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Imani (The Pharcyde) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Imani: The Pharcyde Rollercoaster Ride

August 2005

MVRemix: How did The Pharcyde form?

Imani: Fat Lip was originally a solo artist. Fat Lip was dope and he has been rapping longer than all of us. In our kind of group, fans have favorites. Some people may not like Fat Lip but think Tre is the best thing since sliced bread. Originally The Pharcyde was Imani, Bootie Brown, Fat Lip, and Slip Kid Tre. Fat Lip, from the very beginning, was a solo emcee who always knew he would do a solo record. We were a group before Fat Lip got in. We had another person in the group who, right before we signed our deal, told us that he didnít want to emcee. Jammer D? He was a solo dude with a solo mentality. Thatís why heís not in the group now. When you are in a group, thereís a lot of give and take. You have to compromise. When solo, you worry about yourself. Tre was not a solo emcee but he always had side projects going on. He never was around. So, the whole make up of the group was me and Bootie Brown. Me and Bootie Brown were the foundation. Tre was my partner. Romi knew Fat Lip. I didnít know Fat Lip. Romi introduced me to Fat Lip and I introduced Fat Lip to Tre. I introduced Tre to Romi. When people see the group from outside, looking in, they get it in their heads how they see the dynamics of the group. After you really know us, Tre and Fat Lip were truly opposites. They were different sides of the coin.

MVRemix: In the ĎPlain Rapí LP, Fat Lip was gone but Tre was involved with the recording process. On ĎHumboldt Beginningsí LP, Tre was absent. How different was the recording process on these two albums?

Imani: It was different. The difference was that we knew who was involved in the recording process. When we were recording stuff with Tre, he would come and go. He would be gone for weeks. We felt that we were bugging him to come f*ck with us in the studio.

MVRemix: What happened between Fat Lip and Slim Kid Tre?

Imani: Fat Lip is not in the group because Tre expressed his dislike for him to me. It was a personal thing. Tre was like, ĎDude, I love the group but Fat Lip is f*cking me up and I just donít like him. Itís not that I donít think heís dope, I just donít like him.í He said, ĎI canít be in the group with the Fat Lip because I canít be the artist I want to be.í Fat Lip was very negative. He was a very negative person. Tre was totally the opposite. Tre is very happy, go lucky, and very in tuned with nature. Fat Lip is more of a clown. Fat Lip has a mantra that he would just repeat. He would say, ĎI donít give a fuck, I donít give a fuckí. That was one of his major things. We grew up tough but there were things we cared about. We just grew up in different ways. You donít want to make music if you feel like that. We didnít kick Fat Lip out of the group but, he always did let us know that he was going to do a solo record. We were always a group and he didnít know how a group functioned. He was on the outside, looking in, and thinking about how the group should be. We were inside, knowing how the group should be. Him and Tre would fight. I mean, they would get into fist fights. We were doing the second record (ĎLabcabincaliforniaí) and Jay Dee thought we were crazy. Fat Lip wanted to use the Akai and Tre wanted to use the ASR. Thatís how serious The Pharcyde takes it! It was just crazy. Basically, Fat Lip and Tre werenít getting along. We came together as Imani, Bootie Brown, Fat Lip, and Slim Kid Tre. We asked ourselves, ĎFor the group to continue, what do we have to do?í Basically, Tre gave us an ultimatum. He said, ĎYou got to get rid of Fat Lip or get ride of me.í Tre is my partner. We came up together. Fat Lip is a cool person. Heís a dope ass emcee, but if I have to choose somebody, Iím choosing my partner. I felt that we made two records already. People loved Fat Lip. Also, Fat Lip thought he was the dopest thing since sliced bread. Perfect! ĎGo do your record.í He has not put out a record yet. That shows something. If Fat Lip was the dopest and the main reason why The Pharcyde was dope, why didnít he come with something? I would say that the parties involved made the whole group dope. The collaboration and the vibe made The Pharcyde dope. No one person made The Pharcyde dope. The reason why you love Tre, is because of Imani, Bootie Brown, and Fat Lip. The reason why you love Fat Lip is because of Imani, Bootie Brown, and Slim Kid Tre. I felt that Tre pulled a fast one on us. He got us to get rid of Fat Lip and then he went solo. What, N*gga? I was really f*cked up about it for a while. I put everything into The Pharcyde. This is what I do, what I love. I was thinking, ĎWhy is this sh*t happening?í. Then, I stopped asking, ĎWhy?í and did what I had to do for the better of the franchise. I really wanted my partner to be around, but they chose not to be around. What do I do now? Iím an emcee! I make music! I love hip-hop! Iím a member of The Pharcyde. Do I change my name? No! This n*gga left the group! We The Pharcyde! This is who is here now and we are working with the hand that we were dealt. It went from being salty and sour to being upset and frustrating and then, to rejuvenated. Now, we are where we are supposed to be at.

MVRemix: The true fans have come to depend on your music.

Imani: (singing). ĎWhen it seems thereís no one to trust, you can always count on The Pharcyde to bust!í Thatís how we really feel, man.

MVRemix: How has the popularity of The Pharcyde changed?

Imani: I was doing this interview one time and this guy asked me, ĎHow do you feel that you guys donít count anymore?í I didnít get upset. Some people feel that if youíre not on MTV or the power station in your area, you are not doing anything. There are only like 20 slots that are available for MTV. They are for the rock, pop, R&B, or hip-hop. I donít feel crazy that they donít have a slot for The Pharcyde. Iíve seen so many groups come and go. Dude, I didnít think that we would still be here in 1997! You know what Iím saying? For somebody to say that we are not relevant anymore, is nothing. I never thought we were relevant in the sense of selling records and things of that nature. As far as grade-A hip-hop with integrity, The Pharcyde was kind of like 2nd to none. We carved out our own niche in history. I donít feel like we have to out-do ourselves. There are people who love us and we have a strong following. Weíre one song or one video away from people saying, ĎWhere did you guys come from?í, or labeling us an overnight success. Yeah, we are an overnight success that has taken us 10, 12, 13 years to happen. Itís sort of like The Black Eye Peas but not as commercial. I donít fault them because they are doing what they have always been doing. The people crossed over to them. They didnít do anything different except put a white girl in the group. It makes the music sound different. They didnít really change up their whole steelo. Their whole stee is basically the same.

MVRemix: How difficult was it to start Chapter One Records?

Imani: Well, it wasnít really that hard at all, except for the lack of funds. We were put into a situation that was kind of like, necessity is the mother of invention.

MVRemix: Since Slim Kid Tre and Fat Lip left the group, the quartet became a duo. How do you handle their verses when you perform the songs live?

Imani: Okay! Perfect! Iím glad you asked me that! Fat Lip stopped doing shows when he was still in the group. That was part of the reason he was released out of the group.

MVRemix: Donít you make most of your money when you perform live shows?

Imani: Yeah, thatís how you survive. I wouldnít say it was a lot of money. A lot of money is relative. You definitely make a bulk of your money as an artist when you perform live.

MVRemix: Okay. Letís go back to how The Pharcyde handled the live performances after Fat Lip.

Imani: Fat Lip didnít feel like doing shows. He wanted to stay home and do beats. First, we were upset. Then, we thought that it would help the group if he stayed home and did beats. We thought that we would do shows and handle it while he would do the beats. But, he wasnít doing no beats! We were out doing shows and paying him to beats while he wasnít doing beats. He was staying at home, getting faded, rolling around, talking about how dope he is, and sh*t like that. We already had Fat Lip covered for doing shows. This was around 1996 or 1997. Fat Lipís verses are already embedded in everybodyís head. I usually do the vocals. I do my verses, Treís verses, and Fat Lipís verses. From 1997 to the present, I never, ever had someone come up to me and say, ĎWhereís Fat Lip?í. Even though Fat Lip was not here, the audience never heard a step missing on the show or any of the songs. Sometimes, they donít even know that heís not on stage unless I talk about it. Iíve been doing it for so long.

MVRemix: How did you handle things when Slim Kid Tre left?

Imani: Tre stopped doing shows with us in 1999. That was six years ago. We do well. Weíre cool.

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"If Fat Lip was the dopest and the main reason why The Pharcyde was dope, why didnít he come with something? I would say that the parties involved made the whole group dope. The collaboration and the vibe made The Pharcyde dope. No one person made The Pharcyde dope."