Bizarre Ride Continues

By the

April 19, 2001

Hip-hop was never quite the same after The Pharcyde dropped their 1992 debut Bizarre Ride II: The Pharcyde. The goofy record was honest in its themes; in an era when most West Coast rap acts were out to prove their supposed gangster roots, The Pharcyde proved themselves unashamed of their depraved high-schooler lifestyles. Juvenile, but not offensively so, Bizarre Ride felt like the product of several introspective childhoods. With the feel-good aura necessary to win over the white artsy hip-hopper yet truly funky production values, the record established the group as one of the true darlings of indie hip-hop.

Of course, little dreams of indiedom seldom last forever. But The Pharcyde has done a remarkable job of surviving the post quality-debut albu m blues. By this I mean that their follow up record, LabCabinCalifornia, wasn’t half bad and actually still managed to sound pretty different from Bizarre Ride. Time-tested methods for predicting the quality of hip-hop records dictate that it should have sucked. How many hip-hop acts have produced two consecutive LPs of any quality? Not many. Most groups are only good for one set of ideas, and second or third projects become more like crappy sequels to forgettable movies.

But I digress. Having avoided the bad sequel path favored by so many of their contemporaries, The Pharcyde nonetheless decided to proceed directly to the “artistic differences” phase. All I can say is that I’m glad they got it out of their collective systems relatively quickly. In the process, group members were lost (a dude named Fatlip, who really never did all that much anyhow, went down in a blaze of promises for a solo career) and they got harassed by their label.

Blah, blah, blah the story continues. Eventually they got out an EP, lost another member (Tre, who actually seemed pretty useful) and then dropped another full-length last year called Plain Rap. Here, sadly, The Pharcyde fully delivers on whatever cheap predictions one might make. The record immediately following the departure of several key members is stripped down and less racy. It attempts to get back to some imaginary bygone sound idealized by The Pharcyde’s remaining members. Well, “attempting to get back” is seldom a good idea, and this record is no exception.

Pharcyde will be in DC this weekend and opening for them is equally wacky California hip-hop act Ugly Duckling. They’re “positive minded,” which apparently deserves a pat on the back. Honestly, though, they can be pretty funny, if only ‘cause they’ve “been eatin,’ breathin,’ sleepin’ hip-hop / since way back / When shoelaces were fat / and Michael Jackson was black.” Plus they say “fresh” and wear gold chain necklaces as thick as power cables. Clearly, this is all symptomatic of the 80s revivalism which threatens to destroy democracy as we know it. A curious side-effect of these unfortunate developments is, of course, better-than-average hip-hop records.

After 1999’s Fresh Mode, Ugly Duckling returned in 2000 with Journey to Anywhere. As they don’t seem to do much other than hang around bowling alleys in Southern California, this may be your only chance to catch them in the act.

Pharcyde and Ugly Duckling hit up the 9:30 Club on Sunday.

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