The Pharcyde's Five-Step Guide To Creating A Classic Hip-Hop Album
Twenty years ago, The Pharcyde released a hip-hop classic. Titled Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, the 16-track album announced to the world the talents of M.C.s Bootie Brown, Fatlip, Imani, and Slimkid 3, plus producer J Swift. With raps that fused a freestyling background with humble and smart songwriting, tracks like "Passin' Me By" and "Ya Mama" quickly became iconic anthems of the era. Now the group has re-banded to perform the project in full at Low End Theory S.F. tomorrow. It seemed like a good excuse to get Slimkid 3 to break down his group's tested method for recording a certified rap classic. Here's his advice:
1. Freestyle To Brainstorm!
We freestyled all the time. We'd run these D.A.T. tapes and we'd freestyle for hours and hours on end. That's where most of the skits came from. It was five guys in a room freestyling to what J Swift is playing, and we'd have J.M.D. on the drum and Quinton just happened to be there. When you freestyle, you talk about what's relevant to your surroundings, so what's relevant was we were ordering food so we can go and record, and, hey, where's Quinton, 'cause he's going to bring over the weed so we can get high. It was the same with "If I Was President." We were going through some hard times, so it was like, "Man, if I was President I would do this and I would do that." I think Romye [Bootie Brown] really hit it on the nose with that one: [Scat raps] "If I was president I would not carry oh no spare change/ I would just rearrange the whole government structure/ 'Cause there seems to be something that's messing with the flucture of the money -- it's not coming to me." And I remember "Pack The Pipe," I don't think I was there when they freestyled it, but the cipher they had going that day was epic.
2. Move In With Your Bandmates!
While recording Bizarre Ride we were living in the Pharcyde Manor. It was the first house we lived in where the four of us lived there and we rehearsed there and we pretty much did everything there. Downstairs was our DJ-set up in the living room area, so every time we'd wake up in the morning we could go down and Fatlip would be down there deejaying and there would be the mic on and we'd get up and start freestyling. We were just practicing always, or we were downstairs stretching. We had people coming through to hang out; we had no furniture in the house, only our beds and a desk. One thing Fatlip used to do to piss me off was always going in the refrigerator and eat my ice-cream and not replace it!
3. Keep Your Food Spicy!
There was a lot of burritos being consumed during the making of Bizarre Ride. There was a a little spot, Los Burritos, that we always ordered from. There was a lot of Thai food going around, then Indian food became a nice dish. I'm an Indian food person myself, I can do that at any time. Actually we were all heavy Indian food eaters for that album.
4. Make Songs About Your Friends!
We got a lot of feedback from people we mentioned on the album in the real world. The girl that I dated in high school, her name was Shelly and she was pretty happy to hear her name in one of the verses [on "Passin' Me By"], which was cool. And Sheri was Fatlip's girlfriend at the time back in the day, and in the song "Officer," Bootie Brown mentioned her name 'cause that was a true story: They'd all be packed up in Sheri's car and she'd pick them up and they'd go to get something to eat. We were no different from the teenagers you see today and how they have a crew and they're getting picked up and going to the mall and maybe they got money or maybe they don't got money. Same with Quinton, it's not like we felt we were going to do a skit about him ["Quinton's On The Way"], it was something that happened spontaneously through a freestyle moment. Just to mention your friends, I think they really appreciated that.
5. Smoke The Chronic!
We were smoking the Chronic all of the time. Chocolate Thai was one of my favorites while recording, but it was mainly the Chronic. Nobody liked the Backyard Boogie, ha ha.