Bootie Brown (left), Fatlip, Imani and Slim Kid haven’t ruled out recording another Pharcyde album.
THE PHARCYDE as special guests of the ROCK THE BELLS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL SERIES at Arrow Hall, International Centre (6900 Airport), Sunday (July 20), noon-11 pm. $75-175. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
This culture often kills the dreams of hip-hop optimists like me, but 2007’s Wu-Tang Clan/Rage Against the Machine reuniter and Rock The Bells president Chang Weisberg has brought about another miracle: all four original members of the Pharcyde are set to perform together on hip-hop’s biggest tour of 2008.
The freshest foursome since Leaders of the New School and A Tribe Called Quest (also performing on Rock The Bells) got on a conference call with me live from Los Angeles, and it was a decidedly edutaining experience. They happily strolled down memory lane to help me bridge their past and present, before exploring the future of Pharcyde’s return to hip-hop.
“I haven’t seen you guys since 1995 in Ottawa,” I start out cautiously.
“I remember Ottawa!” says the unmistakably playful voice of Imani.
I wonder whether they’ve almost reunited any time before now.
“Nope!” he defiantly declares. “We were never in the same place at the same time, like Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson.”
He goes on to credit Weisberg as the primary catalyst for this momentous occasion.
Not wanting to publicize their healing process, Pharcyde are keeping secret the details about the emotional atmosphere at their first full rehearsal session.
They admit they’ve been contemplating the elusive third album they originally promised. A Pharcyde album would be refreshing for the world right now.
“Well, that’d be tight, man! E-mail Pharrell and Kanye and Primo and get it crackin’!” Imani suggests.
Only Primo was around in 91 when Pharcyde’s debut single, Ya Mama, came out of left field and handcuffed hip-hop by its funny bone. And nothing like the Pharcyde has graced this culture since their swan song, the J Dilla-sculpted masterpiece Labcabincalifornia, was released in 1995. I delicately inquire what it was like when they heard that J Dilla had passed on.
“You gotta think about what death does. The reaction you had about it was the reaction we had. It was very deep,” says Slim Kid calmly.
Fatlip continues, “It’s always shocking when somebody moves on, but the reality is, we are all going to go. It’s just crazy that someone you were tight with and you had respect for goes before their time.”
When I offer that 32 is so young and that he had so much more to give to the world, Bootie Brown bursts out, “No! He gave a lot to the world! There’s no such thing as before your time. You can’t change it to say when your time is. So I think you just gotta work and put it down while you’re here, because ain’t nobody promised tomorrow!”
Slim Kid adds, “He definitely left a legacy, and his mother got something to be proud of when she sees how much.”
I agree, adding that Jay Dee was like a god to many, and it’s great to see his religion grow.
Then Bootie Brown becomes devil’s advocate, turning the questions around on me. “If Jay Dee is a god, what are Premier and Dr. Dre?! Cuz once you get god status, how much further can you go?”
I respond, “To me, everyone is a creator, especially if you make beats or rhymes. In my mind, I’m speaking to four gods right now!”