The Pharcyde | photo by Reji B. for WXPN | rejibphotography.com
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde at Coda
Every musician alive can name at least a couple albums that genuinely impacted them, whether they were direct influences on their own work or just sources of pure nostalgia; we all have some of THOSE albums. Some of those albums that will forever be dope to us, maybe because of the place and time we were in when we first heard them, or maybe because they’re just THAT important, that seminal, that damn good. LA-based hip-hop legends The Pharcyde’s debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde is one of those albums for me. When I heard that former members Fatlip and SlimKid3 would be performing the album in full at Coda in Center City, I already knew I had to go.
On the way to the venue, I wound up randomly sharing an Uber with my friend Slaughter Rico, a Philly rap legend. He was performing in the opening set alongside the rest of the Sensi Starr collective, a crew that’s been making a lot of noise in the tri-state underground hip-hop scene. Luckily, we made it to Coda right on time for him to hop on stage with his squad.
The rugged group put on an entertaining but surprisingly long set, considering they were opening. The charismatic energy of Ghetto MC was welcomed to keep the crowd of roughly 150 engaged, and the new material Slaughter Rico premiered was on point. Despite some sound issues (mainly uneven mic levels) and very limited lighting (nothing but purple and yellow for some reason), Sensi soldiered on through their over 45 minute (!!!) set. Jersey wordsmith Skrewtape rocked some bangers including his arguably best-known track to date, the Mr. Green-laced “‘94 Ecto Cooler.” Chill Moody’s cousin and fellow emcee Boogieman Dela joined his labelmates halfway through the set to perform some songs from his new project as well.
The crowd became noticeably restless and somewhat inattentive by the end of the set, despite how dope the collective’s unorganized but fun performance was. Regardless of the talent level of Sensi Starr (which is very high), almost an hour is simply too long for a local opener to play at a hip-hop show, period. If Coda is to continue booking hip-hop, it would be wise to book two or three locals on each show in order to maximize draw and diversify their line ups. Personally, I always enjoy watching my peers do their thing; that’s just my business side talking.
[DISCLAIMER: WXPN REQUIRES ME TO BE HONEST WITH MY REPORTING WHEN I COMPOSE THESE CONCERT REVIEWS, SO I HAVE TO ADMIT TO ALL OF YOU READING THIS THAT I DID NOT WATCH THE TOURING OPENERS. INSTEAD, MY GIRL AND I WENT NEXT DOOR TO PIETRO’S AND DEVOURED LASAGNA AND FRIED MOZZARELLA. I WOULD LIKE TO FORMALLY APOLOGIZE TO THOSE OPENERS IN CASE THEY READ THIS. EVERYONE KNOWS PIETRO’S IS FIRE THOUGH, SO I’M NOT REALLY THAT SORRY].
I reentered Coda just in time for Fatlip and Slimkid3 to start their set, pleasantly surprised to see that the crowd had grown to around 250. While this still looked pretty paltry in the large venue, it really wasn’t a bad turnout for an old school hip-hop show in Philadelphia on a Sunday night. The main attraction of the show was that the two Pharcyde alumni (plus replacement K-Natural, whom would be rapping all of Imani and Bootie Brown’s verses) would be performing the entire Bizarre Ride LP live, from beginning to end. I grabbed a spot in the back and got ready to take in the set.
DJ Manwell, whom I’d never heard of, warmed the crowd up with a quick, impressive set of old-school bangers, juggling beats and scratching with ease. Then, the three rappers came out one at a time, skipping the album’s intro and going straight into lead-off banger “Oh Shit,” which I rapped every word of. The sound problems present earlier in the night were gone now, with every mic on par with each other. I gotta admit that I was skeptical of how well K-Natural would fit into the set, but he quickly proved to be the right man for the job, executing Imani and Bootie’s verses flawlessly. Slimkid3 was the glue holding the three together up there, seamlessly playing off a mishap Fatlip had with his microphone by rapping his lines for him while he straightened it out. And Fatlip was…the unhinged genius that is Fatlip. Watching him perform live for the first time was an experience I’ll always be thankful for. The guy is still a star, all these years (and drugs) later.
I didn’t mind them skipping the intro, but was bummed out by them excluding the “It’s Jiggaboo Time” skit, going right into “I’m That Type of Nigga.” My disappointment quickly faded when I heard how sick the J-Swift production sounded over Coda’s system. After Fatlip defiantly yelled “FUCK TRUMP!”, the trio performed the “If I Was President” interlude, wisely kept in the set being that its lyrics have become more timely than ever, for better or for worse.
“Soulflower” and “On the DL” came next, followed by the rappers facetiously claiming the police were trying to end the show early. While a portion of the crowd seemed to be fooled by this, I knew it was a perfect segway into one of the most slept on joints from the album, “Officer,” which was amazing to see live. But what most people were really waiting for was the hat-trick of classics that followed.
“Nevermind y’all, that wasn’t the police…” Fatlip snickered, pausing pregnantly before shouting “IT WAS YA MAMA!” And with that, the best mama-insulting song ever made blared over the speakers as the crowd (and performers) lost their minds. Wasting no time between tracks, the three rappers went right into the biggest hit of the Pharcyde’s career next: “Passin’ Me By.” This song has a special meaning for me, as one of my first demos was recorded over the instrumental for this track. I’d go as far as to say it’s in my personal top 10 songs ever made, so singing along to the hook with the rest of the audience was a spiritual experience.
Next came the break up anthem “Otha Fish”, which featured the music video being played on a giant screen behind the DJ booth, just as “Passin’ Me By” did. The visuals really added to the set, which didn’t have a dull moment so far. The catchy “Quinton’s On His Way” interlude got unfortunately skipped as the crew went right into “Pack the Pipe.” After flubbing some lyrics, Slimkid didn’t miss a beat, apologetically telling us “I’m high” (he later admitted he was actually drunk, but I’m not mad at him). They then finished the song by doing the remaining verses a cappella as Fatlip and Slimkid took turns beatboxing for each other.
It seemed the show was ready to come to an end with album closer “Return of the B-Boy”, but the guys threw a curveball, instead rocking out to the legendary “Apache” break before playing some more classics from their underrated sophomore LP Labcabincalifornia. “She Said,” “Drop” and the J Dilla-produced “Runnin’” were welcome additions to the set. After doing a short Tribe Called Quest tribute (complete with a spot-on Q-Tip impression by
K-Natural), they followed up with some new material that approximately no one in the crowd knew (and also a much less accurate Biggie impression from K-Natural).
As I noticed a large chunk of the crowd leaving during these admittedly mediocre tracks, I couldn’t help but wish that the set had ended after the trio of bonus tracks off the second album. But still, the set was incredible on the whole, especially considering that these men are in their 40’s and still performing with more energy than most 20-something rappers these days. It was a genuinely dope set overall, presented well and done with real effort, unlike so many of these obvious cash-in “anniversary” tours, lazily performed by former legends tarnishing their legacies with shitty stage shows. While it wasn’t the same as catching the complete Pharcyde during their prime, which was way before my time, it was definitely an experience I’m glad I got to have. Thank you to Fatlip, Slimkid3 and, retroactively, K- Natural, for bringing one of my favorite albums of all time to life right in front of me.