last day, I have to say yes. Things are good.
So the Pharcyde is back together. Is it a weird feeling?
Fatlip: Actually, no. Not at all. It’s like it felt back in the day. And it’s also like, Yo, what else would we be doing? This is what we’re meant to do.
But there were obviously some tough times between you guys.
Slimkid3: There was a lot of distance. But I remember the time I went to Imani’s birthday party. And he was like, “Yo, we gotta be friends first before the music can happen.” And that meant a lot, that moment. In the meantime, we’ve all been working, living life, learning. Having families. So now, this time, the rap thing’s gotta pay the bills.
You learned that the hard way?
Slimkid3: Well, sometimes people get a little overly friendly and, you know, they expect certain things for free, favors. And you know, that’s cool for some things, but I gotta keep these lights on. I got kids now. I got a family. You have to let your manager take care of things. Sometimes you can be too nice, someone’s wearing your shirt and suddenly they’re expecting a lot. People ain’t so friendly, they only look like it. And I ain’t mad at ’em. In our downtime, I got to learn about the things that are really fuckin’ important in life. My cousin died. Shit happened. Now I spend a lot of time with my grandma, my mother, my girl, my son.
Does it feel like this is a rebirth for you guys?
Slimkid3: I just want to take it one moment at a time. I want it to be like going back to the clubhouse, touching base. “How’s your family? What’s good?” Stuff like that. I think the universe separated us so we could grow up, be men and handle our departments, and when we come back, see what kinda madness we can make.
Imani: We’ve all been doing our own thing, you know? Like me and Bootie [Brown] are going to Japan tomorrow for some shows, but everything else takes a backseat now. This comes first. This is the priority. I can’t guarantee anything, but I can say that I’m proud of where we’re at and it’s gonna be fun. There’s gonna be ups and downs, hopefully more of the former than the latter. But a lot of energy. A lot of nostalgia. A lot of future. It’s just funny, for the last ten years it’s been people telling us to get back together and whatnot. Now we’re not doing it for them, we’re doing it for us.
What have you learned since the first time around?
Imani: Well, for me it’s more like life lessons reinforced, like, hard work always pays off in the end. I don’t give a fuck what anybody says, hard work pays off. In some aspect at least, maybe it’s just mentally making you tougher. Patience is a bitch and I hate it, but you can’t do anything about it. You need it. It’s like I thought I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, my mom raised me pretty good, but life throws you curveballs and you gotta be like, Well I thought I knew, but I guess I really didn’t.
Anything you want to do differently this time around?
Imani: The first time was love. All love. And we had a gameplan, but no matter how much you plan for the trainwreck, shit still happens when the train wrecks. I think we’ve all really become stronger individually, and now we’ve come together. Now I’ve got three people around me that are all stronger than they were before. Timing, precision and rhythm are everything in music. We got the rhythm, the timing is right, now we just gotta get precise with each other.
Slimkid, you live in Portland, Oregon right now. How’s that?
Slimkid3: I think it’s cool, man. I like it cause it’s kinda … free. Free-spirited. There’s a lotta weird shit there, and I love that. Fetish nights. Freaky nights. Sometimes I DJ, and I’ll DJ a go-go night or a fetish night or whatever, and me and my girl get out there and watch some weird shit. It’s fun.
Is that why you moved there in the first place?
Slimkid3: Nah, for my girl. She’s from Eugene, and she got a job up there. I got tired of flying back and forth from LA. It’s not a matter of it being costly or whatever, you just gotta be in the same place. Missing her so much got stale.
So is it gonna be going back to the same routine now that the rest of the Pharcyde is still down in the LA area?
Slimkid3: I know, right? I just can’t stay off of planes. I’ma gut out a plane and put all of our furniture in it. I’m gonna get a tutor for the little guy. Time to build a flying house.