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The Pharcyde - conducted by Martin Cernosek  

The Pharcyde

August 2006

On January 1st, 1992 The Pharcyde released their debut album BizzarerideIIthepharcyde to a music culture just embracing the new face of hip-hop, gangsta rap. The group's four members created a minor stir with a signature sound blending unique-but-relatable lyrics and creativity that is still impressive even by current standards. It would take mainstream culture a few years to catch on to their sound but the album, and the group, instantly became many a hip-hop head's constant companion and even picked up a few fans in the alternative music scene.

Over the course of the past 14 years they have evolved into a two-member outfit (with Fatlip and Slimkid departing in 1997) and released five diverse albums. Their most recent effort of original work, 2002's Humboldt Beginnings (there was a remix and rarities album released in 2005), was the first to be released on their own Chapter 1 Records. Though they have never sold a million records nor established a solid mainstream presence, Booty Brown and Imani Wilcox have continued to create music that is as forward thinking and genre bending as anything they or any other hip-hop artist has ever produced.

MVRemix: What headspace are you guys in right now? What do you feel about your music, your careers, your life, family, everything?

Pharcyde: Everything? That's a hard ass question.

MVRemix: I mean where are you guys at right now?

Booty (Brown): Man, I mean you gotta transform into a man and shit. It's not like all of a sudden you go from being one age into being a man -- it's a process. I guess, you know, we transforming, almost a full transforming into being a man. But it's still like you feel like a kid sometimes. When you start seeing your responsibilities and things and how people look at you makes you reevaluate sometimes like "damn, I am? Shit, ok" and then you start thinking about things differently sometimes you like damn. After so many times (hearing) "you affecting me and your music did this to me." And then it's like "damn, it wasn't a waste and shit" and people still banging the music and enjoying the shows and shit. I can say growth and learning and transformation to manhood. But ask me when I am like 38, then I can be like "now I'm a man, I've done enough, not everything, but enough to know kinda what's happening to a certain extent."

Imani (Wilcox): You never really know nothing and shit but enough to get around and shit. Cause I got some sons and shit and I feel like I gotta put them up on the game. I feel like we been around and shit, we've seen enough, met a lot of people. I got enough to start with and set them up straight and then they can put me up on game. I still be rappin when I am fifty.

MVRemix: The zine did an interview with Del recently and he's learning a bunch of musical theory stuff, you guys into that at all? You know the theory behind the music – composition or anything like that?

Imani: Everybody attack it from a different way. You know Booty, he's trying to be a producer so if you gonna produce you got to learn more than vocal, you know what I'm saying? So yeah of course, when you into music, that's what you do. But I'm more into, like shit, vibrations and ticks and where that shit is actually coming from. I'm telling shit, that's more what I am on than the theories. Because I mean cause I learn from him (Booty) and shit. He's like the tick, what makes the tick tick is what he's doing. You can't ask any questions you just got to roll with it and vibe with it.

MVRemix: Tell me about Eclectic Compassions, the new album.

Booty: It's basically supposed to be like a compilation of stuff. I got the format but I haven't really figured out how I really wanna make the songs go. Pretty much Imani's album "Black Stardust" is pretty much what we're gonna do first. I mean I have like how I want it to go and it's just going to take a while just to get the concept of how I want to put it together. But basically the title kinda sums it up. I mean we have an eclectic taste as far as the music we like. You know it's not just one way, not just Yung Joc or just Bob Marley or just Dave Matthews; it's across the board. So I think basically what I want the album to represent is music across the board. I don't want it to be like a compilation of when you hear it, like "Oh my God I don't want to hear this" or you know like "I only like song one or four" but pretty much like "oh, now I can understand where they are coming from, I can see they like me, they like music." It's not a hip-hop thing, it's not a gangster thing, it's not this or that, all labels aside.

MVRemix: So what do you draw upon?

Booty: Naw, naw, naw. That's the whole thing about it. That's why I think it's taken a while because it's not like one thing. I mean our basis is always going to be hip-hop so coming from that I just look at this as a sampling factor. I just look at like, the sampling factor throws us into a whole different realm. But basically I want to break out of…I don't want to be like how everybody else says hip-hop is dead and then they try to do something else or call whatever they doing outside of hip-hop. I just look at is, whatever were doing is inside hip-hop. It is hip-hop, its hip-hop based but it's music it's not just hip-hop. So that's where I'm coming from. We make songs but everything is hip-hop based on what you hear. You know this beat was structured by somebody who appreciates hip-hop.

MVRemix: So Imani, you're doing the Black Stardust, is that coming out this year?

Imani: Naw. This year? Yeah, there is going to be stuff out but the record…Kanye (West) said that nobody's suppose to put records out so I gotta wait until after Kanye does his thing. So after he does his thing it'll be out.

MVRemix: What other side projects you guys are working on? The albums?

Imani: Not really the albums because it's going to have the Pharcyde stamp on it, Brown's name and my name. I mean it's my record but we are a team, that's the way I look at it. So we just have to make it as tight. We're not trying to make it all over the board because we are at the point in our careers where its like we have been doing it for more than ten years and we're not proving nothing its more like connecting all the dots. Because you know he (Booty) did his thing with the Gorillaz (on the Demon Dayz album) and that was a big thing and that opened up a lot of doors and its going to give him a lot more opportunities. So it's like we'll get my record together and connect some more dots. While were doing my record he'll get his Eclectic Compassion thing and then we'll work on the next Parcyde record.

MVRemix: How is touring going? How do you like being on the road?

Imani: You have to like it. You get to make money and you get to see your fans and you get to do stuff. You can be at home work on music and stuff but we want to get out and tour our music. Even though our records might not be a commercial success but how we look at is, success is a vibe, it's name of the group, its a brand. Like making the Pharcyde a brand to where it's like Nike where its like they going to put out hella shoes. You might not like all the shoes they put out but you know what the name means. Like yeah I'm fuckin with that. I just want to get the Pharcyde like a name like De La Soul or names that are synonymous with quality. Like back in the day when you saw (DJ) Premiere's name on 12", if you was a DJ you gonna play it no matter what. Or if you got Dilla man you gonna play it no matter what. (About Pharcyde's music) they might not like it, but they know that is going to be some interesting shit and I need to hear that shit.

MVRemix: What's the most important part about creating music and what's your approach to it?

Booty: I think for me its experience. I think for some people, they go out and do the album in like one year. But for us its different because we talk about where we are and shit. We talk about where we are but it's experiencing -- we have to live for a couple of years and then we have to explain what we've been going through and then that's pretty much how our albums have always been: explaining what we've been going through. Like Bizzareride, everybody's first album, if you are twenty or twenty-five you have that many years of experience that you can put all in this one album. Then your album after that you have like one year or six months. You haven't been going through as much unless you go back into those twenty years again. Which most of the time you have been doing so much because your life has changed since you put an album out because it just totally switches up from what you were doing. So the things in the past are important but what's happening right now is just a stain on your brain that you can't wipe away. So for me it's just having some kind of experience whether it's a bus breaking down or dealing with somebody fucked up on the tour, just all those little things add up. I mean you don't have super climaxes in your life so when you spread it out it gives you a little bit more that you can analyze the situations you been trough instead of just saying something on record and then later on down the line you sound like a hypocrite because you wind up doing the total opposite of what you were talking about on record because you were just so anxious to get it out on record whatever you were going through right then. I think that is why hip-hop is hypocritical because one year they going through this, they going through they wife, going to be a good guy. And then the next year they going through this I'm gonna be a gangster, this year they going through this and every record explains what they going through but they haven't had the time to analyze and say "ok, this is me in whole" instead of saying "this is me partially."

MVRemix: What can people, then, get out of your album names?

Imani: It represents where we at. The first record was just like a world that was new to us, we was just like "we down, like whatever, we rollin, this is just us." And then the second album was like "everybody we from Cali and this is how it goes down, check it out." And then it just kept going to the last one, Humboldt. It was just the real, it was just me and Brown, this is the Pharcyde, the beginning of the new duo, check it out. We knew people weren't going to jump on it and be like, "yeah I understand this record exactly how I understood Bizzareride." Because when we came out with Bizzareride people didn't understand that shit. It took em like three or four years before they was like "yeah that album's great shit."

Booty: During this tour I can actually say that I have heard more people that have came up and talked about Plain Rap then ever before. I was just tripped out, like is it something that I am doing crazy that it takes like five years before for people to kind of see where I am coming from but now, during these shows, we have more people that actually know Plain Rap. Like every album that we put out, people just don't like it. People didn't like Bizzareride, people didn't like LabCabin. When LabCabin came out people feel in love with Bizzareride, they were like "its too smooth." And then they sat on it they were like "damn, that shit (LabCabin) is dope." Then Plain Rap came out and people were like "this is too worldly, we don't like this sound." Now you have people who like that. All in all it just makes you say "Ok, I guess people just got to catch up." Not saying people are slow, just maybe we are doing something that just takes people a longer time to catch up.

MVRemix: Speaking about influences, what do you get from growing up, what do you remember from growing up, what albums?

Booty: I say all kinds. My dad has all kinds of records. My dad's like all hippie. You know you got Crosby, Stills and Nash, you got Barry White, you got Jimi Hendrix, you got Cream, you know it just goes across the board. On my mom's side, she was a Motown person. You know so I was always around records. I was always around music in some kind of way. I wasn't saying they were musicians but they tried to push me to play some kind of instrument. You know in California they this little program where they try to get everyone to play an instrument. You know I went through that whole phase, trying to pick up an instrument.

MVRemix: What did you play?

Imani: Saxophone.

Booty: Saxophone and violin. I wanted to play stand-up bass but I was too small, I couldn't carry it.

MVRemix: So what are you guys listening to right now?

Imani: Well we just collectively bought the new J5. We listen to the new Pharrell. Once we say a song it winds up being played over the airwaves.

Booty: We listen to everything.

Imani: There ain't nothing that we don't listen to. That don't mean we like everything but we listen to everything.

MVRemix: So you listen to other stuff other than hip-hop?

Imani: We don't listen to hip-hop.

MVRemix: At all?

Imani: Sometimes. Everything I listen to is smooth man. Depending on what the vibe is.

Booty: Yeah, depending on what the vibe is. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I need some MOP. I feel like I just need to wake up and I play it real loud. I just feel like its more or less how the mood or the atmosphere or how you feeling that day. Not everyday is a Jill Scott day. Some days I got to get rough, rugged and raw. You know what I'm sayin. Some days I got to listen to Redman or something.

MVRemix: How is it running a record label (Chapter 1 Records)?

Booty: You know you just got to do it. I won't say it's a big deal but its like a college thesis, you know. It's like your last thesis before you graduate and its hands on. It's going to make or break your life, what you wanna be. Its like this is my life and this is a learning course in my life. Basically what were doing right now is life – were making history. And basically no one can tell you how to do it, there are formulas and formats but how to do it that's based on how you do it.

MVRemix: Booty you recently got the Grammy nomination, is it important to get accolades at all? Getting awards? Selling a million records?

Booty: You know that stuff just came up…

Imani: It's always nice to get looked at by your peers and shit. But it doesn't mean that…Example, Charles Barkley.

Booty: Yeah I was about to say Charles Barkley. You not going to say he's not a good player because he didn't win a ring.

Imani: And that doesn't diminish what he's done for the league. It depends on where you at in your life, in your world, if you cool with that its good. Some people need that. Some people need to be like "I'm the best and everybody loves me and I have an awards to prove it."

Booty: Not saying that its not good to have one and you don't want one its always a goal. If you playing in the NBA you want to go to the finals, that's what you are playing for. But that doesn't mean you didn't work hard, you didn't do good. Because those things happen by default sometimes and by other circumstances make those things happen. It's not that the people were any better it was just their time. Timing, teamwork, all that shit man.

MVRemix: I've seen Talib (Kweli) three times, I've seen The Roots a couple of times but I have never seen The Pharcyde. What can you expect at a Pharcyde show?

Imani: Never? So you know that we aren't like a Tribe Called Quest. You know that were not like De La Soul. You know that we are closer to NWA than we are any of those groups.

Booty: (laughs)

Imani: No, no, no, listen. I mean the more hard-edged mentality. Because the things they was talking about was shooting m*fuckers, busting guns, fuckin dykes and transvestites and smoking weed. They (Tribe/De La) weren't necessarily talking about those things they had where they attacked those things like date rape or like Phife was talking about fucking bitches in a poetical way. But I just think when you hear our records its more edge. Definitely. That's why I said NWA because of more the edginess and the rawness. They (Tribe/De La) were more trying to hide what they were trying to say. They may have been trying to say the same things they were just more poetical and fake you out what they were talking about like "Buddy" we just say what we trying to say.

Booty: I can agree with that in one way but then I gotta say man it depends on what you talking about. Cause if you talking about your man Dre he's going every which way but direct. He's not going straight direct and say p***y, he's gonna say the flower of…

Imani: I'm just saying the group. You have to look at the group.

Booty: I'm just saying I can't compare because every individual is different. Now Imani might represent more of an NWA flavor but to me Dre doesn't represent the NWA flavor at all. Fatlip is passed NWA because I don't even think they would go to the limits of what he would say. So I just look at it like, we are all individuals so you can say this person is like this and that person is like that. So we going back to the show. Like when you say the show I think people expect that we can't do the old stuff and they can't not going to be able to pull it off. Our whole thing is that we just try and go out there and give new and old, everything. We just trying go out there and do the best show man and that's all you can say. I try and do the show like I'm in the audience.

Imani: I go to a lot of hip-hop shows, I don't pay for a lot of them, but I do pay for some of em. And most shows out there are whack and most people I see are whack.

Booty: They let you down.

Imani: But for some reason people don't care about the show and it's just whack. When I'm on the stage I'm like "dude if I was goin to go see a m*fucker, I want him to entertain me." I wanna entertain myself, so I feel if I'm not entertaining myself or damn if they ain't partying with me then I ain't doin my job.

Booty: Now don't get me wrong there's goin be times when you have to face the funk. Like I am goin to have to enjoy this and go through it. But for the most part I just try and do the best I can.

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"Even though our records might not be a commercial success but how we look at is, success is a vibe; it's name of the group, its a brand."