Posted by ANDY on 20/08/12
The 80s was the golden era for hip-hop. Born in the 70s on the streets of New York, the auteurs of hip-hop grew up with this dynamic new form of vocal expression, where rhythmic beats were set to equally rhythmic and rhyming speech. Even if you’re not into hip-hop per say, there is no doubt that you will be familiar with, in some capacity, Public Enemy and Flava Flave, De La Soul, Run-D.M.C., L L Cool J, N.W.A and Ice Cube, and of course The Beastie Boys, who sadly this year announced the death of founding member Adam “MCA” Yacht. All mentioned previously, and countless others emitted, were part of the special 80s era. All had careers well into the 90s and 20s mind, with some still performing today. This is not to say the 90s wasn’t just as revolutionary, but it was when things turned ugly.
With the 90s came the infamous East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry, mainly between Puff Daddy’s (or “P Diddy”) Bad Boy Records, with The Notorious B.I.G., and Dr. Dre’s Death Row Records, with 2Pac. People were getting shot all over the place; in casinos, in the lobbies of New York recording studios and in and out of cars. And people died. The focus had shifted on to Gansta rap, a sub genre of hip-hop that was predominantly focused on violence. So when The Pharcyde dropped their debut album in 1992, curiously titled Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, it must have felt like a breath of fresh air.
They were the west coast’s answer to De La Soul and Time Magazine hailed Bizarre Ride II “album of the year”. It is an ingenious and unique fusion of hip-hop, jazz and soul concocted around hilariously witty observational comedy and playful insults between the four-piece. With a whole track dedicated to “Ya Muma” insults, you kind of get the picture. The group even worked with American director Spike Jonze, who came up with one of the most inventive music videos of all time for their track “Drop”. The Group released another three albums, which were all met with less and less success. Yet this is unsurprising really, as how can you better a perfect debut? Although there are some notable hits from these records, such as “Runnin’ (Can’t Keep Runnin’ Away)” for example, they will always be remembered for their seminal debut and probably for hip-hop’s biggest one-album-wonders.
So when I found out The Pharcyde were playing at Camden’s Koko last month, to my surprise, I knew it was a show I just couldn’t miss. The venue was absolutely heaving by the time the now two-piece took to the stage and they came out to a thunderous applause from one of the most eclectic crowds I have experienced. They preformed for the better part of two hours with the same energy levels as they had kicked off the show with, which is quite a feat for two forty-somethings, and played crowd favourite’s “Oh Shit”, “Officer” and “Runnin’”, amongst others. They used instrumentals from Gorillaz and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog, adding their own unique style of rap, and for their encore Jay Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas In Paris”. The Pharcyde created an enigmatic atmosphere with their energetic, dynamic performance and I was surprised as to how current it felt. What ever they had, they certainly haven’t lost it. I had so much fun that I didn’t get a chance to take any good photos. Oops.