Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Anniversary: “Let ’em Feel How it Felt” – Interview w/ Slimkid3, Fatlip, J-Sw!ft & LA Jay

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All photos by Linda A. Rapka

South Central Los Angeles hip hop group the Pharcyde changed the face of West Coast hip hop forever with their 1992 debut Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. With its ingenious blending of jazz, funk, classic rock, R&B, powerful beats and insanely sick rhymes, the album continues to influence and inspire. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its release, two founding members Slimkid3 (a.k.a. Tre) and Fatlip along with producers J-Sw!ft and L.A. Jay—and plenty of special guests—will perform a special concert presenting the album start-to-finish (with skits and everything) at the Roxy on Wednesday, May 23. The four met up with Linda A. Rapka at Delicious Vinyl headquarters in Hollywood to reminisce about the making of the iconic album and the bizarre ride it’s taken them on since.

Who came up with this idea to do a Bizarre Ride 20-year celebration?
LA Jay: It was J and Mike Ross. [Founder of Delicious Vinyl.]
J-Sw!ft: I proposed it to Mike. He told me he was doing this box set and I said are you gonna do some kind of promotion? Are you gonna do a celebration? I think it’d be dope if we did the whole album like Pink Floyd, like The Wall—do it live, front to back with skits. Let ’em feel how it felt in the studio actually running it.
Fatlip: You know what it is? It’s weird ’cause obviously we’ve got some like creative chemistry, and then like yesterday, J was the first person I seen when I walked in the room and he was playing all the skits, and I knew this was a good idea.

You’re going to perform the skits live, too?
J-Sw!ft: Yeah. Yesterday we were rehearsing, and it felt like I was in ’92—it really did. Kinda like I jumped in a time machine.

Did you feel like kids again?
J-Sw!ft: Yeah, it was great man. I had my moments when I had the spirit of Buckwheat jump in me. Seriously. I felt like I was the best.
Fatlip: Dude, that’s what I told Quinton. That was one of the highlights that I told him.
Tre: You saw Quinton?
Fatlip: Yeah.
J-Sw!ft: He said he’s coming through today. But you know, we’ve always been waiting for Quinton. So that doesn’t mean that we’ll see him anytime soon. But we will see him.

When Bizarre Ride came out it was quite different from a lot of what was going on at the time that glorified the negative. You guys stayed positive and fun. Why?
Tre: I think it’s just where we were at. We weren’t gangsters, you know what I mean? We were only putting out what was happening to us. Hence the ‘Passin’ Me By’ stuff—we would stand out on La Cienega watching girls go by during the traffic times. We were basically just being ourselves over records. It’s kinda like a musical fraternity.
Fatlip: We can credit Reggie Andrews [our high school music teacher]. You’re only as good as whatever you’re next to. It’s just like relativity. If you’re next to something you’re gonna gravitate to it. They’re next to gangster stuff, they’re gonna gravitate to it. I was messing up, running away, doing all kind of stuff and Reggie snatched me up and said hey, I’m gonna do this with you. I started bringing my friends, I already knew Tre since I was like 15. He saw us and said, ‘I’m gonna put ya’ll in a safe environment, I’m gonna let ya’ll develop, I’m gonna spend my blood, sweat and tears…’ Because now that I’m grown I realize that every month that we were there we were blessed to have those studios, me and J, and have the practice rooms and everything. He had to pay for that shit.
LA Jay: We’re basically the age that he was at that time. Can you imagine putting that level of energy into like 20 people? How much energy that really takes?
Fatlip: We were problematic at times. It was like 20, 30 kids—all these aspiring groups of musicians. Reggie Andrews was the founder of … basically it was a creative workshop. He had two studios, he opened the doors to us and we just didn’t want to be anywhere else. That’s how all of our friendships came about and everything.
J-Sw!ft: Right, ’cause we were living it. All we would do is wake up, make music, practice our craft, and then we would go out to clubs to vibe out, to put our finger on what was going on—and then come home do the same thing all over again, go ape, monkey weed, boom, know what I mean? I moved in at ’89 and you [Fatlip] did just a few months after. I was in high school—11th grade. Reggie took me to a showcase and we saw Fatlip and I was like that guy’s dope. His concept is a little strange…
Tre: He was more preppy. He was preppy.
J-Sw!ft: But his rhymes tell you why he has the audacity to say, ‘I’m gonna dress like this but I’m gonna bust like this.’

So Reggie was really a mentor to you all.
Fatlip: Yeah. He was an accomplished producer of Rick James, the Dazz Band, ‘Let it Whip.’
J-Sw!ft: When I met him … to us we were like oh, it’s on. This was from ’89 to ’92. So it was like college. It was like three years after that, that’s how Pharcyde came to be, out of all of that. Just from hanging out. It was all fun.

It sounds like it was really an organic process that brought about this magic. Like ‘Passin’ Me By,’ that track is really just magical. To create that track, I mean, what was in the room? I know probably a lot of weed, but…
J-Sw!ft: Aside from the weed, the loop itself…
Fatlip: There was one day we went through Reggie’s garage…
J-Sw!ft: It was just like the crypt. We felt like archeologists.
Fatlip: There was no car in the garage. It was all records.
J-Sw!ft: He had never touched ’em. They were in pristine condition. We was going through it, it was raining that day too, and we found ‘Summer in the City’ by Quincy Jones. We had made a beat with ‘Summer In The City’ and I had the loop with the chorus but there were two separate ones, and I’ll say this—and this is a fact—Romye, he said it: ‘Let’s just use both those pieces.’ Remember? Then we watched The Doors at my apartment, which was right next door, and we had shroomed out. We watched Val Kilmer turn into Jim Morrison, and then we went next door after we watched The Doors and Fatlip just started singing that hook, he started screaming that shit, and I said that’s it. We all knew, it was like automatic.
Tre: We didn’t know you all were shrooming though. That day?
J-Sw!ft: Yeah, dude, yes you did. Imani or something brought it.
Tre: We shroomed way later down the line…
LA Jay: The crazy thing is I didn’t know that you were even going for Jim Morrison, but the first time you played me the finished song in my driveway, I was like … dude this is some Jim Morrison, this is the Doors right here.
Fatlip: We channeled it.
Tre: We totally connected to the Doors.
Fatlip: When I first met J-Sw!ft, I didn’t know anything about music execs and studio people. All I had was a little Casio keyboard. When he told me he had a studio, he was so young…
J-Sw!ft: And so short.
Fatlip: I didn’t believe him. So I threw the number away. I just thought all producers had limos, I didn’t know nothin’ about the industry. He was wearing sunglasses and shit. There was a girl…
J-Sw!ft: Tabatha.
Fatlip: He was trying to bone.
Tre: ‘Persuade’ is the word.
J-Sw!ft: It’s a four-letter word. It’s called ‘bone.’
Fatlip: She just happened to be staying with my girlfriend at the time from out of town. She starts talking about this guy who took her to this studio to try and bone. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute …’ Come to find out it was this cat, and I’m like, ‘Do you have the number?’
J-Sw!ft: He got on the bus the next day with his girlfriend and came over there and had this song—he had this album, James Brown, and said, ‘I want you to sample this.’ I chopped the beat up in five minutes.
Fatlip: As soon as you pressed the button on the MPC, I was like … this shit is about to happen. That was the first time I’d ever been in the room with a real beat. Everything else I’d heard on the radio.
J-Sw!ft: And he busted this rhyme in one take. And everybody was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And he was like, ‘No, I wanna do it one more time.’ Then he did it, just as dope, but dope enough for him to be comfortable, which I understand now. After that he busted all three verses, like that. So I was like, ‘Dude, either this guy is a genius or he’s been practicing this shit for the whole year.’ But nah—he’s a genius, ’cause he kept doing it.

Tre, weren’t you a Fly Guy on ‘In Living Color’?
Tre: I was one of the Fly Guys with Romye and Imani. We did one with the Jim Carrey skit with Vanilla Ice. The next time we were there was with ‘Passin’ Me By,’ with our own shit. Rosie Peréz was like our big sister. When she was popping, she was telling us about it so we could go and battle.
LA Jay: Toni Basil too.
Fatlip: The process of getting a record deal was almost as good as touring. It was just as good. Maybe even better ’cause it was less stressful and more fun.

Thinking back to that year when you guys were making this music and this album, what was your favorite part about the nineties? Do you miss anything?
Tre: My particular favorite part of the nineties was what the music was, what it was about, how it made you feel. ’Cause we were dancing, that’s how we did—we were dance battlers. It was just the whole approach, and just that whole culture for us was real magical—be it house music we was dancing to that had good quality or be it the hip-hop that had good quality, that golden era. We always talk about that golden era ’cause nothing made you feel like that. It was actual, real music and the bar was extremely high in hip hop. We kinda gravitated to the east coast a little bit more than west coast stuff. The stuff I like from the west coast was Ice Cube, NWA, Snoop Dogg. De La, Tribe, Black Sheep, that was our circle of things. I feel like you were growing from it. You were really growing when you were listening to that stuff.
J-Sw!ft: Oh snap, really?? (Busts out a beer from the fridge.) Praise the lord! That’s the scripture! Pass it down.

Corona saves the day…
J-Sw!ft: Who’s got an opener?

I do. Here you go.
J-Sw!ft: No wonder she’s a Pharcyde fan.

What’s the most bizarre ride you’ve ever been on?
J-Sw!ft: Oh my God. I don’t know if ya’ll remember this. It was the MPV. I had a Mazda van. We was rollin’, we was high. We were so stoned, we went to 7-11 and Imani, he pooped in a cup and he put it in the microwave at the 7-11 and he set the timer for like 10 minutes. We walked out and sat in the van, just waiting.
LA Jay: We went across the street and was just like eating popcorn, just waiting for the show.
J-Sw!ft: All of a sudden you see people running, then you see the guy with the turban…
LA Jay: They couldn’t find it. They didn’t know where the fuck the smell was coming from. That’s, like, hence ‘Oh Shit!’
J-Sw!ft: That was the essence of the Pharcyde. I think people caught on to that—kids. We just were having fun.
LA Jay: It was like ‘Jackass’ before ‘Jackass.’ Remember 4th of July though?
J-Sw!ft: It was Romye and Imani and you and him, and we had these rockets that you’re not supposed to have. I’m not gonna say who bought it, but we came up on it. We were firing up at the apartment where Ladera is. We were like hey, let’s go to Stocker Park. We tried to make it across the street and it went pffffttt and fell.
Fatlip: It went onto the hill. There were a bunch of homes up there…
J-Sw!ft: By the time we got in the car we get down to Stocker, the whole shit was on fire. That fast. I get on the payphone and go, ‘There’s a fire on Stocker.’ They’re like how do you spell that? I was like, ‘It’s on Stocker. See ya.’ We were all running to Tre’s and we was all scared. And Lip wasn’t making it any better, he was like, ‘Somebody could die, dude.’ I was like, ‘Shut up, I don’t wanna hear that!’ That was like 1991.
LA Jay: We was all dark-skinned at that time.
Fatlip: Remember the riots?
Tre: Yeah. Those were the good old days.
J-Sw!ft: It wasn’t good for me. I was the only dude who got arrested during the riots. I hold that title. He dragged me out of my brother Pedro’s van and put the cuffs on me.
Tre: The rest of us got away.
J-Sw!ft: You guys were gone up in the brushes. Like deer. The cop was like, ‘Is that your cash register?’ I was like, ‘I can’t believe there’s a cash register next to me. Officer, please!’

On Bizarre Ride there are a lot of personas you take on, where you create these characters. Like in ‘Oh Shit!’ with that sad sack who hooks up with a transvestite.
LA Jay: That’s a real story.
Tre: A very real story.

Holy shit.
Fatlip: Unfortunately yeah. We were on Crenshaw. I saw a guy who looked exactly like a girl ’cause he was a transvestite. I got my friend to go give my number to this person. One thing lead to another, we talked on the phone for a couple weeks and set up a date. We finally went out and were kissing.

I cannot believe that story is real.
J-Sw!ft: Listen, this is the 21st century. They look even doper now. Who knows what would have happened if it was now?
Tre: Was it slow and just deep?
Fatlip: What?
Tre: The kissing. Was it passionate?
Fatlip: The kissing… I must say …
J-Sw!ft: You were just excited you were gonna get some. You didn’t realize you were gonna get none. Or get more than you bargained for.
Fatlip: That’s exactly what it was—it wasn’t a fair exchange. She was obviously doing more and then when I would try to do the same she was being weird, and that’s how it happened.
LA Jay: Didn’t you sock her?
Fatlip: I socked her. Only because she had a camera. We were talking during the beach. It was a romantic night. When I found out I didn’t even sock her then, I was like … you mother fucker! I was gonna leave her there but I figured maybe someone in the area may ask her a question and she woulda relayed it back to me. So we were on the way home I threw the camera out the window and she kept crying about the camera and I was like, ‘Don’t you understand that you weirded me out to the fullest, and you’re crying about the camera?’
J-Sw!ft: Well hey, a great verse came out of it.
Tre: Was she offering you, like, anal?
Fatlip: … No.
J-Sw!ft: I think when her feet were real long and all that it started to change.
Fatlip: When I got the weird vibe we had been smoking weed on top of all that, but then it took so long for me to accept this is what was happening because I was so high. ’Cause you’re not gonna ask a girl if she’s a guy. But something’s telling you it might be actually happening. It was a long drive from the beach to the gas station.
J-Sw!ft: That must have been the longest drive ever.
Fatlip: We finally got to the gas station and she was like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘You don’t know what’s wrong?’ And then that was it. Little sweat started dripping down her, she was trying to hold it.
J-Sw!ft: I can’t imagine what she actually thought. Eventually you’re gonna get caught. I guess she just liked surfin’. She was riding the wave of being a girl until you hit the dirt of a man. ‘I’m a girl, I’m a girl, I’m a girl! Ahhhh I ate it, I’m a dude.’ One time I saw one man with a huge ass and I definitely tried to get at her.
Tre: Knowing?
J-Sw!ft: No, I didn’t know until she turned around and she was like, ‘Get away from me.’ I was like, ‘Thank God you dissed me, nigga. I was just all up in yo ass.’ It’s the future. Have you checked out the 2012 titties? They’re amazing. They don’t even cut the titties anymore, they go in through the navel.
Fatlip: That’s true.
J-Sw!ft: It’s water and stuff, and they’re firm. What about that chick that just was in some kind of pageant and she turned out to be a fuckin’ dude? And looks just like a girl.
Tre: Thailand, you know. Thailand, Bangkok. Some people you can’t tell.
J-Sw!ft: How long is this interview? ’Cause I left most of my jellybeans at home. ‘Tropic Thunder,’ I love that line. Jack Black—he’s like, ‘I left my jellybeans.’ You know we talking about drugs. I used to have a drug problem so I like to joke about it. That’s therapeutic for me, I don’t hide it.
Fatlip: I didn’t believe it. Cuz we started kinda like doing things …
J-Sw!ft: We started dabbling. We had a group called Private Stock. Me, Fatlip and Buckwheat.
Fatlip: Then we changed names to Horrible Brothers.
J-Sw!ft: That’s when it went horrible. I warned him. I said you don’t call yourself horrible. Just like I wouldn’t call myself, lemme give you an example, Bootie. I’m not knocking anybody who has that name. I love bootie. But I’m not bootie, know what I mean?

Speaking of Bootie, the inevitable question: this is not a reunion, it’s a celebration. But why not a reunion?
Fatlip: That’s the million-dollar question.
J-Sw!ft: It is literally a million-dollar question. Had we all coalesced … They call it accretion. All of us, we all love this music. I love God, I love the opportunity we’ve been given, I know we all have children, we all growing like trees, why can’t all of us just do this? We don’t have no problem with Romye.
Fatlip: Or Imani.
J-Sw!ft: None of them. I just cannot call the man Bootie. It’s like calling a man Delicious. I can’t do it. ‘Hey, Delicious!’ But we love them.
Tre: What it boils down to is, from what I gathered from being there just recently, is you know, like, the Great Hurt. They have a lot of things that they really haven’t gotten over be it with Fatlip, or be it … mainly with me. When I wasn’t in the group, I think they feel like I let them down or what have you. But I have my things, too. It’s not one-sided. What tends to happen in our situation sometimes when a lot of arguing gets going, and I’m not one to like … if you’re yelling I’m like we can talk, but I’m not even gonna get heard. My situation was I was doing a record of my own, with no intentions of leaving the group whatsoever. But they didn’t like a lot of shit I was doing. They didn’t like me doing a Brian Austin Green record, they didn’t seem to like doing the Korn stuff. They gave me an ultimatum pretty much, and I was like I wouldn’t do that to you. This is creativity. Creative is creative.
Fatlip: Right.
Tre: Why would I do that to another person? At that point I was like fuck this—how do you do that? Granted, I do understand what Romye was trying to say. He’s like … you know if we focused on this one thing then everything else that we’re trying to do will get nurtured. We’re kinda walking down the same street saying the same thing, but yet the egos, every time the egos get involved, it fucks every fucking thing up. If you really wanna know what’s happening with Pharcyde shit, it’s ego shit. Once that ego shit gone there’s plenty of love there, there’s plenty of sharing there, there’s fucking plenty of money there, there’s plenty of everything. It’s really heartbreaking to be going through what we’re going through, being the fucking finger pointer, me being upset in the ways that I feel man, this is fucked up.
LA Jay: Another thing I wanna mention is nobody went to school and was taught how to be in this industry. Everybody was young and mistakes were made in myriad different ways, because everybody’s trying to figure it out. Everybody’s heart was in the right place. My thing is, everybody just needs to understand that and take it from where we are now as grown men and chalk that up to being young, to youth.
J-Sw!ft: And be businessmen. What I’ve always preserved and my father taught me this—he made records in Europe and he came out here and really didn’t succeed like he thought. But he had a band and played two, three nights a week. Because he loved it, God gave us what we’re supposed to have. Ego, I was told by a friend of mine, stands for Edging God Out. If you edge God out, it’s over. Everything we did was from love. When we were all humble, that means me too cuz I was a cocky son of a bitch—I learned that that’s bullshit. It’s all about love and enjoying the music. Therefore I work on me. I think if we all work on us, I work on I love this. How does this make me feel? Then I project that outward. When you’re young you don’t think, hey, this is how I’m supposed to be. You’re just loving it and you love each other and you do it. When you get older you start thinking about your own priorities, not knowing that everything that you do want would still be coming from the same philosophy that you had as youngsters. That’s why I was like when I get old I’m not gonna be one of these old ass niggas, man, getting all serious and shit. I have some more shit to laugh at.
Tre: Even at rehearsal the other day, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It felt like we were Bizarre Ride, literally. Like with his element, J-Sw!ft has always been that dude, that funny motherfucker. I felt like there’s a hierarchy of funny. There’s J-Sw!ft, then there’s Fatlip, then the rest of these motherfuckers.
J-Sw!ft: We all bounced off each other. That’s what made it dope. When I was thinking about ‘Ya Mama,’ remember we had ran the DAT player … we was sitting there smoking and drinking. When we put that song together it was just from having a night of running the DAT and careful, meticulous collection of the laughter, of the good shit. I’m just glad that even a portion of that—I’m feeling it, just doing this concert and this reunion. There are gonna be some surprises. It’s gonna be good. It’s awesome, dude—we got JMD the original drummer on the skits. He’s amazing. He did Underground Railroad and Freestyle Fellowship, he’s a master.
Fatlip: It’s good too because I think even more so than the Rock the Bells reunion, there’s a lot of players involved. Cuz it wasn’t just the four cats. You see these cats right here—now obviously you kinda see where the energy was kinda like starting from.
J-Sw!ft: It’s an in-depth look. It’s a lot of elements to hip-hop. Especially with our style, we always used keyboards, we always was sampling. We still sample today. We don’t care about the lawyers. Me and LA Jay are gonna do a song called ‘Catch Me if You Can’—we gonna sample like a hundred records and be like ‘Catch me if you can! Catch me if you can! I took a million dollars! I’m the gingerbread man!’

Do you guys feel at all like busting a flow about what it’s been like? Put you on the spot a little bit?
Fatlip: An old-school freestyle.
J-Sw!ft: Yo, it’s been a 20-year bizarre ride and you know what I’m alright, I got my homies by my side, LA Jay and Tre and Fatlip, so I’m a rip shop, I make hip hop I call it chip hop ’cause I make my grip and it don’t stop and it don’t quit, so I’m a get lit, I’m feelin’ go ape off this monkey and this cigarette.
Fatlip: Uh, some call me crazy some call me a genius but I’m here with my peoples, yeah w the G’s of the G’s the old G’s, yeah we makin’ cheese with this, Mike Ross and Rick Ross, it’s easy shit, we do it every day, all day, 20 years, blood sweat and tears, now we sittin’ drinking beers, I’ll be doin’ this Corona all the way to Pomona, all over the city, you know what I’m saying…
J-Sw!ft: Gimme some big titties after the show…
Fatlip: As long as they real.

And on a woman.
J-Sw!ft: Unless they the 2012 model, ’cause I’ll take ’em!

Originally published by L.A. Record

View more of my candid photos from the rooftop shoot here.

Delicious Vinyl rooftop w/ original members of the Pharcyde

Chillin’ on the rooftop of Delicious Vinyl with Fatlip, J-Sw!ft, Slimkid3 and L.A. Jay. Photo by Gari Askew

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